Many cell groups, small groups and simple churches use the 4 W’s as a simple and adaptable framework for their meeting times. Learning to implement and practice these four steps has greatly improved my ability to facilitate small groups.

Here are the 4 W’s with some simple insight as to how they might be implemented.

Welcome –

After everyone has arrived and spent some time in informal conversation the leader can ask an “ice breaker” question. This question is usually a “fun” question where the answers give us some insight into the personal tastes, preferences and backgrounds of those present. It is a question that everyone should be able to answer no matter their age or level of commitment to Christ. The icebreaker helps build community and allows everyone to participate from the beginning.

Worship –

At this point the leader or other member leads the group in 10 to 15 minutes of worship. The worship section might include singing, reading scripture or some other type of activity that helps us focus on the Lordship of Christ. Prayer can be offered acknowledging the presence of Jesus with us as we meet.

Word –

I have found that a good way to transition from worship to a time of letting the Spirit of God speak to us through the Bible is with another question. I choose questions that can be answered from the life experiences of those gathered. It is a question that requires no Bible knowledge to answer. After one or two have responded to the question we read the selected scripture passage. Rather than telling the group what the scripture means, the leader facilitates discussion through a series of questions. We trust that the Spirit of God will speak to the hearts of the participants through interaction with God’s Word.

Work –

The purpose of this step is to turn our attention from ourselves to those who need the very Word we have been talking about. It is a time to ask questions about those we know who need this truth we have discovered. We discuss where we see God working in the lives of those in our circles of influence. We look for ways to join one another in taking God’s Good News to our friends and family. We close this step with prayer and then engage in laughter, fun and fellowship.

We benefited greatly by following these steps pretty closely when we first started our group. Now we are able to adjust what we do when we gather. The 4 W’s are not “hard and fast” steps that must be followed every time the group meets but they help keep us focused on Christ. They can be our guide but should not be our master.

From time to time I will post some thoughts on the individual “W’s.”

Have you ever used this structure for a group meeting?

Grace and Peace,


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Spreading the generous helping of butter on top of my short stack I remembered some statements from a simple church meeting. One of the traits of facilitating a small group conversation is the art of asking questions. Sometimes those questions seem a little trivial but they can give us great insight into our fellow Christ followers. They can also reinforce God’s truths in every day life situations.

While having a conversation with over a cup of coffee this morning I also had an order of pancakes. They were great and one of the best things is that I did not have to ask for additional butter. Looking at that golden delight, I remembered the responses to a question we considered when looking at 1 John 3:1.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! –  1 John 3:1 NIV

The leader asked the question,

“What is one of your favorite foods that you like to eat topped with lots of something?”

After getting responses from the group he asked us to fill in the blanks to the following statement:

The Father’s love for me is like the ________ on my ________.

Here are some of the replies:

  • Like the butter on my pancakes
  • Like the gravy on my potatoes
  • Like the cream on my strawberries
  • Like the chocolate on my strawberries
  • Like the toppings on my banana split
  • Like the chocolate on my ice cream
  • Like the butter on my brownie

I like lots of butter on my pancakes – but its nothing compared to the love the Father has lavished on me.

What is one of your favorite foods that you like to eat topped with lots of something?

How would you fill in the blanks: The Father’s love for me is like the ________ on my ________.

Grace and Peace,

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    It’s About the Conversation

    I’ve had two different experiences recently in facilitating conversations in our church. Small Group ConversationOne went great, the other not so well. One of the things I have to remember is that it is not so much about the “lesson” as it is about the “conversation.”

    When the Lesson Reigned Supreme

    I had an agenda. I had discovered a truth and I wanted the members to find it as well so, I built a lesson around that one truth. As a matter of fact, I didn’t really care if they found any other truth at all as long as they found mine.

    The questions I asked were all designed to reach one conclusion – mine. I never let the members hear from the Spirit and talk with each other about what He was telling them through the scripture. Taking center stage I became a bore. I kept talking over the Spirit; drowning out his voice with mine. It would have been better if I had found a way to share the insight the Father had given me as part of a larger conversation.

    I noticed two telltale signs of my flawed facilitation.

    1. Frustration grew when the members couldn’t give me the “right” answer.
    2. All responses were directed at me (the leader) and there was no interaction among the group.

    The Refreshing Wind of Conversation

    The other conversation was so different. My questions were open ended and I was not looking for specific answers. As I asked questions I tried to get out of the way and let the Spirit speak.

    There was a refreshing wind blowing in the room as members shared from their hearts. Some wanted to sing. Some told stories. Some pointed to additional scripture passages.

    I saw three positive differences. . .

    1. I did not have to say much because I was not in the spotlight.
    2. Group members were talking with each rather than to me only.
    3. The Spirit’s agenda is so much better than mine.

    I much prefer the pattern of facilitating in the second meeting rather than the first. I think the group does too.

    Grace and Peace,

    Join this conversation: Do you have any questions or insights about facilitating a conversation in a small group?