Training for study groups


"To make mature disciples of Christ through bible centred small groups." Matthew 28v19-20



1. To prioritise the study of the bible in better knowing, serving, and becoming like the Lord Jesus.

2. To grow in our knowledge and commitment to God, his purposes, Christ and the gospel.

3. To support, encourage and pray for one-another to this end.


1. To pray for opportunities and the courage and clarity to speak about the gospel to others.

2. To make and take those opportunities in speaking.

3. To see others incorporated into the cells bringing growth and subsequently the need to subdivide.


Welcome: cell walls

Creating a safe and comfortable environment of love, friendship, and community as the context for growth. John 13v34-35

Word: cell nucleus

Learning to hear God personally speak and transform through his authoritative and sufficient book. 2 Tim 3v14-4v5

Worship: cell development

Responding in prayer, praise, thanksgiving and the commitment of lives in sacrifice. Rom 12v1-2

Witness: cell multiplication

Making opportunities, and boldly but respectfully speaking the gospel. 1 Pet 3v15

Distribution over 2 hr cell time:

Welcome: 10 mins 7.30-7.40pm

Word: 60 mins 7.40-8.40pm

Worship: 30 mins 8.40-9.00pm

Welcome: 20 mins 9.00-9.30pm



a. prayer & commitment to witness included in worship.

b. evangelistic event takes place of word and worship.

Leaders’ values
"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." 1 Tim 4v15-16

The Christian Union cell model is that of:

‘students leading students in reaching students.’

This ethos: that if you give someone a fish they’ll live for a day, but if you teach them to fish they’ll live for ever - means that the vision of this booklet is to release and equip you – to do the hard work in running the group without constant supervision or full provision of material, so that as you do so you will better learn and grow in your own life and service to God as well as help others to in theirs.

1. Truth:

God’s means of change and life in his people by his Spirit is through his word, rightly understood and applied. The bible should therefore be central to all you do, whether in studies, prayer, events, conversation etc. (Jn 17v17, 2 Tim 3v14-17, Col 1v28-29, 3v10, 16, Is 55v10-11, Jn 6v63, Eph 4v11-15)

2. Love:

Summing up the law, love provides the context to the application of truth whether in rebuking, encouraging, or correcting. Love should be your stimulus in wanting to present your cell members perfect in Christ, and the foundation to their unity. (Jn 13v34-35, 1 Cor 13, 1 Jn 4v7-12, Eph 4v16)

3. Service:

The ultimate model of leadership exemplified in Christ. The giving of oneself up for another in strengthening and encouraging them, and setting them a godly example that they can follow. It is to teach but not to command, persuade but not force, hold back rather than run ahead, and help rather than abandon. (Mk 10v35-45, Jn 13v1-17, 2 Cor 4v5)

4. Sacrifice:

All service of God means being prepared to sacrifice yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Leading a group will mean late nights, concerned prayers, demoralising criticism, missed TV, pressure on friendships and other commitments. (Mk 8v31-38, Phil 3v10, Col 1v24-27, 2 Cor 11v23-30)

5. Godliness:

Truth is seen in behaviour as well as belief. As a leader you will be looked up to, and your responsibility is to therefore ensure that you are purer than pure so that you cause none to follow you into sin. (1 Tim 4v16, Mk 9v42-50, Phil 4v8-9)

6. Unity:

As a mixed denominational group: your cell as part of the CU will need to ensure that the main things remain the main things. Do not allow your group to be drawn off into discussing secondary and often divisive issues, but concentrate on the things of first importance. Historically, a celebration of distinctives will lead only to division. Leave such things to be expressed and dealt with within local churches. (1 Cor 15v1-6, Rom 14v1-23, Titus 3v9-11, Eph 4v1-6)

As a mixed ability group: you will also need patience in holding the group back to help any who are less able towards maturity. There is no place in the kingdom of God for elitism. Christ’s way is not to separate out the dynamic believers to do their own thing and leave others behind, but it is for those who are stronger to gently and lovingly give themselves up to strengthen or even carry the weaker. (Lk 15v1-7, Rm 14v1-23, Gal 6v1-5)

"From [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Eph 4v16


Like any family, those within your cell may not have chosen to be put together, but in building one-another up to maturity, they will need to be lovingly committed to each other never-the-less (Heb 10v24-25). Time chatting at the beginning of the meeting, and over some coffee and cake at the end is therefore time well spent. Ask someone within the group to be in charge to organising a monthly social event on another evening (as the time of group member’s allows) so that the cell can gel some more. Below are the three stages to a cell’s development. Reaching the mature stage as quickly as possible is obviously key, making the welcome aspect to the group particularly important during the first weeks.


