3 KEYS To help the ‘time poor’ discipler:



Nov 8


Elle Zeibig

3 KEYS To help the ‘time poor’ discipler:

Your young adults are busy…they are busy balancing their ministry commitments, friendships, family, romantic relationships, hobbies, their own spiritual growth journey, and everything else that fills their schedule. 

Maybe you’ve invited your passionate and spiritually hungry young adults to take discipling more seriously and have been faced with the response of “I love what you’re doing and I would love to be a part of something like that, but I just don’t know if I have the time. In between my volunteering, serving on ministry teams, my 3 part-time jobs and a stack of overdue uni assignments, I just don’t have the time to commit to yet another thing.” 

Or maybe you see their time schedules and all that they’re committed to, so you feel too guilty to even ask. You see their potential to be a proactive disciple maker, but their time is just too consumed with other activities to invite them into a multiplying movement that will require them to make sacrifices, be generous with their time, proactive in reaching out to others, take initiative in setting up opportunities to connect with people and invest in creating supportive communities. 

Maybe some of your young adults explicitly express their fear, and for other young adults you see it play out in their commitments- that there is simply no time left for them to disciple others. 

Hearing YA’s say they have ‘no time’ to invest in a discipling movement, must be tricky to navigate as a YA leader, especially when you yourself capture the vision and have poured your own personal time and investment into these young adults, and when you know from experience that your own personal sacrifice to invest in others has been fruitful.

So what do we do when we are confronted with the ‘time poor’ excuse?

  1. Role model it to them 
  2. Call it out in them
  3. Immerse them in a community that reinforces the message


Maybe beneath the busy schedule, there is something more at play. Perhaps a key reason that could be prohibiting YAs from spending their time investing in others, is that they simply do not yet see themselves as disciplers

We know that the goal is not to CONVINCE someone TO disciple, but to help them DISCOVER their IDENTITY as a discipler. You would know that the way someone views themselves, will determine what they do

For example, if I was to see myself as a smart and studious person, I would spend more time studying my degree and striving for good grades. Similarly, if I saw myself as an athletic, proactive and healthy person, my behaviours are probably going to represent that through time spent in training, going to the gym, eating whole foods etc…you know the drill. 

Dimas and Prada published a paper in 2014, titled Dynamic Identity Model for Agents where they explore identity formation in depth. In this paper they recognise that one’s IDENTITY is key in impacting an individual’s BEHAVIOURS

Therefore, we want to take every opportunity to allow YA to SEE themselves – their identity, as a discipler – because then the behaviour is likely to follow. If they understand themselves to BE a selfless discipler, they’ll begin to spend their time living that identity out in practice. They will begin to take up opportunities to invest in others by connecting with them via phone calls, going out for coffee, sharing updates and inviting those they’re investing in to social events and initiating post-church hangs etc. When they begin to see that they have what it takes to be a discipler, they will begin to live out this identity.

Once they SEE themselves that way – we can’t convince them NOT to disciple. 

So how do we help them see that this is their IDENTITY?

  1. Role model it to them

The way that you live it out, will undeniably have an impact on them. If you are making the ‘time poor’ excuse, they will certainly pick up on that. If you’re too busy to respond to their text messages throughout the week of the key people you’re discipling, if other commitments come up so you bail on catch ups or hangs with them, if you are flaky and uncommitted, they miss significant events in people’s lives etc., YA’s will see all of this. If their example of a Jesus-like discipler looks too hard to handle, they will have little hope that they could ever achieve this type of lifestyle.

BUT…on the other hand, if you are living your most authentic version of your Jesus-like identity and are committed to investing in those that you’re discipling- if you set plans and stick with them, if you are responsive over texts despite a busy schedule, if you give them the time of day, show up when it matters and are generous with your OWN time, this will totally impact their ability to live this lifestyle too.

2. Explicitly call it out in them

TELL them when you notice their strengths and capabilities to disciple and multiply. For example, if they are an effective communicator, comment on it and encourage them in that. If you witness them having conversation with someone and they actively listen, ask questions, and show sincere care, then call it out! Be aware of their strengths and label them. 

If they are proactive and put ideas and plans into actions, honour these behaviours verbally. If they share the idea to invest in a group of year 8 girls from youth ministry by spending time with them all before youth group on a Friday, and you see them being proactive in setting this opportunity up and implement it, then let them know that you honour the way that they take initiative.

If your YA’s are passionate and care about discipling, it often comes up in their conversations, they show their interest and investment in this area, then tell them that you notice their passion and motivation and how you see it in their actions and behaviours. 

You have the ability to hold up a mirror to their face and help them see who they are, you play a key part in helping them see that ‘discipler’ is a part of their identity.

3. Immerse them in community that reinforces this identity

Identity is formed not merely by seeing and observing it, but also by being immersed in a community that has a culture of discipling. After all, we are who we hang around.


You may very well be familiar with Social Identity Theory – a psychological theory that highlights how an individual’s self-conception forms from their relational connections. Social psychologists Scheepers and Ellemers co-wrote a paper in 2019 focused on Social Identity Theory. In this paper, researchers acknowledge that an individual’s social identity is derived from the social groups to which they belong. 

Our social networks impact our lingo, our interests, how we dress, talk, act, what we care about. They shape our way of being and impact our worldview.

If belonging to a group is forming and shaping our young adult’s identities, then it may be helpful to utilise small group environments and friendship circles in YA settings – this is where a large part of their identity is formed. Immersion into these groups may assist them in developing the way they see themselves as a discipler.

These environments, when designed in a certain way, may push forward their role and identity as a discipler. 


Identity impacts behaviour, and identity is largely formed in social settings, so here are some practical ideas to help YA socially co-construct their identity as a discipler, that may help them to live out this identity.  Within a small group environment your YA’s could spend time:

  • Sharing wins, challenges and questions they have from their discipling experiences
  • Brainstorm and strategising together how they can solve discipling challenges or queries
  • Teaching each other some discipling principles
  • Teaching each other discipling tools and practices
  • Praying over the people that each other is investing in

Imagine a small group of YAs who know like they KNOW that they are disciplers! They make time for it, that’s for sure! 



We know that Young Adults are busy people who can struggle to make time for discipling. We can help counteract this by showing and allowing them to see themselves as disciplers, because this will ultimately help them prioritise discipling as their primary focus. We can help YA to discover their identity as disciplers by speaking truth over them, living a life that reflects the life of a discipler, and by encouraging and providing social settings whereby they can develop and shift how they view themselves.

I pray a blessing over you and an anointing over every word of truth that you speak over your YA’s, may God supernaturally pour out a fresh understanding of who they are, and therefore, how they spend their time. 

Be Blessed,


Elle Zeibig – GenJ Team member

If you would like to learn more about how you can effectively disciple others, we’d love to connect with you. You can connect with us by clicking on the ‘contact us’ page of the website, or by finding us on instagram @genjofficial.



Dimas, J., Prada, R. (2014). Dynamic Identity Model for Agents. In: Alam, S., Parunak, H. (eds) Multi-Agent-Based Simulation XIV. MABS 2013. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 8235. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-54783-6_3

Scheepers, D., Ellemers, N. (2019). Social Identity Theory. In: Sassenberg, K., Vliek, M.L.W. (eds) Social Psychology in Action. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-13788-5_9