Four Questions that Evaluate Small Group Model Effectiveness

There are a number of small group models or systems.  The question is, how do you evaluate the effectiveness of a small group model or system?  Better, how do you determine whether the model you’ve chosen is the right choice for your church?

I thought about this last week when a reader disagreed with my assessment of a particular model.  And it occurred to me that what I’m calling effective might not really match your definition of effectiveness

Four questions I use to define and measure effectiveness:

First, can your model connect more adults in groups than you average in your weekend worship services?  Since I believe that the optimum environment for life-change is in a small group, I’m looking for a system that can provide connection for more adults than you have on an average weekend.  Don’t forget, average weekend adult worship attendance in most churches is only part of the total number of adults and Easter or Christmas Eve adult attendance are much better estimates of the total number of adults involved to some degree.  For any small group model or system to be effective it must be able to connect more adults in groups than attend the weekend worship servies.  See also, What Percentage of Your Adults are Actually Connected?

Second, does your model work theoretically…or in reality?  In my mind only “asterisk-free” small group systems or models can be deemed effective.  “This is a great system.  We just can’t find enough leaders*” and “We love this model! We just have more leaders than we need for the number of people interested in a group*” are both indications that the system may be theoretically effective but not in reality.  There are no problem-free systems.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.

Third, does your system make disciples?  Remember, connecting is only the beginning.  If your system connects people but doesn’t make disciples…you can hardly call it effective.  Potlucks without purpose are just that.  Moving from a face in the crowd to joining a group is a nice toe-in-the-water, but life-change happens when doing life together means you’re being challenged to live your life the way Jesus would if He were in your body.  Life-change happens when you’re known, cared for, forgiven, loved, challenged, prayed for, trusted, supported by and depended upon.  See also, Top 10 Things I Need to Know about Discipleship.

Fourth, does your system allow you to pay attention to the right things?  If you’re spending so much time updating next semester’s catalog, match-making prospective members with existing leaders, or reminding leaders that it really is about time for their group to birth that you don’t have time to focus on develop existing leaders, recruit new leaders and launch new groups…it might be that your system is inefficient and diverting attention from the right things.  See also, Matchmaking: Making It Easy to Find a Group, What’s the Best Way for People to Sign Up and Commit to a Group and Birthing, Splitting, and Dividing Groups vs. the Jedi Path.

What do you think?  Have another question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

New from Craig Groeschel | Altar Ego: Becoming Who God Says You Are

altar egoSpent some time over the weekend reviewing Altar Ego: Becoming Who God Says You Are, the newest church-wide campaign from Craig Groeschel over the weekend.  If you’re in the market for a campaign…you’re going to want to see this one.  Right on target, Altar Ego is going to be very popular.

A Cross-Cultural Topic

One of the most important aspects of this study and church-wide campaign is its cross-cultural topic.  You don’t have to be a Christian to understand the damage that labels cause.  Everyone comes pre-wired with the sense that they’re not really living up to their potential and that so many of their dreams have gone unrealized.  With just a little set-up, the invitation to “join us for a 5 week study” will be easy.


Designed to accompany a 5 week message series, this DVD-driven study is well designed.  With the video segments averaging 10 to 12 minutes, they’ll easily hold the attention of group members.  A great communicator, Groeschel’s segments are filmed in settings that help introduce the topic.

The study guide includes a number of elements that will help members dig into the topic.  A video outline is included that will help members identify the main concepts.  A well thought out set of discussion questions and group exercises help members deepen their understanding and begin to apply the teaching.  A personal study section is included each week that will help members continue to work on the topic in between sessions.

Although the study can be done without the companion hardback, members may find that the weekly reading will help solidify their understanding and further awaken their sense of who God made them to be.

Downloadable Resources

Like almost everything LifeChurch.TV does, you can download everything you need for a great church-wide experience.  What’s available?  Literally everything.  Message outlines, transcripts, message videos, banner graphics, promo videos, countdown video, artwork, bulletin templates, invite cards, and much more.  Even better?  It’s all FREE!

I’m always on the lookout for church-wide campaigns that are on cross-cultural topics, are easy-to-use, and truly just-add-water.  Altar Ego: Becoming Who God Says You Are definitely fits the bill.  I loved it and I think you will too!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What’s Your Wiring? Ready. Aim. Fire. or Ready. Fire. Aim.?

What’s your implementation speed?  Are you the “Ready. Aim. Fire.” type?  Or are you more of the “Ready. Fire. Aim.” type?

We were having a great conversation yesterday*…the really good kind that leads either to a great idea or a brawl (figurative for us).  Suddenly I found myself allied with the proponent of “Fire. Fire. Fire.”  Believe me.  It makes sense to think about what you’re doing.  I do believe that.  But the part about the massive time to study the concept and get it perfect IS the problem for many organizations.  I have no doubt about that.

So the question is, “What to do about it?”  Can you move from Ready. Aim. Fire. to Ready. Fire. Aim?  That’s the question, isn’t it?  If you’re like many organizations you’re stuck in the land of too careful studies that are really only about delay.

