The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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The Making Disciples Research Project

What does it take to make whole-life disciples in a local church?

Discover what we learnt from 16 Elim churches across the UK about how to grow whole-life disciples for the long term – including best practice for everything from leadership to small groups.

At LICC, we’re committed to increasing the depth and sustainability of our work with the UK church. We want to enable churches to embed, deepen, and sustain disciplemaking for the frontline.

As part of that mission, we’re delighted to bring you Making Disciples, an in-depth research report produced in partnership with Elim.

The report was commissioned to identify best practice among churches that have sustained a shift towards a whole-life disciplemaking culture for at least three years. It asked the question: which good practices really help disciples to be formed most effectively?

Key findings

Here’s a quick summary of some of the headline findings – you can check out the full report further down the page.

1. You don’t have to be a ‘super leader’ to make whole-life disciples

Even though we looked at churches that were identified as well-led, growing, and committed to making disciples, almost without exception every senior leader expressed their church’s limitations in discipling people. Few felt they were able to present themselves confidently. In short – healthy disciplemaking churches are led by ordinary people just like you.

2. It’s tough to grow as a disciple if you don’t know your purpose

When we compared people’s self-reporting concerning their spiritual growth and their sense of purpose in life, the differences were remarkable. People who had a ‘very clear’ idea of God’s purposes for them on their frontlines were much more likely to describe themselves as ‘growing’ than those who did not. In other words – when people see their daily contexts through God’s eyes, they’re more likely to grow in their faith and confidence.

3. Intentional communication with the whole church is essential

All the leaders were aware that what was needed in their church were practices that constantly reminded the congregation that the church’s culture was about making disciples. Leaders of larger churches recognised they needed to spend time with the wider leadership teams to ensure discipling was part of the church’s core DNA. In smaller churches, the ministers prioritised time in one-to-one discipling conversations with people.

4. Small groups matter – a lot!

It may sometimes be a struggle to connect people to them, but when people do engage with small groups, their discipleship benefits hugely. From being encouraged to discern your strengths and gifts to gaining accountability from a trusted group of peers, the impact of thriving small groups is huge.

5. As churches, we need to share wisdom about issues from every part of life

To help people grow as disciples, it’s important our ministry is focussed on wider horizons than just gathered church activities. This needs to be explicitly stated, because people may have come to expect that guidance in church is more likely to be directed at personal or family issues – and less often at the things they face at work, in school, or with friends.

Read the report

Want to read the rest? Check out the full Making Disciples report here:

Want to go deeper into what the Making Disciples report means for your church, and how you could apply the findings? Then check out this video presentation from the 2020 Elim Leadership Summit.

Watch LICC’s Neil Hudson and Elim’s Dave Newton unpack the report, focusing on its implications for disciplemaking at a local level. Watch the video and download the accompanying slides below.

Download slides (PDF)

Download the accompanying slides from Neil Hudson’s presentation.


LICC’s Making Disciples project worked with 16 Elim churches across the UK between October 2019-February 2020, interviewing senior pastors and conducting a quantitative survey with 828 individuals in the churches, followed by a focus group in each church which offered qualitative responses.

The quantitative survey was completed by an average of 20% of each church’s congregation. Respondents were self-selected and the majority are committed church members.

Each region was asked to suggest churches that they believed would have lessons to teach the wider movement. The churches that accepted the invitation to be part of the project are recognised within Elim as being well-led, growing, and convinced of the significance of making disciples.

The churches included are located across the UK, in Ballymena, Chorley, Halifax, Huddersfield, Kilsyth, Leeds, Leighton Buzzard, London, Paisley, Portadown, Silverdale, St Helens, Warrington, Wells, and Weston-Super-Mare. The research was supported by Allchurches Trust.