MicroGroup Leadership Options

Coaching MicroGroups

A CMG is our introductory training tool on how to grow healthy multiplying MicroGroups. In 8-12 weeks of online sessions, you are equipped to know how to launch your

own MicroGroups. New CMGs are starting all the time.



8-12 WEEKS

Join pastors and local church leaders who are multi-generational disciplemakers to walk alongside you.




Equip leaders in a mutually supportive and stimulating environment, who intend to turn churches and ministries into communities that fulfill the Great Commission’s imperative of making reproducing disciples of Jesus with particular focus on MicroGroups.




Characteristics of a MicroGroup

The following is a succinct summary of the core characteristics of a MicroGroup.

1.    Container for accelerated growth: The MicroGroup is the container or context for a highly relational setting that creates the environment for accelerated growth. The reason growth is accelerated in this smaller units is profoundly simple. It has to do with personal investment. When people commit themselves to study Scripture, record their own insights, and then come together to verbalize their discoveries, they are getting God’s Word into their life. These insights are shared in trust-based community. This means that biblical truth through the Holy Spirit is creating self-awareness and shaping character. This is why we refer to MicroGroups as “hot houses of the Holy Spirit.” In other words, participants have realigned their lives for the purpose of becoming mature, reproducing disciples of Jesus.

2.    Groups formed through personal invitation: MicroGroups are generally formed when one person, after prayerful consideration, invites two or three others on the journey to grow toward maturity in Christ. Jesus spent time in prayer prior to calling His team; therefore, we suggest that people pray until the Lord puts people on their hearts to invite. Then invitations can be done with confidence that the Lord has prepared the recipient’s heart. We call this the prayerful power of personal invitation. It is this relational approach that separates it from a program, as we previously discussed.

3.    Group Size: We strongly recommend that the groups are preferably 4 in total. In other words, invite 3 other people. If one of the members cannot come for a group gathering, you still have the same dynamic with 3. Why this group size? The key to transformation is open, honest, trusting, and transparent relationships which can be fostered in the smaller environment. Size matters enormously. We keep them this small size because the larger the group the more difficult it is to grow transparent trust.

4.    Same gender groups: We strongly urge that the groups are men with men and women with women. To build the bonds of trust, men need other men to talk about their issues, just so, women need to do the same. It could get very complicated to have men and women together in this intimate environment. Do we need to say more?

5.    Duration of a group: How long do the MicroGroups meet? MicroGroups generally meet for a year to a year and a half, which is essentially the general length of time it takes to get through our foundational curriculum of Discipleship Essentials. This is a highly interactive curriculum designed to build solid foundations in a life in Christ. Every group has its own internal personality and culture, and therefore they must proceed at their own pace. We do not want to put them on an artificial time schedule.

6.    Meeting length: The general rule of thumb is a weekly meeting of 90 minutes, though what is practical can vary widely depending upon the cultural context. A meeting includes generally three parts: 1. A time to catch up, sharing personally what are the current joys and challenges in life; 2. Interacting over the biblical content, sharing your insights from the Scriptures studied and their application to your life; 3. Interceding in prayer for each other, particularly around issues of personal accountability. In addition, prayer moves you beyond the group to pray for family and friends who need to know Christ, and for the opportunities to serve the Lord based on the needs that touch your heart. The MicroGroup needs to keep a balance between inward life and outward impact. Think of these groups as communities from which you are sent to serve the Lord in all aspects of your life.

7.    Groups are formed around a covenant. What is the glue that holds the group together? The centerpiece that holds the group together is a covenant. A covenant is a mutual agreement between two or more parties that states the commitments and expectations in the relationship. The covenant is found in the Discipleship Essentials material. These are the mutual commitments that serve as the foundation of the group. One of the key elements of the covenant is that each person from the beginning of the MicroGroup journey will give serious consideration to have their own group upon completion of their current one.

8.    Curriculum: What is the disciplemaking content around which the MicroGroups gather? Of course, we recommend Discipleship Essentials as a foundational curriculum, because it was designed specifically for the MicroGroup setting. Yet we also recognize that there is other wonderful material. If you choose other material one of the main things you need to consider is whether it can serve as a transferable tool. By that we mean that the participants can use it repeatedly as they form new MicroGroups.

9.    Meet in a safe place. What is a safe place? A safe place is a space where you can share vulnerable things in your life without fear of being heard. One of the great values of the MicroGroup is that they are ideal for countries where larger gatherings attract unwanted attention from the authorities. The MicroGroup on the other hand tends not to draw attention to itself because of the smaller size. We have met in a wide variety of settings such as private homes, business conference rooms, quiet corners of a coffee house or restaurant, outdoors during receptive weather, a church facility, etc.

Why MicroGroups are Ideal for Making Reproducing Disciples

Why might MicroGroups have an edge over the one-on-one relationship for making reproducing disciples? For years, I assumed that discipling relationships meant a one-on-one relationship. The very definition of discipling was one-on-one. The biblical example that was held up as the ideal was the Paul-Timothy relationship. Every Paul needed a Timothy or every Timothy needed a Paul. Thus the Paul-Timothy relationship became the paradigm:

• Father with a Son.

• Teacher with a student.

• Mature with the immature.

• More experienced with the less experienced.

Second Timothy 2:2 is regularly quoted in support of the one-on-one approach. Paul writes to Timothy, “What you (Timothy) have heard from me (Paul) in the presence of many witnesses you (Timothy) entrust to faithful men who could teach others also.” It was like the baton pass in a relay race: (1) Paul to (2) Timothy to (3) faithful men to (4) those who could teach others also--four generations.