One of the great learnings from The Answer to How Is Yes: Acting on What Matters by Peter Block is that the motivations of the questions and need for study often come from a desire to delay.  My own conviction is that the pursuit of problem-free delays more ministry than anything else.

What if you could make the move to Ready. Fire. Aim?  What could you try that you’re prevented from trying right now?  What could you get permission to test if you were just free to give it a shot?  I love today’s post from Seth Godin.  The idea of Make Something Happen is SO GOOD.  Believe me…it becomes a poster on my wall along with the great Mario Andretti poster, “If everything seems under control…you’re just not going fast enough.”  I’ll put up a picture of it on Monday.  In the meantime, be sure and take a look at Seth’s post.

*This article was originally posted in 2006 on StrategyCentral.

5 Ways Your Small Group Ministry Is Being Throttled

Did you know that a number of factors can throttle your small group ministry?  Did you know that there are certain factors that can limit your ministry impact?

A Brief Example

In some ways it’s like what I found out this week from the company that hosts my blog.  For several days in a row between 6 and 7 a.m. I kept getting an error message when I tried to log in to the editing dashboard.  Concerned, I tried to check the blog itself only to get an error message that essentially said, “You are out of business.”

What was causing it?  My blog was being throttled due to too much traffic and too much traffic related issues.  If you’ve tried to read it and been blocked…I’m sorry!  Hopefully, it will soon have those kinks worked out.

Now Back to Small Group Ministry

What are the factors that might be throttling your small group ministry?  Here are a few:

  1. Someone other than the senior pastor attempting to champion small group ministry.  Delegating the champion role to a staff member (even the small group pastor) or key volunteer screams, “This isn’t important.”  If you really want to connect beyond the core and committed, you need your senior pastor as a small group champion.  See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  2. Too many programs offering next steps out of the auditorium.  If an unconnected person has to think about which program offers the best next step…you’ve got too many on the menu.  See also, A “Plated Meal” Leads to a Church OF Groups
  3. Failing to start new groups.  Too many small group ministries prioritize the membership needs of existing groups over the opportunity to engage new leaders and leverage the power of new connections.  See also, New Groups Lead to a Church OF Groups.
  4. Failing to tell life-change stories.  Nothing is more compelling to an unconnected person than a story about authentic life-change.  If you’re not telling them in sermons, in testimonies, on the website and in print…you’re missing the opportunity to inspire many to put a toe in the water.  See also, Gather Stories as If Lives Hang in the Balance.
  5. Inconsistent promotion.  If you’re only talking about the importance of being connected once or twice a year, you’re missing out on the least connected people (who are infrequent attendees).  If you want to connect beyond the usual suspects, you need to talk about grouplife all the time.  See also, Narrowing the Focus Leads to a Church OF Groups.

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

An Unexpected Upside to Asking Questions

One of the most important voices in innovation is Harvard professor, Clayton Christensen.  His book The Innovator’s Dilemma has long been on my recommended list.  In a recent conversation with 37signals founder Jason Fried, Christensen had this to say when asked why someone has to be ready to be taught before they can learn:

“Questions are places in your mind where answers fit.  If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go.  It hits your mind and bounces right off.  You have to ask the question – you have to want to know – in order to open up the space for the answer to fit.” Jason Fried paraphrasing Clayton Christensen

How to Build the Organization You’ll Need Sooner Than Later

emythA quick tip today.  Got into a really good conversation with a groups guy over the weekend.  Talking about how to build the organization he’ll need sooner than later.

He’s at the stage that many of us are in right now.  We’re at the stage where we don’t have enough staff or volunteers to delegate away what someone else could/should do…and so, we’re stuck doing it all.

Can you relate?

The question behind the question he was asking was, “How do I begin to build the organization I’ll need sooner rather than later?”

My diagnosis and prescription?  Now is the time to chart out the org chart for the organization you’ll need sooner than later.  That’s right.  Take the time to draw the org chart in the way it would be drawn if you had plenty of help…already.

Start by listing all of the individual tasks that you’re doing to keep things running.  This list might give you a hint or two:

  • Recruiting small group leaders
  • Training new small group leaders
  • Coaching small group leaders
  • Following up on indications of interest in joining a small group (whether they’re coming in via the bulletin, phone, or in person)
  • Reviewing new small group studies and updating the recommended list
  • Training existing small group leaders
  • Planning training events to train small group leaders
  • Collecting life-change stories to pass on to your senior pastor
  • etc.

Next, begin to drop these individual roles into the format of an org chart.  Keep in mind that right now your name might be in most of the boxes!  Here’s an example.

Finally, begin looking for people who would be great at the individual roles.  You won’t find them all at once.  You’ll find them one at a time.  You’ll need a job description and a way to supervise every role.  It will take some work.  But when you find them, every one you find will begin to delegate away the things that could be done by volunteers or additional staff.  And it will leave you doing what only you can do!

