(Supplies needed: internet access, computer and TV or projector to watch a video clip, printed copies of this guide for everyone including the pages with the circles, Bibles, pens)

Opening Prayer: Lord, we have heard of Your fame; we stand in awe of Your deeds, O Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time, make them known. Amen. (based on Habakkuk 3:2)

Video to Watch:

Simon Sinek did a TED talk about starting with why and introduced the concept of the Golden Circle. The link is below. If you are short on time, the second link below is someone who did a review of Sinek’s book and hits the main concepts we’ll focus on today. Pick one and watch it as a team.

After the clip, share a few first reactions before continuing.

Something to Consider:

I’ve been there… spending hours on a “brilliant” Instagram advertising plan, figuring out what prize I can offer to entice people to come, searching for the perfect game, the perfect devotions, the perfect phrase to try to help teenagers see what I see about Jesus. But “what” doesn’t last and focusing so much on “how” to engage students who seem like they’d rather be ANYWHERE else ends up pretty fruitless as well. But when I can connect with their “why,” that’s when true discipleship starts to happen.

I saw this clearly over the last few years in our church’s attempts for ministry at our local university. We had been running a great program at our church that we thought might be “just the thing” the campus needed. We ran the idea by some students who though the program was great. We even got a grant to cover a lot of the costs. We surveyed students to find the perfect night, trained our volunteers, and gave it a fair shot of at least two semesters in order to not give up too soon.

But no one showed up.

Well, not exactly no one, but pretty close to it. While discouraging at first, soon we realized that we were so focused on the “what” (this specific program), that we had forgotten our why. Later that semester we stumbled into it. With a need to use up the grant money before the year ended, I began simply asking students how we could serve them at the end of the semester. Long story short, the outcome of those conversations resulted in more ministry happening on campus in 5 days the week before finals, than literally the 5 years before. It also launched us into a weekly ministry the following semester that has been going strong for 3 semesters since and has resulted in over 400 student interactions each semester with both Christians and non-Christians. I didn’t have these words for it at the time, but refocusing our “why”—to care for college students and love them like Jesus—made all the difference in our ministry. The program we tried wasn’t bad; it’s actually a great program that we still have running at our church. However, starting with the “what” didn’t work.


Throughout Scripture we often see Jesus refocusing on His purpose when making ministry decisions. One example is found in Luke 5:27-32. (The same story is also in Matthew 9:9-13 and Mark 2:14-17).  Read this as a group and talk about how Jesus stayed true to His “why” even in the midst of pressure to conform to other standards.

Questions to Discuss:

Use some of the follow questions to discuss more about why “why” is important to your group:

  • Where in our ministry (or our lives) are we living out our “why” well?
  • Where do we find ourselves focusing more on “how” or “what”?
  • In what ways do you see or feel the temptation to focus on the “what” or “how” in ministry above the why? Why do you think that is?
  • In the TED talk Simon Sinek said, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it?”
    How might this quote apply to teenagers and/or our ministry?
  • Thinking about the students in our ministry, what “why” do you think would appeal to them when it comes to knowing, trusting, and following Jesus? (Why should they come to church? Why does youth group matter? Why should we read the Bible?) 
  • What belief or value might be attractive to them?
  • How can this “Golden Circle” be useful for our team moving forward?

Closing Prayer:

Have someone close in prayer asking God to help you use what was discussed today in your ministry to stay focused on Him. Include any prayer requests team members may have.

Practical Action Step: Before next meeting have everyone create a “golden circle” filling in the “whats” “hows” and “whys” of our ministry. At this point they may not connect to each other and there might be holes missing. That’s okay. We’ll use these at the next meeting as a discussion piece.