The 4Ws of welcome, worship, word and witness act as a vehicle to live out the values of our Christian life, those beliefs and attitudes that are at the core of our lives in small groups and motivate our choices, namely:
We want to see these values lived out in the life of our small group. This will not happen unless we have an intentional structure to our gatherings that facilitates it. The welcome, worship, word and witness are designed to give this framework. Some people will want to push against formal structures and say that they stifle the life of God in a group. The Ws, however, are to act as a framework through which we can experience the dynamic presence of God.
Just as a body without any bones would just be a blob, so a small group without some framework will be blobby and have no sense of purpose or strength. Some years ago Howard Astin, Vicar of St John’s Bowling, suggested we could add a 5th one of these Ws, namely the wind of the Spirit that enables us to listen to His prompting within the safety of the framework so we don’t get trapped and shut down by it, instead we retain some flexibility.
They provide a vehicle that allows members to make their contribution in a safe environment. We all feel insecure if we don’t know how we are supposed to respond or react in a given situation. Spending time in a small group without any idea of where it is going creates an atmosphere of discomfort for most people. We all like some degree of familiarity to create an environment where we can contribute. The 4Ws bring this to our meeting and so encourage participation.
Where a 4Ws structure is not used, the group either gets dominated by the pet themes of the leader or hijacked by strong personalities. Welcome, worship, word and witness ensure there is a balance in the time we spend together. The chart below demonstrates this, showing how the focus of our attention shifts through the flow of the meeting time. It also gives a guide to the length of time you might spend in each in each area.
Finally, this simple structure means that a greater number of people can lead a group, because they act as a facilitator which means that the leadership role is light.
The focus and approximate time splits for the four different sections might therefore look like this: