PART 1 - INTRODUCTION
Before you go any further, a question:
What is your definition of discipleship?
In many churches and among many Christians, discipleship is a regular topic of conversation. And there is much reason for this. Jesus says in His last words that we must go out and make disciples.
It is really an understatement to say that this is important - this assignment should be at the heart of our lives. In other words, this is your great commission as long as you live here on earth. That is easier said than done. For what is discipleship really?
A disciple (Latin discipulus, -i) is a student or follower of a leader. As a disciple, we take the place of a pupil or follower of a leader or master. Our Leader and Master is Jesus. A disciple is someone who wants to become completely like the Master - Jesus - is. The Bible says 'it must be enough for a disciple to become like his Master'.
Becoming like the Master covers all areas of our lives. We do not only want to know how the Master thinks - we also want to live it out in practice. We want to follow the Master in what he teaches and in what he does. His instructions are worth studying, but first and foremost they are meant to be lived out. Between your head and your hands lies your heart. You may let yourself be touched by your Master - Jesus. His heart may become your heart. What He is passionate about may also become your passion.
At Alongsiders, we define discipleship (1) as the process of following Jesus - your Master and Leader - and giving Him all authority in all areas of your life. As a disciple of Jesus you become more and more like the Master. (2) The other side of this is that you reach out to someone else and 'disciple' them. Discipleship is a verb.
What you have received you pass on to someone else. Steven Covey writes in his book that passing on knowledge is the next level of learning. By telling others what you have learned, it becomes fixed in your heart. And that is exactly what we want in following Jesus.
Before you go any further, a question:
On the basis of which principles do you make choices?
And, how do you motivate people?
Wholistic simply means that we look at every aspect of the person. The Alongsiders movement desires to see vulnerable children recover and change socially, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually so that they can live as whole human beings.
Empowering means that we put you in charge of your Alongsider journey. Of course, we give you frameworks and help you in this process. We encourage you, spur you on and give you the keys to making a success of being an Alongsider. You will make mistakes in this process. That does not matter. See your mistakes as an opportunity to continue learning and growing. When we look at Jesus, we see that He also empowered His disciples, that they were allowed to make mistakes and that Jesus met them with love. Be patient with yourself and your young brother or sister.
Scalable means that we organise ourselves as a movement in such a way that you, as an Alongsider, do not stand in the way of growth. This can be the growth of the movement as a whole, or the growth that you and your younger brother or sister are going through.
Inspirational means that we want to inspire our younger brother or sister through our dealings with them. We do not just have a story. We have the good news of Jesus, the gospel. The most inspiring story you can think of! The gift is that we can show this good news in every area of life. Holistically inspiring, in other words. It is important that you, as an Alongsider, are motivated by love and inspired (literally: filled by the Spirit of Christ) rather than by money or the promise of rewards or, even more worryingly, shame, guilt or obligation.
Belonging means that every person wants to belong somewhere. Every child needs some form of familiar relationship. These can be the family or the church a child attends. If children do not have these relationships within the family or the church, they will look for a group of people who accept them. Of course, someone can end up doing well and join an association or take up a certain hobby with others, but things can also go badly wrong and then you see them joining, for example, a 'gang'. When children experience that they are part of reliable and meaningful relationships, they learn to look at themselves in the right way and to form meaningful relationships with others.
You are part of the Alongsider family, and as an Alongsider you may also invite your younger brother or sister to join.
At Alongsiders, we put the ownership of the relationship with your younger brother or sister in your hands. While praying, you choose your younger brother or sister. You decide when you want to meet. You choose the challenges you want to work on. You have the authority to make these choices. With ownership and power comes responsibility. We are there to support you and help you grow.
Linked to ownership is a principle we call co-creation. Co-creation means that we create together. For example, who better to invent a challenge than you? You spend week after week with your younger brother or sister and you know best how to help and encourage your peers. We have all been given creativity and we are allowed to use it. At Alongsiders, we challenge you and your ideas are more than welcome.
Mastery means having the ability to work on a task, set goals, solve problems and achieve results. We live in a world that requires a certain amount of mastery in exchange for money to live, so in that sense it is a basic need. But mastery is not just about income and status. Artists and poets, athletes and scholars and even children who climb trees seek mastery with or without rewards or recognition. The need for mastery is part of being human. We can find it in Genesis where we read about God's intention for people to have positive mastery over a peaceful creation.
At Alongsiders, we work on becoming good at making disciples. First of all, by being a disciple ourselves. We work to become more and more like the Master - Jesus.
