Hockey dads and discipleship

By Eric Hallett

A new Wesleyan movement of disciple making will flourish as each person rediscovers ways to encourage our disciples to make disciples.

What would happen if each of you committed to forming a group dedicated to intentional disciple making?"

The question asked of a Wesleyan leaders’ group at Exponential in the fall of 2019, a church multiplication conference with an emphasis on disciple making, stayed with me. I accepted the challenge, despite my busy, dual role as a local church pastor and district superintendent. This initiative was worth prioritizing.

There were some men in our church who were irregular Sunday attenders. Their teenage sons’ participation in hockey, a beloved Canadian pastime, was the main factor inhibiting their families’ ability to attend church.

I invited them to join me in forming a disciple-making group and they accepted. We chose a simple format: meet before work on Tuesday mornings at a coffee shop, read a portion of Scripture from the Discovery Bible app and ask each other the app-provided questions. We’d then pray for each other and conclude to go about our day. I affectionally referred to the group as “hockey dads.”

Without multiplication,you don’t have a movement.

The experience has been enriching, and watching these men grow spiritually is a joy.

A question began forming in my mind. How do I help in equipping these men to form their own groups and disciple their peers? The question became a dilemma, as I have seen multiple groups grow spiritually but never multiply into more groups.

One example stems from years ago when Paul Henderson, a famous Canadian hockey star, came to our city and shared his faith. Because he scored the most famous goal in Canadian history to beat the Russian national hockey team in 1972, he drew a crowd. Henderson challenged the attendees to gather in disciple-making groups upon returning home.

After that night, multiple groups formed. While many people have been discipled in those groups, few have become disciple makers and multiplied to create new groups.

The Wesleyan Church’s vision is to become a movement again. We know disciples multiply disciples and disciple-making groups multiply disciple-making groups, leading to churches multiplying churches. Without multiplication, you don’t have a movement.

My desire was to inspire the “hockey dads” to disciple their peers. My dilemma was the recognition of being stuck at the level of multiplying groups. God offered me clues for moving forward, both from the New Testament and my own spiritual growth journey.

While reading the Gospel of Mark, I reflected on how Jesus spoke to his disciples. I became fascinated that he related to them the way coaches relate to players or teachers relate to students. In that moment, I heard God say to me, “Jesus didn’t disciple his peers. Why are you trying to get the ‘hockey dads’ to disciple their peers?”

A new Wesleyan movement of disciple making will flourish as each person rediscovers ways to encourage our disciples to make disciples. 

This insight caused me to reflect on my personal discipleship journey and the realization that I was first discipled by my youth pastor.

Pastor Dale MacDonald was eight years older than me, and when I was a teen, he intentionally gathered a few friends and me with the express purpose of making us disciples of Jesus. In weekly meetings outside of church and youth group, he taught us how to pray, how to read the Bible, how to share our faith and how to worship God. I was one of dozens of teens who became a disciple of Jesus under Pastor Dale’s leadership. Many of us attended Christian universities and are serving the Church as disciple makers.

My challenge, moving forward, is to encourage the “hockey dads” to multiply our group by seeking out younger men in their lives who look to them as leaders and to invite them into a disciple-making group of their own. The “hockey dads” have embraced this idea of developing disciples themselves, and in the first half of 2021 our group will be preparing to multiply with each member becoming a disciple maker.

A new Wesleyan movement of disciple making will flourish as each person rediscovers ways to encourage our disciples to make disciples. In the instance of the “hockey dads,” disciples make disciples by finding people in their lives who naturally look up to them as mentors and coaches.

In order to be effective, movements need full participation. How about you? What “hockey dads (or moms)” in your life might you encourage to disciple the next generation of disciple makers?