Yet over the years, I (Greg) have discovered that there are drawbacks in the one-on-one model. Let us compare the dynamics of the one-to-one setting, with MicroGroups of 3-4.

1. In the one-on-one approach the discipler carries the weight of responsibility for the spiritual welfare of another. The discipler is like the mother bird that goes out to scavenge for worms to feed to her babies. With their mouths wide open, the babes wait in their nest for the mother bird to return. The discipler is cast in the role of passing on their vast knowledge to the one with limited knowledge. Unwittingly, we have created a role that very few people can see themselves fulfilling.

2. The one-on-one relationship sets up a hierarchy that tends to result in dependency. As appealing as the “Timothy approach” might be, the one in the receiving position will often, not be able to see themselves in the giving position. After all, the dynamic created is that they are the young, immature one being taught. They are there to receive from the fount of wisdom of the one who has walked longer in the faith. The gulf in “Timothy approach” is only widened when the relationship is between pastor and parishioner.

3. One-on-one limits the interchange or dialogue. We liken the one-to-one discourse to a ping-pong match. It is back and forth, with the discipler under pressure to keep the ball in play. The conversation and dialogue must constantly progress to some higher plane, with the responsibility for this resting on the shoulders of the more mature. The discipling conversation is not as energetic and lively because of the limited number of participants.

4. The one-on-one also creates a one-model approach. A one-model approach provides the one being discipled only one example of what the Christian life looks like. In other words, the primary influence on a new disciple becomes a single person. This can be very limiting and tends to skew the development of the disciple as the nature of the discipling experience is defined by the strengths and weaknesses of one individual.

5. Finally, and of vital importance, the one-on-one (1:1) model does not generally reproduce. If it does, it is rare. Only self-confident, inwardly motivated persons can break the dependency and become self-initiating and reproducing. In the phase where I was exclusively discipling one individual at a time, I cannot recall any who went on to disciple others.

Shift from 1:1 to 3-4 (Triads/Quads of 3-4 People)

Now in contrast to the one-on-one approach, triads or quads of 3-4 people are more energizing, joy-filled, and more readily reproducible. Why? When you add a third or fourth person….

1. There is a shift from unnatural pressure to natural participation of the discipler. When a third or fourth person is added there is a shift from the discipler [the initiator of the group] as the focal point to a group process. The discipler in this setting is a fellow participant. Though the discipler is the convener of the MicroGroup, they quickly become one of the three or four on the journey together toward maturity in Christ. The group initiator prepares and interacts with the content as a peer not as an authority who insight is to be weighted more heavily.

2. There is a shift from hierarchical to relational. The triad or quad naturally creates more of a come-alongside mutual journey. The focus is not so much upon the discipler as it is upon Christ as the one toward whom we are all directing our lives. I found even as a pastor that though the relationship may have started with a consciousness that I was the “Bible answer-man” because of my title and training, that within the first few weeks the MicroGroup allows me to be another disciple with fellow disciples who are attempting together to follow Jesus. The hierarchy is broken because you now have a circle of equals rather than an authority of one over another.

3. There is a shift from dialogue to dynamic interchange. In my initial experiment with triads, I often came away from those times scratching my head saying to myself, “What made that interchange so alive and dynamic?” The presence of the Holy Spirit seemed palpable. Life and energy marked the exchange. As I have come to understand group dynamics, one-on-one is not a group. It is only as you add a third and then a fourth that you have the first makings of a group or a circle.

4. There is shift from limited input to wisdom in numbers. The book of Proverbs speaks of the wisdom that comes from many counselors (Proverbs 15:22). To this end I have often found it life-giving to have people at quite varied maturity levels in the same MicroGroup. It is often those who may be perceived as younger or less mature in the faith from which the great wisdom comes or a fresh spark of life.

Ken was perhaps the least likely source of spiritual inspiration in one of my triads. After all, his other two partners were myself, a pastor and Glen, an ex-Baptist pastor, whose knowledge of Scripture exceeded mine. Ken, a retired dentist, had come to a warm relationship with Christ well into his 60’s, but lacked confidence, especially in his knowledge of Scripture. In the first weeks of our sessions, Ken sat slumped in his chair and head bowed with the bottom edge of discipleship workbook propped up on his lap hugging his chest as if he was afraid for anyone to see what he had written.

Only a few weeks into our relationship, Ken was diagnosed with cancer and had to begin week-long in-hospital regimens of chemotherapy, every third week. Every third week our discipleship sessions shifted from my office to the chapel on the floor of the hospital where Ken was receiving his treatments. Even though this adversity could have been a setback for Ken, it seemed to open up a surge of God’s grace flowing into his life.

The once insecure spiritual infant now was eagerly teaching us about how God’s presence was available in times of testing. It was not long before Ken had become the unofficial chaplain on the hospital floor, moving from room to room pulling his drip bag behind him. His demeanor radiated the warmth of Christ’s love. The teachers (myself and Glen) were now being taught. We were sitting at Ken’s feet, hearing a man speak wisdom beyond his Christian years.

5. There is a shift from addition to multiplication. For me there is no greater joy than to see a Christian reproduce. All the above adds up to the equipping and empowerment needed for disciples who go and make disciples. For the better part of four decades, I have observed an approximate 2 out of 3 reproduction rate through the triad model of disciplemaking.

In summary, a MicroGroup encourages multiplication because it minimizes the hierarchical (teacher-student, one-to-one) dimensions, and maximizes a peer-mentoring model.