With the cell aims being mission as well as maturity, the ‘welcome’ must extend it’s arms to non-Christians too. Encourage cell members to bring their friends to any social events so that they can experience the love of God fleshed out in true community – hopefully! (Jn 13v34-35). This is intended to provide opportunities for the gospel and for inviting friends to any evangelistic events, but guard against wrongly thinking that these social events in themselves are evangelism. They are not: it is only by hearing the message explained to them that people can be saved (Rom 10v12-15).

Three stages of cell development…

1. Chaotic stage:

· Feelings, weaknesses and uncertainties covered up.

· People conform to standard line.

· Lack of openness and discussion.

· Reluctance to praying aloud.

· Apathy and an unwillingness to fully commit to the cell and its evangelistic events.

· Cliquiness and the ostracisation of any member’s who don’t seem to fit.

· Frustration with what is required within the cell environment.

· Criticisms voiced at the cell leader for the above.

2. Bonding Stage:

· More risky and personal issues are opened up.

· There is more concern for views and problems of each person.

· People start learning to communicate and pray together.

· Some bring non-christian friends to evangelistic events.

· People start taking responsibility to help.

3. Mature Stage:

· The cell establishes the confidence and trust to look at how it is doing.

· People are prepared to ask for help and prayer, and admit when they don’t understand.

· Opinions are expressed and discussion is vigorous.

· Prayer times are natural and involved.

· Attendance is regular or explained when not.

· An ongoing desire and effort to witness to friends is apparent, and the cell multiplies.

· The group accepts and cares for its weaker members.

· All involved in organising or leading different aspects of the cell.

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." 2 Tim 2v15

Seven steps to a sound study…

Interpret: what did it mean? (Looking to the past)

1. Style

· How does the type of literature affect the way it should be read: eg. poetry, prophecy, parable, letter, narrative etc?

· How does the mood of the writing highlight its intent: eg. challenge, caution, humility, praise, thanks, encouragement etc?

2. Structure

· Plot progression of argument clarifying arrangement of ideas, themes, relationship of verses.

· What significance do any link words have in this argument: eg. but, therefore, for, so, and etc?

· What is the significance of any repetitions, contrasts, questions, advice, warning, promises?

3. Soundness

· How does context clarify or correct the meaning ('context is king' - it rules understanding): eg. cultural background, bible history, place within verses, passage, book, & bible etc?

· Is the meaning consistent with the rest of the bible (interpret scripture with scripture)?

4. Summary

· Summarise the main message of the passage in one brief sentence

Apply: how does it relate? (Looking to the present)

5. Then

· What impact or response was intended of the original hearers: eg. action, repentance, change in attitude, deeper understanding, thanks, praise etc?

· Are there any aspects that are specific only to the original situation?

6. Now

· How does the text challenge and correct modern ideas and assumptions?

· What valid parallels, principles, or points are applicable to: i) me ii) church iii) others iv) the world today (consider situations of group/audience)?

· What can be learnt: eg. about God, his purposes, the gospel, the world, my service, my relationships etc?

· What affirmation or change should the passage bring to my attitudes & actions in: i) knowing God ii) serving God?

7. Aim

· Summarise the main aim of the study/talk in one brief sentence (based on the above steps)

Obey: What must change? (Looking to the future)

Questions and dynamics

1. Identify and define major points made by passage as it progresses.

2. Form brief open-ended questions that enable group to interpret/apply these points.

3. Gear questions towards different learning styles:

· Reflective wants time to think and ponder

· Conceptual wants to fit it into the wider picture

· Experiencer wants to weigh it against own experience

· Experimenter wants to just get on with it!

4. Encourage interaction.:

· Triplet examination over a question and feedback (ask the quieter one to feedback, letting them know beforehand).

· Go around the group asking for thoughts and experiences.

· Pick up on signs that someone may have something to say.

· Be prepared to gently but firmly ask the louder people to hold back.

· Reply to questions from the floor with questions where appropriate, enabling them to answer their own question in a way true to the text.

· Where group are finding answer difficult, feed clues, don't just tell them.

5. Use imagination:

· Visual aids.

· Analogies.

· Questions for groups on bits of paper.

· Dividing pages for list of contrasts if appropriate etc.

6. Prepare a brief, punchy, frank, summarising conclusion.


1. Being frightened of the quiet:

· Never giving group enough time to think and grapple with the passage.

2. Always wanting to speak and teach having come to an understanding of the text:

· Hold back and enable the group to learn for themselves.

· Use your knowledge to guide them to the truth.

3. Not wanting to admit you own uncertainties over meaning:

· This can lead to error as group may take your insight as the truth.

