Lagging Indicators of Effective Disciple-Making Small Group Ministries

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In the world of economics, "lagging indicators are indicators that usually change after the economy as a whole does." For example, changes in the unemployment rate are lagging indicators that lag changes in the economy. As the economy improves, more jobs are added and the unemployment rate decreases. The Consumer Confidence Index and the Dow Jones Transportation Average are other examples of lagging indicators. Their movement, up or down, trails changes in the economy.

Lagging indicators are useful for economists because they confirm the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of earlier strategies and actions.

Can you see where this is going? Might there be lagging indicators that validate or invalidate the effectiveness of small group ministry disciple-making strategies and structures? I believe there are a few that we should be tracking.

Lagging Indicators of Effective Disciple-Making Strategies and Structures

This is a very preliminary list, but doesn't it make sense that the following lagging indicators would be in evidence?

  • Growing evidence of a biblical worldview. As more and more disciples are made, wouldn't biblical principles infiltrate ordinary conversation among small group members?
  • A growing culture of generosity. Couldn't you compare the giving levels of small group members with the giving levels of those not in a group?
  • An others first mentality. Doesn't it make sense that a Philippians 2 attitude would begin to be in evidence? With some work it should be possible to quantify a decrease in taking the best seat and an increase in setting aside what is due?
  • An abundance of ministry volunteers. Wouldn't every ministry have a surplus of committed volunteers? Doesn't the perennial shortage of ministry volunteers indicate an ineffective disciple-making strategy?
  • A pervasive attitude of humility. If there was an effective disciple-making strategy, wouldn't a growing percentage of small group members acknowledge that they have not yet arrived and readily recognize that they are not yet what they will be?
  • A persistent determination to clear up damaged relationships. Don't you imagine that an effective disciple-making strategy would greatly reduce the presence of petty grievances, malicious gossip, and barely covered ill will?
  • An increasing willingness to follow spiritual leadership. Wouldn't stubborn refusal to submit to spiritual authority steadily diminish when there is an effective disciple-making strategy?

Admittedly, in a growing church spiritual immaturity will always be present. But in a church with an effective disciple-making strategy, there should also be the presence of an encouraging set of lagging indicators.

See also, Four Leading Indicators of Small Group Ministries that Make Disciples and 8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader.

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  1. Nate on February 17, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Mark, this is a great list! You did mention that we should be tracking these indicators but I am wondering how some of these are track-able. Something like, a persistent determination to clear up damaged relationships is a great thing to strive for, but how would we begin to measure that? Would love to hear your thoughts.

  2. markchowell on February 17, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks for jumping in here Nate! You could measure a number of different ways, but the easiest might be to develop a survey that group members could take anonymously that asks them to rate their “persistent determination.” (Saddleback’s Spiritual Health Assessment measures spiritual growth in a similar fashion. The 5 purposes each have a set of 7 questions that helps people think about where they need to grow.)

    Aggregating their scores would allow you to take the pulse of your group members annually (or semi-annually). Doing that would enable your leadership to determine whether your disciple-making strategy was working or not working and also guide adjustment in the strategy.

    Can you see it?


  3. Nate on February 17, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Ok, yes I see the idea. Super helpful, thanks!