Going Small To Grow Big – A One To One Primer

Going Small To Grow Big – A One To One Primer

Written by Laura Porteous and Colin Adams

Have you been around Greenview during the last few years? Then you’ve probably heard something about “one to ones.” In fact, you may not just have heard of them. In response to an elders’ appeal, which went out in the Autumn of 2019, you may even have taken part in one! As you’ll see in the testimonies at the end of the article, these meetings proved helpful for quite a number of people.

But not everyone’s in that boat. Indeed, as the elders again encourage us to consider doing a one to one between Easter and summer, you might be asking a range of questions about the whys and wherefores of one to ones.

Let’s start by saying that a one to one isn’t anything spectacular! When you boil it down, it’s really quite simple. It’s two believers meeting regularly with the goal of encouraging one another in their faith.

What are the benefits?

(1) Depth – Some of the deepest conversations in Scripture happened in a one on one context (John 3, 4, Acts 8). This still remains true today. Even when we meet in small groups it’s hard to be ‘open’ with 5 to 10 people. We may not ask that question that is troubling us. Or request prayer for that thing that seems too personal. This is where one to ones thrive. We can be that bit more transparent about ‘where we are’ in a safe space.

(2) Love – The Bible portrays discipleship as a community project. Its call is to look outward to each other in love (Gal 5:13), sharing our lives with one another (1 Thes 2:8, Heb10:24-25) and speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15-16, Gal 6:10; 1 John 3:16-18). Not every one to one will lead to a deep and lasting friendship. That is not necessarily the goal, though it is a good outcome! (Prov 18:24). But a one to one will provide a platform to love people more deeply.

(3) Accountability – We are ultimately accountable to God but we all know the benefits of accountability to people. A healthy sense of peer pressure can work wonders! Meeting one to one can help us to stay focused spiritually. It inspires us to persist with practices that we might not easily do on our own (eg. Bible reading and prayer). 

(4) Learning – Hopefully we will learn many things during our one to one get togethers. It might be the supreme wisdom that only comes from Scripture, or that life-wisdom that we glean from another’s experience. There can be a rich harvest to reap if we meet with someone who is more mature in their life and faith. But remember, even the youngest disciple has something to teach others.

How do I do it?

There’s lots of flexibility when it comes to how we do a one to one. For starters you’ll need to consider how much time you both have available. A regular meeting is ideal (weekly, or every second week) – but that mightn’t be practical in some cases. It’s also a sensible idea to put an initial time limit on how many times you will meet. This is one advantage of reading a book together. It gives you a natural break point where you can stop the regular one to one, or where you may decide to continue for another stretch. None of this should feel like “pressure.” Even if you stop meeting regularly, you will hopefully still want to catch up on a more sporadic basis.

Meeting in person is best, though recent events have shown us that video calls aren’t necessarily terrible. Go to a coffee shop, sit in the back garden or even have a walk together – whatever you both find most comfortable.

But what exactly would we do at a one to one meeting? Here are some suggestions:

  • Catch up a little on each other’s lives – but don’t let this fill the whole time.
  • Read a Bible book together – perhaps helped by some bible study notes. Talk through how it applies to your lives and pray for each other.
  • Read a good Christian book at the same pace and meet together to discuss it.
  • Go for a walk with someone, but be ready in advance to answer a few ‘deeper questions’ like: ‘How’s your personal bible reading going?’; ‘What has God been teaching you recently?’; ‘How can I pray for you?’

Most one to ones will last about an hour, to an hour and a half, in length. Sometimes less is more! Be mindful of it going on too long and becoming less helpful

But who should I ask?

This is often where we get stuck because there is no exact science to this. We need to survey our options. Look at the people around you and consider who you could ask. Here are some suggestions of possible candidates:

  • Someone you’d sit beside/around about at church
  • Someone who’s in your Community Group
  • Someone slightly older than you
  • Someone at the same life stage as you
  • Someone who is younger than you
  • Someone who’s newer to church
  • Someone who lives close by

Once you’ve identified someone, it best to be direct and simply ask them. We realise this can feel awkward! You could say something like: “I won’t be offended if you say no, but I’ve been thinking about who I might pair with for a one to one… and I thought of you! Would you consider it?”

Be Wise

For all the benefits of one to one, we do need to be wise in how we approach it. For instance, we mustn’t see one to ones as a silver bullet when it comes to discipling. We shouldn’t neglect small groups and whole church gatherings, which were key elements in the life of the early churches. It is also generally unwise to meet regularly and alone with a member of the opposite sex. The church has safeguarding policies that we should be aware of, not least regarding people under 18 and vulnerable adults. One final problem can occur when one member of the pair becomes the ‘guru’ figure and the only go to person in that individual’s life. We must remember that discipleship is a community project. To paraphrase another saying, ‘it takes a whole church to raise a disciple.’ If you have any questions health of a one to one interaction, we suggest you speak to a church leader for advice.

Suggested Resources To Use

Bible Books to study
Non Bible Books To Read Together

Testimonies from previous one to ones

“I would say that my one to one has encouraged me in my faith and my thirst for wanting to know more about God and what the bible has to say. Having accountability like a one to one is often seen as scary and intense but it isn’t/ shouldn’t be like that, it is a way of supporting and spurring one another on and deepening your faith as well as having fellowship with other Christians.”

“I’ve enjoyed my one to one. At first it was a bit of a challenge, what we would study and how but gradually it has become a blessing. We decided to read through a book together, ‘Galatians for you’, as it has passages to read and then reflections with questions. That takes the pressure off us having to come up with something. The one to one is quite intimate, sharing thoughts with another and it has been a blessing in that we go slowly through a passage of the bible and we get an understanding of something which is helpful. I would now consider my one to one a friend and that friendship has grown which is really nice. We also pray with each other which is a comfort.”

“We usually had dinner first. After a couple of meetings we started including (along with chat and prayer time) listening a tape from John Stott in his, “Theology of the Gospel” series. We had about six meetings altogether before being overtaken by lockdowns. It has brought us closer together so that we phone from time to time and take an active interest in each other’s lives.”

“I found it helpful to meet with someone who was going through a similar stage of life as me as it was helpful to discuss these topics during our one to ones. As we are both working mums with young children, we have been able to grow our friendship during the past year and we are still meeting regularly fortnightly. We have been studying the Jen Wilkin series on James and it has been a great source of strength and encouragement especially with the strange year we’ve had.”



Ps. This article focuses on meeting ‘one to one’ with another Christian. A companion article will be appear in the near future, looking at evangelism in our current climate. It will include a discussion on evangelistic one to ones.