Lesson 2: How to lead discipleship discussion groups

In this lesson, we will learn the 5 basic guiding principles for leading a successful discipleship discussion group that produces life transforming trust in Christ in the lives of the participants.

If you will follow these 5 basic guiding principles, you will be effective in leading your group participants into personal discovery, which produces ownership, which in turn produces life transformation.

Here are the 5 basic guiding principles we will cover in this lesson. We want you to learn and follow these:

    1. Pray, asking God for success.
    2. Stick to the script.
    3. DO NOT give the participants ANY ANSWERS.
    4. Focus on helping the participants to thoughtfully consider each question.
    5. Finish on time.

We think you will find that if you are careful to follow all 5 of these of these basic guiding principles, your discipleship discussion groups will be interesting and enjoyable for you and life transforming for the participants!

So, let’s dig a little deeper into what we mean by each of these basic guiding principles.

Guiding principle #1: Pray, asking God for success.

Ultimately, being transformed can only be accomplished by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit in the soul of a person. No process, or presentation, or discussion can accomplish this—only the working of God through His Holy Spirit in our lives. It pleases Him to include us in this process by telling us to preach His Word, encourage the saints, pray for each other in our times of need, etc. So, if helping other Christians grow in their faith is our goal—which is the goal of this discipleship group training—then we MUST lay that before the Lord in prayer. Jesus says we do not have because we do not ask, so ASK God, in the authority and promise of Jesus His Son, to work miraculously in the souls of those who are in your discussion group.

Prayer is so critical to the success of your discipleship discussions, that if you do not pray, then don’t bother doing anything else. The real work is not accomplished unless you specifically ask God to do it.

If you are wondering what to pray for, here are some suggestions to get you started:

    “Father, in the name and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the power of His blood shed for us, please transform us by the renewing of our minds today. Please give us insight and understanding. Please give us wisdom and gracious speech in our discussions. Convict us, Lord, of sin, and righteousness, and judgment so we will walk in the power of Your Holy Spirit, to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please cause us to productively use this time we have today in these discussions. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord we ask, and we thank you for hearing our request. Amen.”

Guiding Principle #2: Stick to the Script

We have provided you with a specific detailed script in the Traction Discussion Guide (which you can download from the homepage of the Great Commission Training Ministries Web site or from here). This script has been developed, tested, and refined and fine-tuned by many other discussion groups. It works. You should follow this script.

Also, following this detailed, step-by-step script will minimize the preparation efforts you will have to do. It tells you specifically what to say, when to say it, and what to do next. If you want to be successful in discipling those in your group, then please follow the script.

Also, we recommend that you provide this discussion guide script to all other members of your group. It will help them keep up with the questions and verses, and they will help you stay on script!

Guiding Principle #3: DO NOT give the participants ANY ANSWERS.


When you ask the student a question, EVEN if you think you know the correct answer, DO NOT SAY IT!


It is important to let the participants struggle with the question, even if they don’t come up with an adequate answer! They have already been given the correct answers in the Traction adventure. What we are doing in this discipleship group, is helping them to OWN those answers as their very own. Ownership is less likely to happen if they receive outside help with the answers. Our goal here is actual internal transformation in the souls of your participants, not just getting the right answers into their head!

PLEASE remember: Your job is to ask the questions. It is NOT to provide the answers to the questions. If you provide the “right” answers to the questions, you will short-circuit the ownership process that needs to occur through personal discovery, and transformation will be less likely to happen.

Usually, if someone gives the wrong answer—a Biblically untrue answer—instead of correcting them, it would be better to ask if anyone else has an opinion on this. Or ask if anyone else has anything to add. Or simply ask, “What else?” Let the group work together to discover the right answers. If they have difficulty arriving at the Biblically correct answer, you might try asking them to read a pertinent Bible verse and then ask them what that Bible verse says about the question. We have observed in group discussions that one of these two approaches almost always results in correcting error—and the most effective is the first approach. We know this is hard, but this is important: if your participants are going to discover for themselves the right way to look at this, that they do NOT get the correct answer from YOU. Again, please remember that personal discovery is what leads to real ownership, which is what leads to real transformation.

If the group is unable to come up with the right answer to the question, just make a note to yourself to get back together later in a one-on-one personal discipleship meeting to explore the question further with each individual. This is much preferable to destroying the group dynamic of personal discovery that you should be working to cultivate in your group.

And here is an encouraging realization: You don’t have to know all the answers! As a matter of fact, you don’t need to know ANY answers to be a great discussion group leader.

That’s because being a great discussion group leader is NOT the same thing as mentoring. Mentors need to know answers, but discussion group leaders only need to be able to ask GREAT questions, and keep the student on track as they move through the discovery process. And remember: we give you the questions to ask—and pertinent Bible verses, as you progress through this step-by-step coaching guide.

Guiding Principle #4: Focus on helping the participants to thoughtfully consider each question.

As the discipleship leader, an important function you perform is to make sure the participants thoughtfully consider each narrative portion of the process, each Bible verse, and also each question.

Part of your job as the leader is to focus on keeping your group from rushing through the exercises. If their answers are too short, the only thing you should say to encourage them to spend more time thinking about your answer is that you should just say, “What else?”

There may be lots of pauses of silent time after you ask a question. People need time to think before they answer. These periods of silence can become uncomfortable for the group. If you remain silent (or maybe just repeat the question), the discomfort will build until someone will break the ice by saying something. Once this is done, others will feel more free to speak and add to the conversation.

So, remember, uncomfortable periods of silence are a GOOD thing. Don’t avoid them.

Guiding Principle #5: Finish on time

If your announced finish time is 9:00 o’clock, then please be considerate of the group’s time and finish BEFORE 9:00 o’clock. Maybe just one minute before, but don’t allow yourself to go over the announced finish time. It may not bother you to go long, but we guarantee that it will bother some, if not most, people in your group and this will work to destroy your credibility as a leader (because you are not keeping your promises—even they are implied promises).

Furthermore, if you take more time than you have announced, you are stealing time from those group members who are counting on you finishing when you say you will, and they may have made other plans for that time.

So, just to review, here are the 5 basic guiding principles that you should follow to ensure you are a successful discipleship group leader:

    1. Pray, asking God for success.
    2. Stick to the script.
    3. DO NOT give the participants ANY ANSWERS.
    4. Focus on helping the participants to thoughtfully consider each question.
    5. Finish on time.

If you follow these five basic guidelines, you will find this to be a life transforming exercise for your participants!