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How to have a one-on-one (according to the Apostle Paul)

November 6, 2016

Have you ever wanted to sit with the Apostle Paul and get his opinion on your ministry? Or pick his brain on evangelism and disciple-making?

Well, over the past few years, I have tried to read Paul’s letters as if that was happening.

This is the first in a series of articles that will look at the Apostle Paul’s ministry and ask questions about specific topics relevant to campus ministry.

Our goal is to learn from this “skilled master builder” of disciples (1 Cor. 3:10) and work out how to apply principles we learn from his letters.

Paul’s Relationship with Timothy:

If you were to take a quick glance through Paul’s letters to Timothy, or mentions of him in other books, you would notice a few things:

  1. Paul knows about Timothy’s family background. (2 Tim. 1:5, 3:14-15)
  2. They have a very trusting relationship. (Acts 16:1-3; 2 Tim. 4:9)
  3. Paul is familiar with Timothy’s weaknesses and fears. (1 Tim. 4:11; 2 Tim. 1:4, 1:7-8, 2:22)
  4. They spent a lot of time together. (Phil. 1:1, 2:1-24; 1 Thes. 1:1; 2 Thes. 1:1; Col. 1:1)
  5. Paul gave specific leadership to Timothy based on what he knew about him. (1 Tim. 4:11-16, 6:11-12)
  6. Paul had specific gospel content he was entrusting to Timothy. (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:13-14, 2:2, 2:15, 3:16-17, 4:1-8)

There are so many other things we could learn from this relationship, but I think these give us a good start.

So, what do we learn from these passages? Can we condense this down into a few principles for application?

Here are a few thoughts to consider as you build relationships with your disciples.

The Dynamics of Disciple-Making:

If you notice, there were moments in Paul and Timothy’s relationship where they were with a group of people (1 Thes. 1:1; 2 Thes. 1:1), but other moments when it was just them.

This subtle observation points at a larger principle.

Disciple-making is the most successful when the right dynamics are in play.

Spending time one-on-one offers the best opportunity to build a lasting relationship.

If you want your disciples to be spiritually healthy, they need a regular diet of group and one-on-one time with you.

The next article will look at the group setting, so for now let’s zoom in on what it looks like to have one-on-one time with your disciple.

Spending time one-on-one offers the best opportunity to build a lasting relationship.

Friendships can occur in groups, but one-on-one settings are where the gloves come off and genuine friendships are formed.

One-on-ones allow you to give the specific, directional leadership.

A group can sometimes force your leadership to become more vague and less focused. Don’t miss this opportunity to specialize your leadership.

How to Build a One-on-One:

Remember, Paul gave specific leadership to Timothy based on what he knew about him. I would encourage you to do the same.

Before walking into your meeting over coffee, think about the observations you have made in the past. What is your disciple struggling with? What could you encourage them about?

Ask yourself these direction questions before you stuff that burrito in your mouth at lunch:

  • Where am I taking them?
  • Where are they now?
  • What is the next step?

These direction questions guard you against only issue managing your disciple each week. They ensure that you are taking them somewhere like Paul was taking Timothy.

Check out How to reproduce (No, not like that) for more insight into this process.

Building Relational Depth:

Paul and Timothy were friends for years. Deep, trust-filled relationships simply take time.

Though it takes time, there are practices that you need to start early and habitually to make this relationship happen.

  1. Don’t get into a rut. If you don’t have anything serious to talk about this week, go on a hike, laugh together, loosen up instead of coffee. Determine the needs of your relationship each week and plan accordingly. Take the time to decide which one you need each week.
  2. Choose the meeting place depending on their next step and the needs of your relationship. If you need to talk about something serious, don’t go to Buffalo Wild Wings. If you want to have fun with them, don’t go to the library.

During the One-on-One:

  1. Ask a lot of questions and listen closely to find out how they are doing. You should not be doing all of the talking. There are definitely moments you need to give advice, but don’t forget to listen.
  2. Encourage them. This can be easily forgotten in discipleship. Even through Timothy’s fear, timidity, and youth, Paul always had encouraging things to say about him.

Be challenged by God’s Word and go apply these principles to your ministry!