missionary discipleship

Small Group Spiritual Multiplication Model


If you would like to view a recording on a recent online meeting on how and why to start a discipleship quad (20 minutes presentation, 20 minutes Q and A), click here:


“Spiritual multiplication” refers to the process of growing in discipleship by making disciples of others. It is a model that encourages establishing healthy friendships and sharing your life in Christ with another, and asking them to join you in doing this. But part of that growing in discipleship is sharing the gospel and investing in new people…who will in turn do the same. There is a lot of evidence that this is exactly how the early church spread…the original apostles spoke to crowds, but they also invested in the lives of a handful in towns across the Middle East, northern Africa, and Europe, and empowered them to do the same work in their own towns.  The reason this form of evangelization works is that it is fundamentally relational and can be done by any faithful person…there is no need to be an expert, just a friend who wants to share the goodness of God and the journey of life-long conversion with people.


There are two processes at work and supported by the Diocese of Winona-Rochester: FOCUS on campus and Discipleship Quads.


FOCUS. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students, the largest college-centered Catholic apostolate in the United States, is active at both Newman Centers at Minnesota State University—Mankato and Winona State University. To learn more about FOCUS’s spiritual multiplication-based outreach to university students, please see their website and blog here.


Discipleship Quads. Discipleship Quads are new to the diocese, starting in 2019. A Discipleship Quad is a “micro-group” of four men or four women, who agree to come together for 1.5 hours weekly for a year to challenge each other to grow in faith together. After a couple of sessions of getting to know each other and sharing their faith story to this point, they work through a free curriculum that focuses on helping each person of the small group grow in relationship to Christ in everyday life through scripture, tradition, and the saints. They are autonomous small groups, and meet where they wish: a coffeehouse, a home, a vacant classroom after dropping kids off, a parish office, the library. They learn to pray together, share each other’s concerns, challenges, and joys, and take turns practice being leaders of this micro-group. Finally, after a year, they each go forward to do what they agreed to consider seriously at the beginning of the process: begin new quads, making new disciples.


There are two big insights that make this small group different and exponentially more effective at sparking spiritual renewal and changing parish and community culture.

  1. Spiritual multiplication. This small group process practices a form of spiritual multiplication by preparing and equipping people to be disciples, but also disciple-makers. Let’s say one group of four exists in your parish, and next year they create new quads (16), and the next year they did it again (64), and the fourth year they did it again (256), and the fifth year they did it again (1024 people!). Even adjusting for the inevitable realities of life that may prevent people from leading a group the second year, that is a remarkably deep and wide outreach. It would be culturally transformative, and would only widen dramatically quickly after “year five.” (Remember how quickly Christianity initially spread? This is one reason why...they didn’t just relay information, they made disciples who make disciples.)
  2. The other difference is the nature of the group. Dr. Greg Ogden spent decades researching discipleship processes, and his research proved that four is the magic number for making disciples. A group of two tends to fall into a teacher-student relationship. A group of five or more tends to crowd some out, and there is an inner circle and outer circle that gets left in the dust. Four (or if one needs to drop, three) creates a group that allows substantial sharing, a sense of safety, a friendship-based accountability to each other, a flexibility in scheduling...and all this fosters genuine growth in Christ.


Parishes can choose to employ this method of making disciples, but it can also be done by other small groups already existing (for example, an existing bible study breaks into quads and decides to do this for a year), or even by a person who simply wants to this to happen in his or her community: you pray, invite three people, and off you go! 


This particular model obviously derives in part from FOCUS, but it also builds on the strengths of RENEW and post-Cursillo small groups. It is hosted by the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and here is even more good news: it is completely free. Online training, curriculum materials, free. You can explore it more here.

Please contact Dr. Susan Windley-Daoust for current information in how you can employ this discipleship model in your community, and diocesan supports for leaders.

If you are a facilitator of a discipleship quad and want to know how to start, watch this short video here.