The dashboard in your car monitors fuel level, speed, RPMs, oil pressure, engine temperature, etc. What should your small group ministry's dashboard be monitoring? How do you know whether your ministry is healthy?
Before we begin
Before we talk about what to measure, we should probably talk about why we should be measuring. It might be helpful to think about why your doctor measures your vital signs (weight, temperature, blood pressure, pulse, etc.).
Your doctor monitors and measures your vital signs in order to spot significant changes or abnormalities that are cause for concern. For example, a sudden weight loss can be an indicator of serious medical issues. An elevated blood pressure reading can indicate a change in your health that needs to be diagnosed and may require prescription medication or a lifestyle change.
In the same way, monitoring and measuring the vital statistics of your small group ministry will help you track positive and negative indications that your system is actually designed well and doing what you hope it will do.
After all, ministries do what they are actually designed to do, not what we hope they will do.
5 crucial indicators I think you should be watching:
1. The number of active small groups and active group members.
This may be an annual or semi-annual snapshot taken at a predictable time (i.e., mid-November or mid-April). If you're taking advantage of an easy-to-use church management system like Churchteams, you may be able to monitor this number week to week. Be sure you are measuring in a way and at a time when you're not simply noting the high water mark of a church-wide campaign. Beyond simply monitoring the numbers it can provide a glimpse into the span of care in your groups.
2. Year to date change in the number of active small groups.
Carefully monitoring the number of active groups helps keep your finger on the pulse of the groups in your system. Active is an important word and should not include groups that only meet during your church-wide campaign.
3. Year over year change in the number of active small groups and active group members.
Tracking this trend line over several years provides an important measure of effectiveness. Remember, it is easiest to connect new members to new groups. See also, Top 5 Advantages of New Groups.
4. The number of active coaches and the number of leaders in their care.
Since whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups must happen first in the lives of your leaders, the number of active coaches is important to monitor. Pay attention to the second aspect of this measurement. Coaches can only influence and impact the leaders for whom they are actually providing care. See also, The Most Important Contribution of a Small Group Pastor and The Truth about Building an Effective Small Group Coaching Structure.
5. The number of leaders not in the care of a coach.
This is an important number to monitor. While some of these leaders may have someone encouraging their spiritual growth, it is quite likely that they do not. Leaders who are not being cared for in a way that encourages spiritual growth are not likely to provide that kind of care for their members.
Here are a few more indicators you may want to watch:
- The total number of facilitators. How many different people take a turn at facilitating your groups? This number can be captured in an annual or semi-annual snapshot. It is a leading indicator that hints at the number of potential leaders within your existing small group membership. Encouraging your group leaders to enlist and engage additional facilitators is important and can be part of your annual effort. See also, 10 Things Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know and Skill Training: How to Develop More Leaders.
- The total number of homes and locations used by your groups. This is an important leading indicator for potential new group leaders. See also, Skill Training: Rotating Host Homes.
- The number of active group members who don't attend your church. This number can provide important clues into the inclusivity of your groups. It can also provide a hint into the kinds of people who are leading your groups. Remember, the least connected people in your church are often the most connected outside your church. See also, Do You Know This Game-Changing Connection Secret?
Need more help?
How to Diagnose Your Small Group Ministry is a 4 session mini-course that will teach you the techniques I use to make the right changes to your ministry. Design changes that will set your ministry on a new trajectory.
Image by Randy von Liski