Introduction: Transformative Discipleship


Transformative Discipleship

Article Overview


In the early 1940s, the Nazi’s dominated many countries in central Europe. And they were not neutral toward religion. 

They sought to destroy the Catholic Church, sending thousands of priests and religious to concentration camps, silencing any opposition from religious leaders, prohibiting most public expressions of faith and outlawing education in the Christian life. The goal was to prevent the Faith from being passed on to the younger generation and indoctrinate them in the Nazi ideology at school, in the media and in government sponsored activities in which they participated. 

In this time of crisis, some laypeople heroically stepped up to lead underground groups to pass on the Faith to the youth. One man named Jan Tyranowski led one of the most successful of these clandestine ministries with college-aged men called Living Rosary groups. 

Jan was a tailor in Nazi-ruled Poland. He was not a priest and had no formal training in theology. But at the risk of his own life, he opened his apartment for instructing several young men in the spiritual life, and trained them to form Living Rosary groups of their own with their peers at the university (on campus or in the workplace). He was intentional in his ministry, reinforcing the basics of the Faith and always helping the men to take the next steps in their relationship with Christ. He taught them how to root out sin, go deeper in prayer and discern God’s will. He opened up for them the beauty of the Rosary and the wisdom of the saints. And he also trained them for mission, launching them to reach their peers with the Gospel. 

His underground ministry had such a deep impact that 10 of the men involved eventually became priests. What is most interesting is that one of those priests was someone named Karol Wojtyla, the man who eventually became St. John Paul II— the pope who had such a tremendous impact on the Church and the world. 

The world may have never known Pope John Paul II if it wasn’t for the discipleship of Jan Tyranowski. 

That’s the impact one ordinary Christian can have if he pours his life into discipling others. Indeed, Jan Tyranowski may be one of the most influential people of the 20th century. But it’s not because he rose to wealth, fame or power. And it’s not for any great accomplishment that will ever be featured on CNN or win a Nobel Prize. Rather, he simply invested himself personally in a few good men, leading them to encounter Christ at a deeper level and training them to go out and do the same for others. And those men went on to do great things, playing a crucial role in helping preserve Catholic culture in Poland in this time of crisis. One of these men even became Pope! The world may have never known Pope John Paul II if it wasn’t for the discipleship of Jan Tyranowski. 

Discuss: What inspires you about the example of Jan Tyranowski? 


We might not be living under a totalitarian regime, but we do live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity. Young people on college campuses are constantly bombarded with a secular worldview in their classes, in the media, and in the culture on campus. Many university students do not get to hear the Gospel message or a Catholic worldview. Similar to the time of 1940s Poland, the Church once again needs disciplers like Jan Tyranowski who will form others to live as disciples of Jesus and train them to reach their peers with the Gospel. 

That’s why your mission to disciple others is so important—and it comes with tremendous responsibility. The way you go about discipling others matters: how much prayer and planning you put into it, how well you form them in the fullness of the Faith, how well you train them for mission. If done well, with the right vision and with great care, you, like Jan Tyranowski, can change the world. 

If that’s going to happen, however, our discipleship must be intentional like Jan’s. What made his discipleship so powerful? 

Jan Tyranowski didn’t just hang out with his men and get to know them. He certainly lived authentic friendship with them, but he did so with a purpose—to invite them to become disciplemakers themselves. He didn’t just show up for meetings with his disciples and shoot from the hip. He also did a lot more than pray with them, help them with their problems and hold them accountable. He likely did all that, but he also gave his disciples an intentional formation in the Faith and equipped them to go out to reach others. 

These articles will help you accomplish that same formation. The articles collected here are tools to help you disciple others to become disciple-makers. They’ll help you maximize your time with disciples so they can have greater impact. They’ll provide more structure and depth while keeping things authentic and conversational. They’ll give you a map as you lead your disciples on the journey of win, build and send. By using these articles effectively, you too can offer dynamic, transformative discipleship just like Jan Tyranowski. 

Discuss: In what ways has your experience in discipleship either resonated with or fallen short of the intentional, systematic discipleship Jan Tyranowski gave his men? How might having discipleship resources like these help you give disciples more than what you could give them on your own? 


Finally, it’s important to note that these articles are not the result of individual creative opinions about discipleship or the “FOCUS way” of doing things. Rather, these articles are rooted in the Catholic Church’s vision for evangelization and discipleship. FOCUS simply seeks to follow what the Church teaches about how to proclaim the Gospel and form missionary disciples. These articles will equip you to do this well and in the heart of the Catholic Tradition. We believe these articles will be a blessing to your discipleship times in four main ways: 

  1. Your discipleship will be more authentic and conversational
  2. Your discipleship will be more repeatable—equipping student leaders to form effective disciple-makers themselves. 
  3. Your discipleship will take your disciples deeper in their formation. 
  4. You will have great flexibility in your discipleship time.


  1. Preparation: Read and Pray through It On Your Own Take time to pray through the articles yourself and then share from your own encounter with Christ. Pray about where the disciple is at, what he or she needs and what points you might want to emphasize to encourage them, inspire them or help them grow in a certain area. 
  2. Master the Stories and Main Ideas (the “Transferable Concepts”) Each article includes “transferable concepts” – key points you want to reinforce in the conversation and make sure the disciple understands. These are important points that the disciple needs to grasp well so that they can pass them on to others effectively.   
  3. Keep it Personal: Use the Article as a Tool to Build Authentic Conversations As you discuss the article, keep your conversation personal and authentic: share your own experiences, stories, examples from saints and how these truths have personally impacted you. Feel free to add other questions or even depart from the article at times to let the conversation flow. Don’t just ask the discussion questions to complete a task in a process. Rather, use those discussion questions or others you come up with to facilitate a conversation.   
  4. Takeaways/Next Steps After discussing the article, talk together about what points inspired or challenged each of you the most. Share from your own life what you took away most from the article and how you want to live these truths better. Ask the disciple what steps they might want to take to live out these truths in their own lives more. Remember, you are accompanying them on the journey of missionary discipleship. Allow the article to start a process of transformation, but don’t let it end there. How can you begin to use these articles effectively? What do you need to do to prepare? Take a few minutes to decide on some steps you can take to begin using these resources.  

Discuss: How can you begin to use these articles effectively? What do you need to do to prepare? Take a few minutes to decide on some steps you can take to begin using these resources.

Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.
St. John Paul II