FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Richard Ross has spent most of his life leading youth to a deeper relationship with Christ, so he didn’t hesitate when he felt God’s call to develop a small group curriculum for teens and young adults.
But even Ross, a former Tennessee Baptist youth minister at Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Old Hickory, was surprised at the result: a six-year free curriculum for grades 7-12 encompassing a multi-year journey to learn everything from apologetics and ethics to evangelism and missions.
The online “Disciple6” curriculum, written by 60-plus faculty and students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, includes learner and leader guides spanning core doctrines of the faith to train disciples for Christ.
The resource is available for download at Disciple6.com.
“Our broken culture, the millions of lost in the U.S, and the unreached people groups globally demand that we develop true disciples,” Ross told the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
“Yes, we need to offer biblical ministry to every teenager, regardless of spiritual condition or motivation,” Ross said. “But every church absolutely must offer a place where those select teenagers gather to truly become world-changing disciples. That is what we are missing today, and that is what we must begin to do — or all is lost.”
Students who go through the Disciple6 curriculum even can earn a first-semester scholarship to the seminary’s undergraduate school, the College at Southwestern, ranging from a 10 percent discount for someone who completes one year of the curriculum to a 100 percent discount for students who finish all six years.
The curriculum, which includes biblical interpretation, biblical relationships, leadership, spiritual disciplines and worldview, was a complete volunteer effort; writers were not paid fees.
One of the writers, Candi Finch, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies, said the Disciple6 curriculum is desperately needed.
“While many churches are doing a great job of discipleship, the truth is that we are losing the majority of our young people,” Finch told the TEXAN.
Finch quoted research from the Barna Group, which she said found that “one of the most common critiques of the church” by young adults who grew up in church and then left “is that they felt they could not ask their most pressing questions about life and faith in the church or were simply given shallow answers.”
“This curriculum wrestles with each core doctrine of the faith as well as engaging many pressing ethical questions of our day from a Christian worldview perspective,” Finch said. “I believe many of our teenagers are hungering for the meat of God’s Word, and they will certainly get it through each of these lessons.”
Ross, professor of youth ministry and co-founder of the True Love Waits movement for sexual purity, including abstinence until marriage, said the new curriculum grew out of a time when for one year, he asked a number of the top youth pastors one question: “What is your plan for discipling your core teenagers for six years, from grades 7-12?” None of them, though, had a comprehensive plan.
Ross was sitting on the platform at the seminary’s 2015 spring convocation when he felt God stirring him to develop the new curriculum.
“I left that service with my heart racing,” Ross said, “knowing all of us were about to go on a grand adventure,” one that drew the endorsement of Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson.
“Everyone embraced the fact that the curriculum would be offered to every church at no cost,” Ross said. “I remember saying, ‘The two teenagers in a tiny church in the Rio Grande Valley will get the same quality materials as the teenagers at Prestonwood Baptist or FBC Dallas.'”
Finch said she can sum up what she likes about the Disciple6 curriculum in four words: grounded, comprehensive, interactive and free.
“Each lesson is grounded in the Bible, so students are being equipped in knowing how to correctly handle God’s Word and use it to address the most pressing questions of their day,” Finch said. “The six-year curriculum is comprehensive so that the young man or woman who walks through these lessons during their teen years will have wrestled with the core doctrines of the Christian faith in an engaging way. Each lesson is interactive — teenagers and adults are digging into each week’s focal passage together, discussing hard questions and thinking through practical applications of each lesson. Finally, the entire curriculum is free so that any church or youth group can access it.”
Disciple6 is not designed for Sunday School, an hour when lost youth may be present, Ross said, explaining, “This curriculum only can be effective with teenagers who have made a firm decision to be a disciple of Jesus.”
The lessons are designed so they can be led by adults or youth, Ross added.
“The goal is teenage disciples who are fully prepared to disciple others — now and for a lifetime.”