Cork, Ireland

Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

No-one becomes a disciple by accident
Dallas Willard

Following Jesus simply means learning from him how to arrange my life around activities that enable me to live in the fruit of the Spirit
John Ortberg

Formation Groups

Formation groups are one of the key ways we help each other grow in our discipleship as a church. We wholeheartedly commend them to you.

What are formation Groups?

Formation Groups (4+) are groups of 2-4 people that meet regularly (usually once a week) for an hour or so, to help each person become more intentional in doing what Jesus wants them to do in their lives. People who are part of such a groups want to grow spiritually and the aim of the group is build up spiritual strength and vitality by focusing attention of 4 things:

Engaging in simple practices or disciplines that make a difference

Seeking to encourage the use of each person’s God given gifts

Actively working towards the development of character

Openly and honestly being accountable to each other

How they work…


4+ groups are flexible and varied – they are all unique. They are self-governing and are not limited by a specific curriculum. No-one is the leader and everyone is equal. They are fun and serious in equal measure. But they are not random or haphazard – they are a commitment and are planned. They are about people looking out for each other.


The groups are focused on helping each other become “people who naturally love God and love others”, and to help everyone to do this each person has a Formation Group Booklet on which they write what action they are aiming to do each week/fortnight/month. This could be some regular prayer or solitude, some fasting or service, some act of generosity or celebration to put on. They also write down the gifts and character of Jesus they are aiming to pursue, and the temptations they are trying to resist. The hour finishes with praying for each other to be filled again with the Spirit.

Because the purpose of getting together like this is to grow, each group regularly reviews how things are going and what God has done. Some split as new people want to join a group and other groups change and evolve for other reasons. There is no fixed rule about the lifespan of a group – groups will either die when one or more members can’t make it anymore, or will divide into two groups, when a fifth member is present.… Because it’s not simply about being ‘mates’ and getting together over a coffee or a beer with a clique of friends, sometimes people make a new group with others they don’t know.


A Note on Confidentiality:
These groups must be a safe place for personal accountability. To be a participant in an 4+, you must commit yourself to being100% confidential.

What do 4+s Do?

There is no absolute rule about all this but here is a rough guide to how an hour could be used:
You need:

  • 2-4 people (of the same sex, or possibly two couples)
  • One regular, weekly hour (or once a fortnight)
  • A venue where you are not going to be disturbed, and are able to pray
  • Your ‘gym cards’
  • One person designated as timekeeper for that session
  • One person opens with a prayer, focusing the group on God’s presence.
  • The timekeeper gives each person 10 minutes to report back on how the previous week went and to say what they are aiming at in the week to come.

Please Note: It’s crucial to see the categories on the gym card as a training programme for spiritual fitness, not as ends in themselves. So the most important questions are not: ‘Did you fast for as long as you wanted to?’, but are: ‘Did you experience God this week?’ and ‘What do you think God was doing in and through you this week?’ We are co-operating with the Holy Spirit by training ourselves to live more of Jesus’ abundant life.

  • While one person is sharing the others are it’s important that the other three to listen well… but they are also free to ask further questions, particularly along the lines of: ‘What’s your experience of God this week?’
  • After the four 10-minute sessions, it is good to pray for each other. This could be a time of confession, or for seeking God for some new gift or for asking him to fill you with the Spirit
  • Unless God has other plans, finish on time.

Where do 4+s meet?

4+ groups can meet anywhere, in a home, coffee shop, restaurant, etc. as long as there is space to be open and not overheard, and it would be comfortable to pray for each other.

Who is a 4+ group for?

Everyone! There is no age limit for this – you can’t be too old or too young to be part of one. This is not for the young people – nor is it for the oldies. This kind of group, because of its flexibility, is for everyone – to help them keep going and keep growing.

What are the gym cards?

All these are, is a simple easy to use format for recording each individual’s plans on. They are used as guides to prompt discussion and help people think through what they need to work on next to grow into the likeness of Christ. They are not meant to be ‘heavy’ but they are focused and pertinent… They don’t give much ‘wriggle room’.

How do I join a 4+?

You simply get together with someone else (of the same gender) and sort it out between you. Because existing groups should always be looking to multiply, you may well be asked to join someone else’s group.

Why are the groups same sex?

Because of the need for honesty and transparency, this is best done within all male or all female groups. Confession is never easy but it is often more powerful with those of the same gender.

Why is there no leader?

There is no need for a leader. One of the joys of this model is that anyone can facilitate a group. All you have to do is choose a location, find some others to join you and get started.

What is the lifespan of a 4+ group?

There is no set lifespan. 8 weeks would be a good start though, with a chance to review it after that… Sometimes it is good to have a review date in mind as this gives permission for people to change group more easily.

Why do the 4mation Groups work?

4mation groups instil these three biblically based principles into the lives of each participant:


  • Relationship: 4+ groups are places of honesty and truth. They are not therapy sessions but they are places where the masks are dropped and community is birthed. Confidentiality is vital, as no-one will share anything personal if they think others will gossip it on to others when they are not there. The groups are a place of safety and friendship.


  • Discipleship: 4+’s exist to help people keep on track in their relationship with God. Each person sets their own goals and works at their own pace. Growth is expected. The groups help people overcome habits they don’t like and take up activities that are good for them. They help people pray more, and hear what God is saying to them. They help them stay in touch with Jesus. They shape character.


  • Reaching out: What is interesting is that even though these tiny groups are not specifically designed for to be evangelistic, people who join them find that over time they become more confident in their faith, better at praying for their friends, colleagues and neighbours, more enthused about reaching out and more passionate about making a difference with their whole lives. Simply having a moment each week when someone asks you about how you have been helping others to enter the kingdom, sharpens you up considerably. What can often happens is that groups tend to grow – and then split (to keep the number of people in the group down to a 2-4) and in this way 4+ groups grow the church from the grass roots level.