The “I do, We do, You do” Principle

For two and a half years I’ve followed the ‘I do, We do, You do” principle when teaching English as a Second Language classes online.

First, I model what I expect my student to do.

Then, we do it together.

Finally, my student does it on his own.

In teaching my daughter to drive, I am also following this same principle. First, she watches me drive. Then, she drives while I sit alongside her, giving lots of instruction. Next, she drives while I sit quietly, only offering suggestions when it is absolutely necessary. Finally, after months behind the wheel, she’s ready to drive on her own.

A good master craftsman ought to follow this very same principle with their apprentice. My aunt and uncle are expert potters. When I spent the summer at their home many years ago, they encouraged me to watch carefully while they told me what to do. Then, they gave me some clay to work with while instructing me every step of the way. And, at last, I was free to create my own work of art.

In our modern American society, I see so many ways we’re forgetting this wonderful principle, both as parents and as disciple-makers. As parents, we often turn the reins over to our children way too early. We let them pick what they wear, what they eat, and what they do as soon as they can squawk out their wishes. We fail to train and model for them properly. On the other hand, we might spend all our time lecturing our kids, without working alongside them, modeling for them how to make good decisions or accomplish household tasks. Rather than spending time doing household chores with our kids, we’re busy working in the kitchen or the yard, while they’re busy doing homework, playing sports or hanging with their friends.

As disciple-makers, we need to be careful to begin by modeling how we pray, how we study the Bible, and even how we share the gospel. Then, we pray together and study together and share the gospel together. Initially, we share lots of instruction and do most of the talking, gradually decreasing our input and encouraging them to increase their output. This is the best way to train our children to train their children. And, this is the best way to train new believers in how to walk the walk of faith.

Jesus washed His disciples’ feet Himself first, then urged them to do likewise. Paul poured faithfully into Timothy and Titus and many others, modeling for them and training them, and then sent them out to do likewise.

We, too, can go and make disciples! We, too, have been called to be integral leaders in the multiplication of the kingdom – whether at home or in our world.

“You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

John 13:13-17 ESV

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Matthew 28:19-20a ESV

“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.”

1 Corinthians 4:14-17 ESV

“Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

1 Timothy 4:11-16 ESV

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Titus 2:3-5 ESV

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

1 Timothy 1:15-17 ESV

For more study, search the words: imitate (imitat**) and example. Read through Paul’s letters in the New Testament paying special attention to how Paul encouraged and admonished those who were following him to follow Jesus and to set an example for others. (such as 1 Corinthians 10:1-12, Philippians 3:12-17, 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15)

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