East End Fellowship Case Study
See how one church came through the principles in the Disciple-Making Innovation Lab to achieve a unique model (based on their DNA) for discipleship built for deep spiritual transformation and rapid reproduction.
A Snapshot of EEF
East End Fellowship is located in the inner city of Richmond, VA in the historic neighborhood of Church Hill. The dock on the James River, at the very bottom of the neighborhood, was the final leg of the Slavery Triangle; 85% of kidnapped African slaves coming to the colonies came through this dock. The mission of the church focuses entirely on the two square miles of this specific neighborhood geography and the 36,400 people who live in it.
The neighborhood itself has the 6th highest concentration of poverty in the United States and the largest stretch of government subsidized housing on the east coast. Like many urban centers, however, the neighborhood is gentrifying quickly and it has become a unique mixing bowl of diversity of both race and class.
It is a multi-racial staff and congregation, as it is central to the church’s mission to reflect the diversity of the neighborhood in the church itself.
An Artistic Map Rendering of Church Hill in Richmond, VA
East End Fellowship named their model Kickstart Disciple-Making.
There are 4 outcomes in an Innovation Lab:
A custom disciple-making model that works, built for deep personal transformation and rapid reproduction
Unique Discipleship toolkit created for your model
Strategic plan for integration in the church
Training pathway for current and future leaders
Outcome #1: Discipleship Toolkit
These are the various tools and assets that East End Fellowship created to form their Kickstart discipleship toolkit.
Book on the Discipleship Tools
This book was created as both an ebook and a hard copy. It has the essential discipleship toolkit. Everyone who participates in a Discipleship Core at East End Fellowship receives one of these resources.
Kickstart Leader’s Guide
This book was created as both an ebook and a hard copy. This is the Leader Guide for making disciples with the EEF toolkit and the multiplying vehicle of the Discipleship Core. Included with the resource were more than 40 video coaching tips.
Tool Example: The Jesus Pattern
Each tool has an image visualizing the practice the tool describes, a video, a written out chapter and an audiobook chapter, allowing different people in this very socioeconomically diverse church to connect with the essential content in their preferred learning style. There are two sets of tools, one for Character (The Five Foundations) and one for Competency (The Five-Fold Skills). Here’s an example with the Jesus Pattern Tool.
Outcome #2: Kickstart Model Description
East End Fellowship had a strong group of missional communities that already existed that were good at being on mission and creating deep community. What they needed was a way of reproducing disciples within a system that, by and large, already worked well.
This led to the development of a vehicle called a Discipleship Core. It’s a group of 4-7 people, led by a discipling leader, who spiritually invested in those people for 18-24 months using the toolkit that was developed. As that two year period came to an end, the last few months were spent preparing these new discipling leaders to start Discipling Cores of their own. Usually speaking, this happened with people within the preexisting missional communities (though not always).
After only four years, there is a four generation deep discipleship tree that has worked it’s way into every missional community and far beyond the four walls of the organized church. The fifth generation of multiplication (which is, generally speaking, where you start to see an exponential curve) will hit in the next year.
Outcome #3: Integration Plan
Rather than make a public, church wide announcement or large scale rollout, East End Fellowship elected to go with a softer, more organic rollout plan. This allowed for missional communities to continue growing, maturing and multiplying. The first round of people in the newly created discipleship model were influential leaders in the church (both men and women) who would ultimately lead the first wave of multiplication. Four groups were started: Two for men and two for women. The driving idea was that if they multiplied like they anticipated, by the third generation, there would be a discipling leader in every missional community, allowing this to work like yeast in the dough of the church. Fortunately, it worked out that way.
Finally, a sense of anticipation was building in the wider church as the language of “No Plan B” (referencing Jesus’ mission of making discipleship who make disciples) was making its way into the wider culture. There were teaching series on discipleship, along with different ways to experience the kind of investment leasers were describing.
For EEF, the rollout was slower, under the radar, and eventually the various components of the discipleship process seeped its’ way into the whole culture and beyond.
What was the vision behind this?
East End Fellowship had boldly proclaimed in a vision series that within 5 years, everyone who wanted to be in a discipling relationship would be in one. The only way that could happen was to start slow and build for iterative multiplication. As of today, four years in, they are only one generation away from that vision becoming reality.
Outcome #4: Training plan for current and future leaders
Because this discipleship model was built on the idea of the rapid reproduction geared for multiplicative growth, training could never be fully centralized and in the hands of “expert trainers.” Every disciple-maker leading a Discipleship Core would need to be a kind of trainer. The principle they selected created a kind of T4T model (training for trainers), but one that could work in a neighborhood where the average person reads at an 8th grade level.
What they created was a simple, reproducible system that allowed for structure and flexibility at the same time that was easy to teach and easy to train. Apprenticeship was baked in and one of they key innovations was around debriefing every Discipleship Core. When the “discipleship time” was over, the group would spend 5-10 minutes debriefing the time: What went right? What felt off? What questions do you have? Finally, it’s followed by the leader sharing what they noticed in the night. This multiplied the leader’s way of seeing things into the people they were discipling.
Included in the resources were simple structures and templates for training that were easily replicated and helped producing a “radical minimum.”
Additionally, some of the tools from the discipleship toolkit were used in sermon series, missional community curriculum, quarterly leader training, membership meetings and developed for Youth and Children’s Ministry.