4. Allowing people to 'relativize' the passage!!

· The classic phrase is "what is this passage saying to you?" The passage is saying one thing!! Each person may be more struck by certain aspects, but the main message is constant.

· Guard against its meaning becoming dependant on what you want to read into it. Allow bible to set agenda: define your emphasis and intent by the emphasis and intent of the author.

· Don't hijack with your personal needs/favourite theme, and don't allow others to either.

"[The Israelites] read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshipping the LORD their God." Nehemiah 9v3

Worship is far more than simply singing. It is to ascribe ‘worth’ to God through the offering of the whole of oneself as a living sacrifice: body and soul, thoughts and feelings, attitudes and actions, words and lifestyle, song and service (Rom 12v1-2).

The ‘worship’ time is therefore one of response to God’s word in attaining maturity and mission:

1. In affirmation, thanksgiving, praise and prayer to God.

2. In offering their lives to him through encouragement and mutual support.


It is often this area that leaders find most difficult in both thinking of what should be prayed for and in encouraging the group to pray aloud. However, the cell provides an opportunity to teach people to pray in a way that can revolutionise their faith, and that will certainly provide a stimulus to their personal times with God.

Try and include three areas for prayer each week:

1. Word response (following the ‘ACTS’ model below)

2. Evangelism (feeding back/praying for opportunities, courage, clarity to speak)

3. Specific topic (plan a focus area each week, ask a cell member to find information eg. missionaries, local churches, Uni authorities, government, CU etc)

Encouraging prayer:

· Mention you are aware that some find praying aloud difficult, encouraging people to do so.

· Provide as much help in what to pray as possible, saving people any embarrassment in feeling their prayers seem silly.

· Include a verse of the week on prayer at the start of the prayer time.

· Get group to write a prayer, or list requests on a piece of paper, and read aloud as prayers.

· Ask someone to read a prayer from the bible.

· Break people into twos for prayer.

· Involve individuals as much as possible in leading/providing information for the prayer times.


Prayer is not all ‘asking’, but is also ‘affirmation.’ This is a key element both in learning how to praise God in prayer, and in building faith and focus in God before moving on to supplication. Draw out of the passage studied some key truths about God and his work to quite simply affirm, thank, and praise him for. Where you may have a particular emphasis or topic for prayer, try and link this affirmation to what you are going to go on to ask. (Eph 5v19-20)


In response to this recognition of the nature of God, provide people with some silence to ask his forgiveness for their failure to serve him rightly with both their attitudes and actions in the areas highlighted by the study. You may wish to a) mention possible areas as a stimulus for this, b) read some verses from the passage aloud in the quiet as a focus, or c) get people to write down the key areas for change on a piece of paper after the study in preparation. (1Jn 1v8-10)


Enable people to share, reflect on, and thank God for his answers to their prayers, and for his personal involvement in their lives. Thanksgiving is hugely stressed within the NT, but so often missed. Again, if a special topic is going to form the basis to ‘supplication’, try and make this the emphasis of the thanksgiving also. (1Thess 5v16-18)


Be specific, and bold in what is asked for, recognising the privileged access to God we have as his children. Get the group to think biblically about what to pray, as God will only answer prayers that are according to his will. You could read out a relevant prayer or passage within the bible, and think about exactly what was requested, or what God‘s concerns are for the specific situation. This will often surprise you in challenging any wrong priorities. (Phil 4v6-9)

Pastoral support…

Due to your inexperience, your main roles in pastoral care should fall into two key categories:

1. Facilitating: enabling the cell to care for/encourage one-another in prayer and friendship.

2. Watching: looking for any deeper problems that cannot be handled by ‘one-anothering’, and leading these people to those who can help.

Where one-on-one contact does arise, it should a) be seen within the context of your acting as a Christian friend rather than with official status, b) be of a ‘same sex’ nature or with someone of same sex present.


Time shortage: Be prepared to give up time to chat with someone if needed. Be clear to anyone requiring your time about your other commitments, and the amount of time you can spend with them. Make the most of cell/CU time to talk to people.

Superficiality of support: Ask searching questions of group members to see how they are coping: eg: a) how’s the course going, b) how are you managing in your faith, c) are things going well in your house, d) how are you getting on with your non-Christian friends?

Over-dependency: An overt focus on accountability can stifle a persons ability and freedom to make their own decisions. Cell members should be somewhat accountable to the group, but laying hearts bare is not always appropriate. Where guidance is needed, do not tell people what to do, but help them find biblical wisdom and make their own choices from it.

Being out of your depth:

· Say you think they should talk about it to a pastor in their church and offer to get in touch for them - then do.

