How To Diagnose the Groups in Your System

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As I mentioned yesterday, the first step in the diagnosis of your small group ministry is a thorough examination of your existing groups. Depending on the number of groups in your system (and whether you’re new on the scene), this may be an easy job or may take you some time. It’s important though, because this part of the diagnosis forms an important baseline for future examinations.

There are several items that you will want to know about each of the groups on your list. There is also a little bit of sequence to the way you begin the diagnosis depending on your relationship with the leaders.

How To Collect Information

Let’s take a look first at how to collect the answers. I normally use an email survey. They’re inexpensive to use and easy to set up. I use but you may prefer You can also simply provide a handout at the small group table or call through your list, but I think you’ll find most of your leaders will appreciate the ability to simply take the brief survey online.

Building Your First Survey

Second, you’ll want to set up the survey to retrieve some basic information. Keep in mind that the length of the survey determines the number of responses you’ll receive. Ask too many questions and some of your leaders will not complete it. Here is what I asked on a recent census:

  • Name and best contact info (email and phone)
  • Is your group currently meeting (yes, no, we’re on a break but plan to resume)
  • If you’re not meeting what is the reason you stopped? (You can provide a list of options or a blank for them to complete. I prefer to provide a list of options and a blank for “other.”)
  • If you plan to resume, when you do plan to resume?
  • When did your group begin meeting? (Again, you can provide a list of options or a blank for the leader to complete. I prefer a list of options, especially when I know some details about the history of group life in the church. For example, if the church launched groups with 40 Days of Purpose in 2006, that would be an option.)

Although there are other questions you’d like to ask, these are the basics. If I keep the survey short, I’ll develop permission to survey them again to find out other details (like “What are you studying?” or “How many of your members take a turn at facilitating?”)

Important Sequence Details

As I’ve mentioned, the length of time you’ve been on the scene plays a role in how you take this baseline survey. If you’re brand new, be sure and start with a letter or email of introduction. It’s even better if the email comes from someone like your senior pastor. Follow the introductory letter with an email that asks the leader to take two minutes to complete a “brief, 5 question survey” (or however long you’ve made it). Be sure and include a thank-you page in your survey.

If you use a tool like or you’ll be able to keep track of your leaders responses. Send out a follow up request 5 to 7 days later to catch any stragglers. Call the remaining group leaders at 10 days.

Next up in the series is an important look at diagnosing the leaders in your system. You can read How To Diagnose the Leaders in Your System right here.

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