Discipleship Triads or Quads

God’s call to make disciples is undeniably clear. The strategy of how to go about disciple making can sometimes get fuzzy. Well-designed small groups of 8 – 12 are great environments for spiritual growth until the primary objective is lost and the natural tendency towards social fellowship becomes the focus. Individual spiritual development plans can leave a person isolated and never challenged to change old patterns. Discipleship triads or quads, simplify the process by following Jesus’ model of intentionally building into the lives of several people at a time. Their simplicity removes distractions which then leaves space to experience God and respond to the Spirit’s nudging. People are drawn into deeper conversations as they reflect on the Word. The very design of triads and quads leads to a high level of personal responsibility for spiritual growth. Disciples are formed.

Discipleship triads or quads are made up of three or four people of the same gender who meet together weekly (preferably) to hold each other accountable for spiritual growth and transformation. Greg Ogden refers to triads and quads as “hot-houses” of Christian growth because they maximize conditions that produce accelerated spiritual growth. Ogden writes,

There are three ingredients when exercised in a balanced way that release the Holy Spirit to bring about a rapid growth toward Christlikeness: This can be summarized in the following Biblical principle: When we (1) open our hearts in transparent trust to each other (2) around the truth of God’s word (3) in the spirit of mutual accountability, we are in the Holy Spirit’s hothouse of transformation.

Greg Ogden has written a curriculum that can be used with triads and quads. Neil Cole has designed a strategy for triads which he calls "Life Transformation Groups." While both are effective tools, the Spirit may lead you to use these hot-house principles in different ways that better fit the context of your church and community. Next week’s article will describe how triads and quads are adapted and implemented at CenterPointe, a young church plant in Plainfield, IL.

No matter how triads or quads are designed, you’ll find these to be true:

  • Learning to be disciples of Jesus happens best within intimate accountable relationships. Trusting relationships are quickly built in groups of three or four which results in openness and vulnerability.
  • Reading the Bible with a listening ear to what God is asking you to do leads to transformation.
  • Transformation happens when we hold one another accountable to the things God asks us to do. 
  • Triads and quads are places to experience spiritual disciplines together.
  • Triads and quads are easily multiplied.
  • People without leadership experience can guide a triad or quad without a lot of specialized training.
  • It’s simple: triads and quads can meet at any time, at any place. Because they are gender specific, they often eliminate the need for childcare.
  • People in all spiritual stages feel comfortable in these groups.
  • Participants find it easy to invite friends, neighbors, or people new to your church community to join them.
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Very interested in looking into this strategy for discipleship.  Looking forward to next week's article.


Right on Ruth. You know I have been a believer in triads/quads for years and can tell many stories as evidence of their power. I was in a quad this past Tuesday night with a 30 year old converted Muslim, a 60something man and a 50something man. There is where we get down to the heart of it all. I could tell you some cool stuff from it, except what is said in our quad stays in our quad so I am sworn to confidentiality.

Yep! I learned the power of triads by going through Ascending Leaders Christ Habits study. It was a great introduction not only to triads, but to spiritual disciplines. I recommend it!

Thank you Ruth, for this gentle and insightful piece. Yes, comfort and confidentiality are high on the list. We learned so much of  this in Coffee Break and God was the inspiration for all of that. Blessings in your work...stay in touch.


I cut my small group leadership teeth on coffee break and men's life.  Yes, believe it or not, coffee break for a man.  I was 20 and assigned to lead a Bible Study for people far from God in a national park.  I asked my mother in law, a long time coffee break leader, what she recommended and she gave me a coffee break book. Then I began using Men's Life materials while an intern shortly after they came out in the late 80s and again had the joy of having people far from God in my groups. Coffee Break had within it the seeds that sprouted, more fully developed in other ideas later. For instance, while coffee break and later men's life introduced the ideas of confidentiality and bonding, those ideas have grown up and it is TRIADS/QUADS that create the optimum environment for that to happen.

I love that Ogden uses the term "hot-houses" for these optimum environments for growth. That term certainly applies to the triads and quads at CenterPointe.