Tuesday, September 25, 2012

One-to-One: A Discipleship Handbook, Sophie De Witt

One-to-one ministry- that old chestnut, often spoken about in Christian circles, but rarely practised!

But why?

In my time working with University students it all has to do with one simple blockage- people just don’t know where/how to start when it comes to one-to-ones. The most common defence I hear is “I have never been one-to-one’d myself” (as if it were something that is done to a person, like root-canal surgery or having your hair permed). This is usually followed by cries of “I have no clue what to read with them” or “what will we do for a whole hour?” Our lack of personal experience or insight often means that we lack both a vision for one-to-one ministry, as well as an approach or method to help us even begin.

This is where Sophie de Witt’s book begins to help us by starting to give an underlying vision, and practical method for approaching one-to-one ministry. By moving from God’s big picture, to a breakdown of the process, De Witt helpfully starts to build confidence and imagination in the mind of us as readers, while leaving space for us to make the adventure with another person our own.
Sophie’s demystifying approach begins with her definition of what a one-to-one is. One-to-one discipleship is…

‘one Christian taking the initiative with another individual to help them know Christ better and obey him more fully, through studying the scriptures, prayer (for and with them) and sharing one’s life with them- and leaving the results to God.’


This definition undergirds Sophie’s approach through the rest of the book and it helpfully and simply identifies the foundational goal of one-to-one ministry- to help another person grow in their relationship and likeness to Jesus, while God himself is at work.

We might protest- “Of course that would be the goal! This is a Christian book after all. That’s hardly rocket science, Sophie!” - and you’d be right. The goal is far from innovative, but one-to-one ministry is often a victim of its own lack of direction. We sometimes forget about the growth that we wish to see in the life of another person and start seeking to be in a one-to-one relationship to expand our pastoral credentials, or “fix” someone through regular quasi-counselling sessions. We sometimes lose focus, so while it is simple (foundational principles often are), Sophie thankfully backs this up with biblical reasoning.

Practical Detail- The book is wide-ranging

De Witt then moves from the visionary to the methodological- making things we know intuitively articulate, and teaching new skills in the process. She addresses questions from “who should I meet with?” to “how should we ‘break-up’?” Much of the book also helpfully tries to provide reasoning and guidance on how to approach the Scriptures in the one-to-one context. Sophie gives wisdom and ideas for how to go beyond “observing” the text of the Bible to bringing it to life in someone’s life by asking good questions, being familiar with key Bible texts and seeking to encourage, rebuke, correct and challenge within the relationship (which are so often missed as we often “don’t want to be too intense”).

The book suffers from the usual pitfalls of any “how-to” manual. Like trying to construct furniture from the Ikea instructions, things are always more challenging in real life than on the page. De Witt seeks to bridge this gap, however, by peppering the book with personal stories of one-to-one relationships lived out, helping to go beyond the page and give dimension to what it might look like in reality. De Witt also leaves space for self-reflection, group discussion and challenges to help move from page to practice. She also provides wise counsel about some of the dangers and pitfalls in one-to-one relationships which we can sometimes be na├»ve to, like watching out for over-dependence within the relationship or being aware of problems that might go beyond your own capacity and need the support of others.

All in all, One-to-One is one of the more helpful books I’ve read on the issue of one-to-one ministry as it seeks to address the “all-talk-no-action” blockage in this ministry area by encouraging readers to be initiative-takers for the good of another person. De Witt adds to this a robust big picture and methodology to help those starting out, and provides some higher level thoughts for those hoping to refine their approach. All of this seeks to release the energy of one-to-one discipleship ministry from being “potential” to “actual,” and maybe through this humble service seeing ourselves and our communities transformed by knowing Christ and obeying him more fully. 

About our contributor: Liz is a staffworker with the Sydney University Evangelical Union. She is married to Samy, hates coffee, loves reading cooking magazines (because it requires less washing up than actually making the food) and misses the days when she could have whole conversations involving quotes from that 90s classic Waynes’ World.

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