The MAWL Process

Discovery Groups exist to lead a group of people to Christ and form a new church. During the limited  lifespan of the group, the role of the church planter changes. His goal is to remove himself from the group so that leadership will emerge from within the group. The MAWL (Model – Assist/equip – Watch  – Leave) process describes this (the entire MAWL process can take up to 2 years):


  • The Church Planter models the Discovery Group process to the group and rapidly hands over parts of the process until the group is doing it without his help. The Church Planter should meet with the facilitators regularly outside the group time to teach the process and evaluate the group.
  • The modelling should be no longer than three weeks. If the church planter is still in this stage after 8 weeks, he should seriously re-evaluate the group (In all likelihood, he has not found a person of peace/ inside leader or has a problem letting go of leadership).
  • The best time to hand over leadership is from Day 1! The Church Planter may even teach the Discovery Group process to the inside facilitator before the group launches. The inside facilitator then leads from the first time the group gathers with the Church Planter assisting in the meeting and equipping outside the meeting times.

POTENTIAL PROBLEM: If the Church Planter does not rapidly release to inside facilitators, the group will become increasingly reliant on him or her to lead and members will not take ownership of the group.

A ssist/ Equip

  • The Church Planter assists the group during the meetings while the inside facilitator facilitates. The Church Planter’s primary role is to keep the group focused on following the Discovery Group process. If the group strays from this (eg: someone starts preaching, they skip the obedience section, etc) then the Church Planter or the inside facilitator should gently bring the group back to the Discovery Group process.
  • The Church Planter also equips the inside facilitator or emerging facilitation team (2 or 3) outside the meetings. He reviews the last meeting with the facilitator. He helps the emerging facilitators to see their shortfalls, discusses problem areas and encourages them.
  • Increasingly, the Church Planter should allow the group to self-correct. He should become more and more silent in the meetings, allowing the group the opportunity to spot and correct their own mistakes.
  • The Church Planter also begins to enter into a mentoring role with the emerging facilitators. He holds them accountable for their own obedience, asks about various areas of their lives and prays with them regularly.

POTENTIAL PROBLEM: If the Church Planter does not assist and equip, the group will abandon the Discovery Group process (especially in a religious society), leadership will not emerge and the group will quickly degenerate or dissolve.

W atch

  • During this phase, the Church Planter gives no guidance during the meetings. He simply watches or participates as a member of the group. He periodically skips meetings.
  • All guidance by the Church Planter now takes place outside the meetings with the facilitators of the group. True leadership begins to emerge.
  • Key areas to watch out for:
    • Is the group faithful to the Discovery Group process?
    • Is the group becoming obedient and holding one another accountable for obedience (reporting back the next week)?
    • Are the group members sharing their discoveries with others outside the group?
    • Are the group members entering into practical ministry to one another?
    • Is the group participative (no preaching or teaching, everyone praying, etc)?
    • Is the group keeping the authority of the Word as central (adjusting their opinions according to the Word, holding one another including the facilitator accountable to the Word, etc)?
    • Be very wary of new influences into the group. Watch for visitors who may influence the group – especially outside religious influences.
    • Preferably do not allow people to join the group after week 3. Teach the group to rather start up new groups with new people. Remember: Church Planting Movements begin when CHURCHES start new churches, not when Church Planters begin new churches!

POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: If the Church Planter does not watch and re-visit the group periodically, then the group may abandon the Discovery Group process and quickly degenerate or dissolve. If the group grows large instead of starting new groups (a missional foundation), the group will form a “club” mentality (become isolated from the community) and the surrounding people will not be reached for Christ.


  • During this stage (and possibly earlier) you will also be networking the leaders of the various groups together. Create gatherings where people are exposed to others who are also following the same process.
  • Your role becomes one of a mentor from outside the groups. Meet regularly with the leaders of the groups to discuss the progress in their groups.
  • You will now be at the stage where the groups begin turning into churches. As people turn to Christ and become obedient followers, you will be mentoring them through the process of becoming healthy churches and starting new groups on their own.
  • The networked leaders will form a Shepherding team, shape their own leadership and you will need to leave. Leaving allows them to find their own identity.
  • The Church Planter will return later to continue a relationship with the emerging elders and deacons of the new churches. The role of the Church Planter now becomes one of outside advisor and mentor to the emerging church(s).

PROBLEM: If the Church Planter does not leave, then the group will again become dependant on the Church Planter. The elders of the church network must be allowed to emerge and lead. The new churches must also be allowed to find their own cultural identity.