Differentiating Between Curriculum and Discipleship
Favoring Coaching over Lecturing
Individual encounters can change the course of history — and in some cases, eternity. Encounters such as a tired and discouraged fisherman heeding the advice from a man named Jesus to venture back out into deep waters and to drop his nets into an area ordinarily void of fish.
This month we want to think critically together about the difference in discipleship and curriculum. On the surface it may not seem to be worth the conversation. However, as we see in scripture through Peter’s encounter with Jesus we notice how personal their moments were and how Peter’s call was to go and do likewise.
Out on the water Jesus spoke to Simeon Peter in a language he could understand: a big haul. Yet this encounter had nothing to do with the fish, but everything to do with the catch. You see, Jesus used the Greek word “zōgreō,” when he vocalized Simon Peter’s new type of “catching,” which means to “take alive.”  No longer would Simon Peter be catching fish intended for death. His encounter with Jesus called him to begin “catching” people for life — to being a disciple.
Considering stewardship is an essential part of being a present-day disciple, it makes sense we seek to govern our churches efficiently and effectively. So we attach church health to such indicators as attendance, giving, and specifically knowledge, since discipleship is often too complex to measure. And this seemingly suitable replacement is best aided by curriculum.
As such, gradually, humanity has replaced encountering Jesus with the memorization of his teachings. That’s not to say curriculum is wrong. However, the Church must guard against it becoming the sole measurement that discipleship has occurred. Both discipleship and curriculum serve the same goal to equip Gods’ people. Yet discipleship and curriculum are not interchangeable. They require a clear understanding if they are to be appropriately leveraged.
Discipleship begins with recognizing and accepting who Jesus is and then placing ourselves under his authority. This is the moment Simon Peter dropped to his knees before Jesus, experiencing a change in his head, heart, and hands — his beliefs, attitudes, and actions. Like Simon Peter, a disciple cares about the things God cares about.  Discipleship is messy, missional, and the priority is the connection with God and his people.
Curriculum, being less relational-centric, is most helpful when used as a tool for discipleship, which is both a gift and a blessing. Much like Jesus’ parables, it makes the teachings from Scripture more accessible, tangible, and practical. Good curriculum ensures the integrity of the lesson and that progress is being achieved. The priority is the content.
As ministry leaders, we can guide our people toward a life-changing encounter with Christ through the use of a curriculum that aids discipleship. Trust God, being confident that he who began a good work in your people will continue it through completion (Philippians 1:6). In the interim, we need not be weary or disheartened, simply patient. Simply obedient.
Let us also be self-aware to know that we cannot invest what we do not possess ourselves. So before becoming tangled in the nuances of leading others well, first be a disciple, seeking Jesus wholeheartedly. Then, as you cast your net in deep waters, you’ll be prepared to “catch” people, to encounter them in ways that change their eternity.
 Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Putman, Jim. Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches That Make Disciples. NavPress. Kindle Edition.
WellConnected is an initiative of OneHope, and is a gathering place for children and youth ministers to access resources, research, and content to raise up the next generation. It’s a collaborative platform to equip leaders and influencers to effectively reach the kids in their communities. We invite churches and ministers to join one another in coming up with innovative solutions for today’s realities. We are continually learning and growing from each other — sharing knowledge, insight, and best practices.