One of the best books I’ve read on this topic was The E-Myth by Michael Gerber (now available in a revised edition called The E-Myth Revisted).  Very practical.  I got a ton out of it and I bet you would too.

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, I am the Small Group Specialist for LifeWay. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

New from J.D. Greear: The Gospel According to Jonah

gospel according to jonahHad an opportunity to preview The Gospel According to Jonah: A New Kind of Obedience, a new DVD-driven study from J.D. Greear.  The lead pastor of Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Summit Church has been one of Outreach magazines top 25 fastest growing churches in America for several years running.

Six sessions, the video content is pitched just about right, with the sessions averaging 15 minutes in length.  Greear is a very compelling speaker and communicates in a way that will pull group members into the fascinating story of Jonah.  Better, he unearths a number of very important aspects of the story that have direct implications for all of us today.

The Leader’s Kit also includes a campaign guide and publicity tools (logos, bulletin templates, poster designs, etc.) for those churches that are looking for help in implementing a church-wide campaign.

The DVD is accompanied by a very well designed member book, packed with everything your group needs to dig deeply into the key ideas and teaching in the Old Testament book of Jonah.  Developed by Spence Shelton, Summit’s small group pastor, the member book includes:

  • a short introduction (to be read prior to the group meeting)
  • a pump-priming set of warm-up questions
  • a video guide to help your members follow the video teaching
  • a group study based on a related Old or New Testament passage, encouraging a discussion that grapples with the wider context of the gospel throughout the scriptures
  • a wrap up section that helps members move beyond hearing to doing
  • three devotionals per session that helps members continue to deepen their understanding during the week

Along with the DVD and the member book, there is also an easy-to-use leader’s guide built in to the appendix of the member book.  While it’s not comprehensive or overly detailed, the guide is more than adequate and provides enough guidance to help even new leaders deliver a richer experience for their members.

If you’re looking for studies that will help your group members deepen their understanding of God’s relentless pursuit of those that He loves, The Gospel According to Jonah ought to be on your list to review.  I’m adding it to my recommended list and I think you will too!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, I am the Small Group Specialist for LifeWay. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Dilbert on Trust vs Suspicion

Sometimes you just need to laugh:

high levels of trust

Making Critical Strategic Choices

If you’ve been following the conversation here for any length of time, you know that I am always intrigued by great questions.  Working my way through Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works right now and discovered a great question/concept over the weekend.  I knew I had to share this with you.  See also, Supercharge Your Ministry Impact with These 5 Questions.

Here’s the setup: When you’re trying to effectively communicate strategy at all levels within your organization, the challenge “is to find simple, clear, and compelling ways to do so.”  Obvious, right?  Not rocket science.  But doing it well…that is the trick.

Here’s the concept: “Ask, ‘What are the critical strategic choices that everyone in the organization should know and understand?” (Pg. 142)

The illustration from Playing to Win: “At P&G (Proctor and Gamble), it boiled down to three themes that would enable the company to win, in the places and ways it had chosen, regardless of the details of individual differences between businesses (here are there critical strategic choices):

  1. Make the consumer the boss, 
  2. Win the consumer value equation,
  3. Win the two mot important moments of truth (i.e., when the customer encounters the product in the store for the first time and when he or she first uses it at home).

Need a ministry example?  How about Craig Groeschel’s statement that “We will do anything short of sin to introduce people to God.”  Or how about “If you want to reach people no one else is reaching, you need to do things no one else is doing.”

Can you see the application for your organization?  What if your team spent some time figuring out the critical strategic choices and then a way to say it that’s simple, clear and compelling?

What do you think?  How would you articulate your themes?  Have a question?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Skill Training: Healthy Groups Integrate Four Components into Every Gathering

How do you answer the question, “What does your group do?”

Probably the most common answers would be, “Our group…

  • meets to discuss their pastor’s last message
  • works their way through a book of the Bible
  • always has a DVD-driven study
  • eats a meal together twice a month
  • chooses a service project to do together
  • etc.

Healthy Groups Integrate Four Components into Every Gathering

One of the many helpful insights that Carl George introduced with the Meta Church model is that four components are present at every gathering in healthy groups.  These components are love, learn, decide and do.  The balance between the components are determined by the purpose or function of the group (for example, a small group that focuses on Bible study might be 20% love, 70% learn, 5% decide, and 5% do, while a serving group might be 20% love, 10% learn, 5% decide, and 65% do).

The key to the insight is that for a group to be healthy, all four components must be present.

Remember, designing your group for life-change is much more than simply choosing the best activity or study.  The way you spend your time together is a key element.  If you want your group to be healthy, all four of these components must be present.  See also, Skill Training: Design Your Group for Life-Change.

Four Simple Steps for Healthy Groups

  1. Identify the function of your group (is it a Bible study, a service team, a prayer group, etc.)
  2. Determine the current percentage of time the group currently spends on loving, learning, deciding, and doing.
  3. Discuss the four components and determine the ideal percentages given the function of your group.
  4. Implement a plan to ensure that all four components are present

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.