· If they say they will - then check that they have.

· If they are absolutely opposed to that, ask if they will speak to their UCCF staffworker.

· If they are only prepared to speak to you, don’t be bullied or flattered into trying to deal with the problem, but insist that they find more appropriate help.

· As a last resort (because we want them ideally to do this through their church), give them a contact number or he Samaritans/True Freedom Trust etc.

Proverbial pastoring:

17v17, 18v24, 27v6, 27v10, 18v13, 11v13, 12v25, 16v24, 17v27

"Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Col 4v5-6

The nine pillars of cell-group evangelism…

1. Planning:

Plan the whole term at its beginning. If it is done at the last minute, people will not be motivated. Use a rota of 1 evangelistic evening every 4 weeks (see below). It would be helpful to develop your own group strategy and vision for evangelism.

2. Praying:

Pray throughout the other 3 weeks for the 4th: a) this means friends are being prayed for, b) it continually raises the evangelism awareness and commitment in the group, c) it builds confidence in asking, d) it affirms the need to be continually witnessing each week (guard against this meaning no witnessing done except a once monthly invite).

3. Doing:

We always want to put these things off for one reason or another. Just do it: have confidence in yourselves to do testimony, 5 min. talk, questionnaire, DC or bible presentation/study, answer questions etc. Use staffworker also.

4. Persevering:

Some things won't work, response will at times be bad, cell-members might be frightened, un-bothered or unmotivated. Keep trying, if one things doesn't work try another. Be realistic about what responses can be expected to our evangelism (Jn 15v18-27). Keep praying for commitment from group members, keep gently encouraging them and inviting them to be involved, work with just 1 or 2 others if no-one else is keen.

5. Bible study:

The more we know Christ and are convinced of the truth of the gospel, the more this will overflow in eagerness to share him with others (Rom12:1,2). Always seek to ensure some application of the weekly bible-study in the area of encouraging evangelism.

6. Accountability:

Ask weekly how people getting on in witnessing to friends – any encouragements, problems, frustrations that can be prayed for? Discuss how difficult questions or situations that have arisen could be dealt with. Ensure interest/commitment in cell members’ friends is followed up.

7. Flexibility:

Bringing others to faith must be top priority. Be prepared to re-hash meetings to this end. Maybe losing 2 or 3 members who will instead run an enquirer's groups with some non-Christians brought a cell event. Maybe revamping the cell as an enquirer's group/evangelistic bible-study for 4 weeks as the non-Christians are comfortable in that environment...whatever is needed.

8. Community:

Good communication within the group of what is going on (probably worth a meeting to present some of these ideas and pray to these ends). A natural welcome. Effort made to talk to new-comers. A practical demonstration of holiness, love and unity. Hospitality and a willingness to sacrifice in drawing new-comers into friendships, and in friendship groups outside the cell.

9. Creativity:

Grill a Christian: arrange in hall bar, or over pizza

Social evening

Supper party with testimony

Door knocking with beliefs questionnaires

Worldview computer survey (available from UCCF)

Transform cell into evangelistic bible study with friends

Cell trip with friends to main CU evangelistic event

Topical event and short talk: Christmas, Easter, Halloween

Supper party with video and discussion: Matrix, Gattaca, Truman Show

Meal for international students course from different countries

Prayer cards under doors asking for requests

Quiz followed by 'questions of life’ 5 minute talk

General chatting of the gospel:

In the... Pub, lecture room, student bar, shop

Whilst… doing the shopping, washing up, playing sport

Whether… on your own or with others, confident or not, male or female

Planning a semester…

Questions to ask:

1. How many evangelistic meetings should be done?

2. How many free sessions for special topics of interest, prayer/worship, mission etc?

3. How many sessions for the studies & can these correspond to CU teaching at all?

4. Does any night clash with a Uni/Cu event?

5. Who might be able to lead a study from the group?

6. What prayer topics should be covered each week?

7. What evangelistic events should we do?

8. How do I want the meetings to fit around times of high workload, end of term etc?

9. Do we want any socials on extra day/night eg.joining other cell for Saturday night etc

Arranging the plan:

1. Set out semester plan with re-occurring regular 1 evang in 4 meetings cycle.

2. Arrange and book any cell group members to lead particular studies.

3. Arrange and book anyone needed for evang nights eg.UCCF relay/staff/CU member etc

4. Arrange and book cell group members to provide information for each weekly prayer topic.

Carrying out the plan:

1. Let cell group members have program.

2. Carry out studies, events etc.

3. Get cell members praying weekly for the group, one another, and non-Christian friends.

4. Remind individuals when taking part, or when evang nights approaching, to invite and pray for friends.