What does 95% success mean?

We get a bit of pushback on the 95% success claim. Some of our early adopters have even said, “It’s so unbelievable you should stop saying it. Even though it is true.” And we hear other comments like:

  • When I heard you say it, I thought, who does this guy think he is, or
  • If you had said you had forty percent success, I might have believed it, or
  • I really wonder how you calculate that, or
  • It probably just works in your church, right?

The other day, I talked with Justin Gravitt with Navigators (one of the oldest, most incredible discipleship efforts). He said, “I am not so interested in whether you have 95% success. I am not even sure how you calculate that. I am interested that you get disciples to read the Bible, cover-to-cover, four times along the way. Getting the Bible in disciples is what the Navigators have always been about.”

As we talked, I was forced to simplify the explanation. When we say we have 95% success, we are saying churches that implement the system have a lifetime:

  • 5% rejection rate. That is, 5% of the existing church members never get into a group. They never go along for the ride.
  • 5% dropout rate. That is, 5% of everyone who gets in a discipleship group drops out along the way.

So if a church has 100 attendees, 95 get into a discipleship group, and 90 finish all three years and lead a discipleship group on their own.

But what about the long-term success? To date, the stick rate has stayed at 95% (for our church and other churches working the system). Years later, 90 of those 100 attendees report they are still following God. They are still making the right choices for the right reasons and navigating life’s unknowns. In other words, they remain prepared, confident, and skilled to live their best day ever.

Even better, 90 of them continue making disciples year after year. It may sound unbelievable, but that’s the data for the last ten years. We will have to see what happens as more and more folks integrate Sustainable Discipleship methods. Hopefully, everyone will stay incredibly successful.

But how can you even sell your board (much less yourself) an expected 95% success rate? Derek Irvin at Northview Church (another great church) suggests you don’t. After getting familiar with Sustainable Discipleship, he felt the same as Justin. He commented, “I had to find a way to get my arms around the success and overcome my questions about it.” Then he shared with me how he processed the 95%

  • First, I asked whether Doug seemed to believe it.
  • Second, do others seem to believe it.
  • Third, I asked whether they were doing it.
  • Fourth, I asked what is the downside.

In other words, Derek did some due diligence and asked himself, “What do I have to lose if I try this?” So he decided to try the system. First, Derek ran a test group with the complete method. And his church did a test run with the Bible reading method using their staff. Both worked. Now we are working together to get the same results for their congregation of 10,000 across thirteen campuses.

Our team will keep tracking the data, ensuring we haven’t broken things when the success rate dips. And it could dip as SD spreads to new continents and cultures. But for now, it is in six denominations across the U.S., Columbia, and the Philipines.

If you want to learn more, schedule a call or a Zoom. We love talking about discipleship.

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Challenging words to help make prepared, confident, and skilled followers of God.

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