Purpose is a bit of a broad concept. It is about the purpose for which you live, about generosity, but also, for example, about fulfilment. Nobody wants to live for nothing, or just for fun. You have ideals, plans and want to go for something, right? That goes much deeper than money and has much more to do with finding your life's purpose. The question of why you are who you are. Your identity. From this point of view, generosity also gets its place - we give (ourselves) for something bigger, for something more beautiful. For something that goes beyond ourselves. We may know that we give our lives for Jesus. He has given everything for us - Himself. And as His disciples, we now give ourselves to Him. He is our Master and Leader. He is in control. His agenda has become our agenda. His passions have become ours. We want to learn to see through His eyes and live with the same purpose and generosity as Jesus.
Before you go any further, a question:
What is your biggest challenge?
What "challenge" did Jesus present to His disciples?
At Alongsiders we work with challenges. Challenges are assignments that you do together with your younger brother or sister. All these assignments come from the teaching of Jesus or the apostles. Through obedience you do what your Master - Jesus - tells you to do, and through that you learn and grow. Just take a look at the challenges and you will see what those assignments can look like.
Challenges usually consist of 4 blocks that you can complete in 4 weeks. In this way you work on a theme for a month. Of course you can do the challenge at your own pace and you can also go faster or take more time for it.
Challenges consist of assignments, inspiration videos, more in-depth assignments, evaluations, etc. We take you with us and set the framework for you. Of course, you have all the space you need to fill it in creatively and adapt it to your situation and place. Co-creation as described in the previous video.
You have already tackled the first challenge: you are doing the Alongsiders training and will soon choose a younger brother or sister. That is a response to the command of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 28, where He commands us to make disciples.
Growth takes place through obedience. As disciples of Jesus, we want to obey Him. Therefore, we want to take up and carry out the commands Jesus gives us. We feel addressed when Jesus gives these commands. We feel 'challenged' by the Master and we accept the challenge.
Before you go any further, a question:
Why is (child)safety important?
How do you create a safe environment?
What do you need for that?
Alongsiders has a special focus on that which is vulnerable. That which is alone. That which is in a jam. Hence our slogan 'we walk alongside those who walk alone'. This is in line with what Jesus did. Just read Luke 4. Jesus speaks there about his 'mission-statement', and it is about the poor, the blind, the brokenhearted, prisoners. We know that Jesus' love is for everyone, and yet there is a special place, special attention for that which is in trouble.
That is also the reason why we encourage you to look at who is in trouble in your neighbourhood. The vulnerable ones in your neighbourhood. That boy or girl who stands outside, who is vulnerable, who has a hard time. Welcoming every child is part of our dream. Every child needs a Alongsider, and we want to start with the children who need it most. That which is already vulnerable needs protection. In the Bible, we read in a prophecy about Jesus that He 'will not break the bended reed, He will not break the dying flax'. Jesus actually puts His hands around it, protected. You see Him, as it were, straightening out the reed that is almost broken. You see Him, as it were, blowing gently at the flax straw, so that the fire ignites again. Protecting, careful, full of love.
In the same careful way, you may deal with your younger brother or sister. Protect, love, build up and encourage him or her. In order to guarantee this, we pay a lot of attention to this in the commitments you make. This relates to yourself and what you do and do not do, but it also relates to your environment, and in particular your 'group of 5'.
As an Alongsider, you make a number of commitments. In the Alongsiders training, you will find them all detailed, but it comes down to a commitment to:
- being mentally and physically healthy,
- not to use violence, but to protect,
- being transparent,
- protect against abuse, and report abuse immediately, and
- take responsibility for everything you do with your younger brother or sister and be accountable for it.
With these commitments we set the bar high. And that suits the Master we are following. In this world where there is so much brokenness, so much abuse, so much addiction, so much violence, we want to be bringers of healing, Shalom, justice and protection. Not because we are so good, but in the power of the Master - Jesus.
Besides the fact that we need Jesus to do this, we also need each other. You need your 'group of five' to stay upright, to remain standing. You hold each other responsible, you question each other, you pray for each other. Celebrate together when there is reason to do so and support each other when things are difficult. As a "group of 5" you not only have the right to question each other, you also have the "obligation" to support each other. You are a group who act together, hold each other up
An important principle in all this is transparency. Transparency towards your group of five, towards your younger brother or sister, but also towards his or her parents and towards your congregation. For this reason you ask permission from the parents (or guardians) of your younger brother or sister. You should also ask permission from your pastor, elder, youth worker from your congregation.
It goes without saying that Alongsiders will always follow the guidelines set by the government and authorities. Alongsiders has internal guidelines and procedures for both preventive and corrective action (if necessary). But guidelines and procedures do not reflect the heart - what we want to do. We find that 'heart' in Jesus and how He acts. We want to follow Him. Child safety is top priority