6 min
By: Stephen Tapulao

Ask the Campus Directors: How to Build a Strong Discipleship Relationship Online

Discipleship is already challenging pre-pandemic, when we get to see each other face-to-face. Being forced to shift online has compounded the challenges, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. After all, our mission to reconcile others to God does not change, and because this is ultimately God’s mission, He will provide ways for us to accomplish His plans and purpose. How can we build strong discipleship-relationships online? In this article, we interviewed the Metro Manila director of ENC Philippines, Pastor Dave Estrera.

Whether you started making disciples before or during the pandemic, we all share the same sentiments of how difficult it could be to deepen relationships with the people we are discipling online. Like it or not, our current situation brought changes to our discipleship routine. Instead of meeting people in fast-food chains, we opted to stay safe and meet them on any social media platform available. 

While some enjoy high-speed Internet connections, others are struggling to remain consistent with their weekly group meetings because of their laggy internet connections. With the constraints of our current situation, we are limited to a few minutes of catching up, sharing lives, and praying for one another. 

Because of that, we are left with a question: How could someone like us, used to discipling people face-to-face, build a deep and strong relationship with the people we are leading to Christ today? 

I asked Pastor Dave Estrera, and here are some of his tips to help us make disciples even through an online setup. 

1. Acknowledge the limitations. 

The starting point of navigating our current setup is to acknowledge its limitations. Yes, it is not wrong to miss discipleship groups that have been meeting face-to-face. Even the apostle John, in one of the books he wrote, expressed his desire to talk to people personally, as communicating through paper and ink has its limitations. 

Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

2 John 1:12

The advancements in technology bring communication to another level and our social media platforms provide borderless contact with other people, but nothing beats meeting people face-to-face.

2. Maximize what we have.

However, these limitations should not stop us from doing the mission that God has called us to do. We should maximize the resources we have—making disciples at our very homes where we can be safe. Right now, we can communicate with people with just one click. We can send messages, encouragements, and prayers either through video chats, calls, messages, or even voicemails. 

So there’s no reason to stop reaching out to people and sharing our lives with them. We can and will continue to make disciples even online. 

3. Be more strategic in using our resources. 

Because of our access to different communication platforms today, we can be more strategic in using those to build deeper connections and stronger relationships with the people we are discipling. 

And to be strategic means we can explore different ways to do so. For some days, we can call them up to ask how their day went. We can also play online games with them or have a watch party with them. But other times, we will be called to minister to them, remind them of God’s word, and encourage them through prayer. 

We can be connected with the people we are discipling even outside the borders of a weekly group meeting. 

4. Be led by the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, when we meet the people we are discipling online, the best thing to do is to partner with the Holy Spirit. Ask Him where the conversation is leading. As you make disciples, remember that He is active and at work. If the Spirit is calling you to engage, do it. If He is calling you to pray and share the word, do not hesitate and be obedient to the call.

As you continue to answer God’s call to reach out and make disciples, remember that where you are right now is the best place to start engaging and discipling people. 

Sometimes you will feel like there’s no fruit and that you’ve already exhausted all the possibilities to build deeper connections to the people you are discipling today. Remember that more often than not, God works in the unseen and is causing growth that might not be visible just yet. 

Our labor in the advancement of God’s kingdom is not in vain. When it’s not working out today, it doesn’t mean that it’ll never work out. So, let us remain in Him and answer His call to make disciples wherever, whenever. 

About the author
Stephen Tapulao

Stephen is one of the new campus missionaries in Every Nation Campus Caloocan. Originally, he wanted to become a lawyer, but then God called him to full-time campus ministry. He loves listening to life stories, asking questions, and spending time with people. At first, you will recognize him as the quiet one in the corner. But then, as he gets comfortable, you'll be unable stop him from talking and sharing his insights.

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