Here to help
Mission Development Adviser
Small groups can help and support people in their whole life discipleship and with the Lights for Christ initiative.
Across the Diocese of Sheffield, we are encouraging a simple, well-established model for home groups or small groups. This is easily remembered by 4Ws: Welcome – Worship – Word – Wonders.
The order of the 4Ws can easily be changed, and you can put a greater emphasis on one W over another depending on what you want to focus on each week. This could be intimacy with God, prayer for a challenging situation, a Bible study or getting to know each other better.
The format of the 4Ws allows shared leadership of the group as different people are encouraged at different times to lead one of the Ws.
The size of the group will affect the interaction and group dynamics. To allow people to talk and share, break down the group at appropriate times for discussions and prayer into groups of 2-4 people. This way, quieter people will be more likely to engage fully.
KEY POINT – Welcome is about building the group into a community and focusing us on our lives outside church.
It’s important that people feel welcomed and comfortable as they arrive, particularly for new people or with new groups.
A really good way to help people get to know each other is by using a good icebreaker. Even with established groups this can really help people get to know more about each other or simply have a bit of fun as you start. A few simple ideas for a quick question may be…favourite season, favourite TV programme, etc. or a thanksgiving for something happening in your life. Feel free to put a time limit on each person speaking. It is important to get everybody speaking at the start so that this can continue throughout.
When new people arrive in the group, be sure to get each person to introduce themselves briefly.
Icebreakers – 10 ideas
- Favourite season of the year
- Book you enjoyed
- Film you enjoyed
- A memorable holiday
- TV you like to watch
- Type of music you enjoy
- Food you like to eat
- Favourite school teacher
- Sport you like to play or watch
- A hobby you have or would like
KEY POINT – Worship is about focussing the group on Jesus.
It is important to take time to worship in order to centre the group on Jesus.
A really good way to help us connect with worship is to keep it simple, comfortable and creative.
A few ideas to include could be…reading a Psalm together, writing a Psalm, using a worship song on YouTube, a time of silence, liturgy, singing, candles, artwork, looking at different attributes of God.
Even if there is a good musician or a worship leader in the group, do encourage others to lead to encourage variety.
Worship – 10 ideas
- Read a psalm together or alternate verses
- Light a candle and keep silence
- Listen to some worship music or hymn on YouTube, CD etc.
- Write down all the things you are thankful for
- Write down all the characteristics you can think of for God e.g. kind, loving, generous
- Say the Lord’s prayer together and leave a bit of silence after each line
- Take it in turns to say a positive word from the Bible, pause after each e.g. Love, peace, Faith, Kindness
- Everybody reads their own favourite Bible verse, pause after each.
- Sing a song together (if you are confident enough)
- Write a thank you letter to God, you don’t have to share the contents
KEY POINT – Word is about hearing and applying the Bible to our everyday lives and relationships.
It is important to take time to hear what God’s word is saying to us and how we apply it in our lives.
Perhaps this W is the one that can seem the most challenging in terms of time spent in advance preparing for it, organising it on the night and confidence about leading it.
It is both possible and desirable not to prepare a lot of material for the Word section. Bible study should not start with a long talk. A really good way to avoid this, is to take the text preached on the previous Sunday and use some simple questions. These questions may have been provided by the person who preached or they may be more generic.
If the previous Sunday’s passage is used, some in the group will have heard the sermon and will therefore have some background information in their minds already.
On the night, the passage can be read out and the questions can be posed one at a time and discussed in pairs. Like the other Ws it’s important that the responsibility for leading is shared around.
Step by step easy to run Bible Study guide
- Leader asks someone to read the previous Sunday’s passage out loud (another person can read out a different version if available).
- Leader poses questions one at a time and each time the question is discussed in pairs (allowing quieter people to have a say!).
- Leader invites feedback from each pair if they wish to do so.
- Leader continues until all questions have been asked.
- NB questions can be made available by preacher via church news sheet, website or email or these questions can be used instead…
- ‘From this passage what do we learn about God?’
- ‘From this passage what do we learn about humanity?’
- ‘How will what we have found in this passage make a difference to our lives and the lives of those around us?’.
KEY POINT – Prayer is about asking God for help and listening to the Holy Spirit as we live our lives in God’s world.
It is important to pray together when we meet.
A really good way to focus our prayers is to think about who we are living amongst and our own situations in everyday life.
Ask people what they want prayer for, or they can write prayers down. It may be you use this time to pray for healing, for people to come to faith or for particular situations around the world or in the lives of group members. When you pray, remember to invite God’s Holy Spirit and spend time listening as well as talking to God.
Sensitivity is important as people may wish to share intimate details. It is important to be free to break into smaller groups, perhaps gender-based groups or even pairs.
- After hearing prayer request of the group, each pray in silence
- After hearing prayer requests one person leads for the whole group
- After hearing prayer requests pray in 2s or 3s
- Write down prayers and place on a table people pick them up and pray them
- People say their requests and after each a tealight candle is lit and silence kept
- Pray openly or in silence using call and response e.g. Lord in your Mercy… Hear our prayer
- Spend some time listening to the Holy Spirit without asking for anything
Benefits of this 4Ws model
Sharing the roles
It is important to share out the Ws each week so that the preparation time for one person is minimised, members become more engaged and potential leaders can recognised and raised up more easily.
This leads to…
So that busy leaders do not get burnt out or demotivated, it is important that group meetings do not take hours to plan and prepare for.
Growing new leaders
If growth and multiplication is to be possible, leading a home group must be simple and have the perception of simplicity so that new leaders can be raised and groups able to multiply.
9:17 Podcast Series
A podcast series introducing the basics of small groups based on Matthew 9:17 – with Graham Sandersfield and John Marsh
Episode 1 – What is a small group?
Episode 2 – The value of small groups
Episode 3 – The 4 Ws
Episode 4 – Launching Small Groups
Episode 5 – Supporting Small Group Leaders
A model to help Christian disciples live out their baptismal calling to be lights in the world
A curated list of Bible study resources including commentaries, videos, podcasts from theological scholars
A few recommended apps and materials that can help with daily connection with our Father in heaven