How to Start a One-to-One Bible Reading Discipleship Ministry in Your Church or as an Individual

What is a one-to-one Bible reading discipleship ministry anyway? David Helm summarizes it like this:

“Can you think of people in your life that you would like to see progress spiritually—perhaps a non-Christian colleague, or a Christian friend at church, or a family member? What holds them back? Is there a way to help them understand more of God in a way that is simple and personal, and that doesn’t rely on getting them to a church program or event.

All this is possible through one-to-one Bible reading.

But, what is one-to-one Bible reading? To put it succinctly, it is a variation on that most central Christian activity—reading the Bible—but done in the context of reading with someone. It is something a Christian does with another person, on a regular basis, for a mutually agreed upon length of time, with the intention of reading through and discussing a book or part of a book of the Bible. It is effective for evangelism. It is useful for discipleship. It is even helpful for training.”

I am convinced that the Bible teaches two things: First, every Christian should be engaged in personal ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Second, God changes people through the Word and relationship (Romans 10:10-17).

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV


For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:10-17 ESV

For years, I have—somewhat accidentally, if you will—gravitated to one-to-one Bible reading without consciously recognizing it as a biblically modeled strategy for discipleship. As I have engaged in one-to-one Bible reading, by God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit, it has proven to be fruitful.

It wasn’t until I encountered the work of Colin Marshall, Tony Payne, and David Helm (in The Trellis and the Vine and One-to-One Bible Reading: A Simple Guide for Every Christian, respectively) that I acquired a crystallized view of one-to-one discipleship and Bible reading as a primary biblical model for Christian growth. David Helm’s OnetoOne course talks at Covenant Life Church have been especially effective in staking out a vision for how to have every member engaged in a discipleship ministry of the Word. As a result, I am unable (and, frankly, have no desire) to escape Helm’s influence on the subject; every article in this How To series will bear the marks of Helm’s influence.

This series of articles provides a guide for how to start a one-to-one Bible reading discipleship ministry in your church or as an individual. In the coming days, I will share how we have implemented one-to-one discipleship in our church, mistakes we’ve made, lessons we’ve learned, where we see it going and how it is changing the life of our church. Here’s the series outline:

For those who want to further examine the biblical and practical basis for investing in one-to-one Bible reading and a personal ministry of the Word, I highly recommend reading The Trellis and the Vine and One-to-One Bible Reading (and the One-to-One Bible Reading supplemental site:

3 Responses to How to Start a One-to-One Bible Reading Discipleship Ministry in Your Church or as an Individual

  1. Hi Justin,

    Having just finished writing a proposal for our elders on starting up a 1-1 Bible reading ministry in our church, I thought I’d do a quick Google for resources before hitting send. And up this came!

    Very timely – Thank you. I’m particularly looking forward to Parts II and IV…

    You’ll be glad to know that I have both the Trellis and the Vine and OneToOne sitting on the desk in front of me.

    Blessings from the UK.

    Grace and peace,