A Training Cycle for Disciple-Making: MAWL

Jon Luesink
March 13 2023


Why did I fail to teach my youngest daughter to ride a bike?

Why did I keep failing to make disciples who multiply?

Simply, I didn’t use the training cycle of Model, Assist, Watch, Launch (MAWL).

Launching (too quickly!)

I first encountered the concepts of Disciple Making Movements (DMM) as a missionary in the Czech Republic. Our church planting team learned about a key concept called Discovery Bible Study (DBS) from a wonderful missionary in another organization.

To summarize our path to failure, he (MODELLED) for us, and then, as team leader who didn’t like the idea of being mentored by a younger man, I said, “We got this from here!” and we (LAUNCHED).

A beautiful thing happened next. The key DMM tool of Discovery Bible Study was amazing at helping our seeking friends come to Christ. One after another we saw them discipled to faith in Jesus. Angels were rejoicing as more names were written in the Book of Life. Newborn believers were baptized and began their walk of obedience with Jesus.

But then things stalled out.

Because we didn’t slow down to get more instruction in the (ASSIST) phase, nor ongoing coaching in the (WATCH) phase, we repeated our lack of diligence in the training cycle with our disciples. For example, we (MODELLED) for them how to run a Discovery Bible Study (DBS), maybe even (ASSISTED) them to facilitate one, but then we too quickly (LAUNCHED) them to go start their own DBS without diligent assistance or coaching. They floundered and failed due to our lack of diligence.

MAWL: Model, Assist, Watch, Launch

Years later, I was finally able to receive what I’d been too hurried to learn: MAWL (Model, Assist, Watch, Launch).

Picture teaching your child to ride a bike.

  • (MODEL) for them briefly what it’s like to ride a bike so they get the general idea. If all we do is ride around in front of them, they’ll get bored and never learn to do it themselves.
  • (ASSIST) them by running behind, giving them encouragement, tips, corrections, holding them steady as they wobble towards confidence.
  • (WATCH) them master the fundamentals, accompanying them on longer rides to learn how to navigate different situations safely, debrief with them when they back from their solo trips.
  • (LAUNCH) them on their own adventures to bike further and farther than you have ever gone with them yourself, and enjoy hearing their stories around the dinner table.

Teaching my Daughter to Ride a Bike 

I managed to teach three of my children to ride a bike this way. Our fourth child was five years younger than the rest, so her process got stalled.

The rest of the family was eagerly ready for the big bike trips through the countryside. In order to go on these adventures together, our youngest got stuck behind my bike with one of those tow bars attached to her little bike. Unfortunately, a design flaw in the tow bar (surely it wasn’t the fault of my installation) meant that her bike was about five degrees off-kilter. Thus, the model she had of “riding” a bike for years was being dragged along, hanging on for dear life, balancing her body at a five degree slant to stay upright above a cock-eyed bike.

Finally, we realized it was time to assist her to learn to ride a bike on her own. Just like with the other kids, I ran behind her, holding her seat, encouraging her to pedal fast enough. But every time I let go, she would falter to the right, and fall off. After trying and trying, she was in tears, my back was killing me, and my legs were exhausted. Scratching my head, it finally dawned on me … because of the misaligned tow bar, I modelled for our little girl that to stay upright, she had to sit five degrees to the right to stay balanced. So, every time I let go of the seat, her muscle memory highjacked her body posture and she leaned five degrees to the right to stay “balanced” but fell over, and over again.

We were rescued by her older brother. He said, “Dad, I think I know what to do.” He shoved a broom handle into the seat stays, put on his rollerblades and scooted off behind his sister, encouraging her to pedal, giving her tips along the way. He was able to hold on long enough with those rollerblades flying, such that he was able to (ASSIST) her to figure out the correct geometry for balance. Pretty soon, she was off and running, and ready for propelling herself on our bigger bike excursions. Eight years later, she doesn’t even ask anyone to come with her when she wants to go cycling.

