Measures of Small Group Effectiveness

Wednesday 16th January, 2008

Is your small group effective? For some groups, the response would be that I am asking the wrong question. But as I have thought about the question, I really don't think so. As a part of the body of Christ, I believe every group (cell, organ, body part) should have a function that contributes toward the Kingdom work that God has given the church. And as such, every group should make as much difference as possible. Every group should be effective in carrying out its function.

Groups can serve a number of functions in the body. They can be task groups, such as for setting up chairs. They can be support groups, such as divorce recovery. They can be accountability groups, usually of the same gender. They can be discipleship groups, which are frequently shorter-term and focused topically. They can be Bible fellowship groups which are more open, ongoing groups. While these are the major functions, there can be others as well.

But despite the function of the group, there are some questions that can help you to evaluate or measure the effectiveness of your group. I realize that some of the questions I will include may be more appropriately applied to some of the types of groups more than to others. But I want to challenge you to consider ways that the questions may actually apply to your group. I want to begin by sharing questions that Steve Gladen, Pastor of Small Groups at Saddleback, offers in the Introduction to his Small Group Ministries blog. Gladen is also the author of Big Ideas for Small Group Leaders. Here are his five questions:

  • Are you assimilating a high percentage of your new members?
  • Are you effectively multiplying groups or growing your Sunday school classes?
  • Are you balancing the purpose of outreach and ministry in your groups or classes?
  • Have any problems supervising group leaders?
  • And most importantly, do you have all the leaders your church needs?

Those are five great, comprehensive questions. Assimilation requires intentional effort and investment in relationships, in caring for one another. Multiplication helps to build up the body and enable it to care for more people. It keeps groups from becoming completely self-focused. Gladen's question about balance of outreach and ministry is thought-provoking. Every group needs to focus on the needs of people beyond their relational circle. Every group should seek to involve every member in serving. Problems can often be best addressed through coaching. And finally, groups should serve as the crucible for leadership development and training. The group leader should be apprenticing another leader, and every person in the group should be given responsibility that builds up the body of Christ.

In addition to Gladen's questions, allow me to add the following:

  • Do all of your groups have an intentionally planned time of Bible study as a part of the group meeting?
  • Are lives being changed as a result of the group, in and beyond the class?
  • And are your groups connected to the body?

It is God in His Word who changes lives, not us. Effective groups, even task groups, will make time for the group to open God's Word together and to apply His truth to their lives. When an effective group opens God's Word together, the fruit of such efforts is changed lives. But not all of the lives that are changed will be on the group li st. Some will be lives touched by group members in the course of living their lives as part of the body of Christ in the world. Finally, a cell that is disconnected from the body quickly dies. It cannot contribute to the body. Groups should be connected.

Without coaching many groups drift into an unbalanced, less effective state. Coaching can help maintain that connection and encouragement to be effective. Coaches can check on these eight questions. Where does your group need to focus more energy in the year ahead? Be effective! Be revolutionary! 

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