If that isn’t enough to celebrate, when I finally learned about foundational framework of MAWL for disciple-making, I was able to look back and appreciate the greater joy of what had occurred while I sat exhausted on the curb.

I had done it right with my son: Model, Assist, Watch, Launch. And when I got befuddled trying to teach my daughter, he said, “Dad, I got this”. My son taught his sister to ride a bike!

This is the MAWL multiplication effect.

What would that look like for multiplying disciples who multiply disciples? Could we actually see 2 Timothy 2:2 come true in front of our eyes with 4 generations capable of multiplying others?

God’s Heart in 4 Fields + MAWL

Let’s look back to the previous article which explored the foundation framework of DMM called “God’s Heart in Four Fields”. In that article we looked at “God’s Heart” and explored the concepts of Go, Gospel, Grow, Gather and Guide.

Let’s imagine that our leadership team is asking, “What tools do we have to teach our disciples to connect to God’s Heart, starting with listening to Him through reading the scriptures?”

Someone pipes up, “I know, the S.O.A.P.S. process is really easy to learn and use!”

So that week we go off and introduce S.O.A.P.S., each to our handful of disciples.

  • We (MODEL) for them how to do it.
  • We spend a longer time in the (ASSIST) phase, over several weeks, making sure they really get how to do it, and experiencing the benefits of the process.
  • Over the coming months, we (WATCH) for consistent competence, and even encourage them to start training others in how to use S.O.A.P.S. just like my son taught his little sister to ride a bike.

Meanwhile, we may realize that some of our disciples need to learn the (GO) tool of Prayer Walking in order to meet seekers. So, we MAWL that with them.

Simultaneously, other disciples may be ready to learn how to run a DBS to sow the (GOSPEL) with their family and friends, so we begin to MAWL that with them.

Have we taught them about accountability groups in the (GROW) field? Let’s MAWL Life Transformation Groups (LTG).

Are their DBS groups ready to (GATHER) as healthy simple churches? Let’s MAWL the 3-3rds format with them.

And soon enough, they can use the 4-fields tool, just like we are, to (GUIDE) the whole network towards healthy multiplication.

A New Rhythm (which is actually an Ancient Rhythm)

As a classically trained pastor, I found it really hard to trust this new kind of rhythm. As the “professional” I somehow always default to the posture of being the trainer of every newbie. I was trying to figure this new rhythm out.

Thankfully I had a neighbour who is both a bakery manager, and a black belt in Karate.

  • How do you onboard a new baker? Model, Assist, Watch, Launch.
  • How does the sensei train every student who comes to the dojo? The white belt beginning is trained by the yellow belt, who is in turn trained by the … all the way up to the black belts who are trained by the sensei.

That reminded me of Robert Coleman’s book “The Masterplan of Evangelism” about Jesus’ art of disciple making, which means this isn’t some new kind of rhythm, it’s rather ancient: Model, Assist, Watch, Launch.

Oh, how I wish I’d taken the time to learn MAWL sixteen years ago when we first started trying to plant a church in Prague. At least I’m figuring it out now. I hope you can learn quicker than I did.

For more information, consider this article by Curtis Sergeant of Zúme Training.

If you’re interested to get started, Outreach Canada offers something called Discovery Bible Study Taster Groups. We (MODEL) how to run a DBS, then (ASSIST) you to facilitate it yourself, and if you’re interested to try it out yourself, we offer ongoing (COACHING) until you’re ready to keep the training cycle running with your disciples and (LAUNCH) out on your own.

Jon Luesink has been married to Jill for over 30 years and they have 4 children. After pastoring in Chilliwack for 12 years, the Lord called them to lead a church planting team in Czechia as missionaries for 8 years and then to serve with Avant Ministries Canada, raising up the next generation of missionaries. Now, as a DMM Catalyzer at Outreach Canada, Jon is focused on helping to reverse the disciple making crisis in Canada and beyond, through the catalyzation of disciple making movements.

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