Four Leading Indicators of Small Group Ministries that Make Disciples

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In the world of economics, leading indicators are "indicators that usually change before the economy as a whole changes. They are therefore useful as short-term predictors of the economy." Stock market returns, building permits, and average weekly jobless claims are all leading indicators.

Think there might be a set of leading indicators that are short-term predictors of your small group ministry's ability to make disciples? Take a look at this Dallas Willard definition of a disciple:

"A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do. A disciple is not a person who has things under control, or knows a lot of things. Disciples simply are people who are constantly revising their affairs to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus." Rethinking Evangelism

Here are what I think are four leading indicators of small group ministries that make disciples:

  • Following Jesus is recognized as the most important thing in life. Modeled by pastors, coaches and leaders...nothing else is even close. How often do other things take precedence?
  • Learning how to do what Jesus said to do is always the emphasis. Note: how, not what, is the point. How often does your ministry emphasize what, not how?
  • Discipleship is never described as a class to be attended or a course to be completed. Do you offer classes or courses that emphasize completion or arrival?
  • Disciples are always characterized as pressing on and straining toward. Do pastors and leaders acknowledge that they are works in process?

See these leading indicators in your small group ministry? Or are you seeing something less significant?

Can you see how each of these leading indicators might actually be designed as a mini-step in your next-step pathway? If you need help designing next steps and first steps, you might consider taking my newest mini-course: How to Design NEXT Steps and FIRST Steps.

Image by Stephen Gray

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  1. Glen on June 12, 2013 at 4:22 am

    Really helpful comments (as usual), Mark.
    One thing that piqued my interest was the lifelong learners stance that you cover in point 3. I readily agree with you, but also wonder if giving people a feeling of completing “something” can help with “celebrating the middle” to help keep people motivated, rather than just claps on the back at the end of a project etc?

  2. markchowell on June 12, 2013 at 4:29 am

    Thanks for jumping in here, Glen! I’m with you. When the right things are celebrated, a growing understanding develops in the culture that affirms steps in the direction of the preferred future. In the same way that we celebrate baptism as an important step in the lifelong journey of a disciple, there could be other steps affirmed along the way. Good point.

  3. Andrew Mason on June 12, 2013 at 10:12 am

    “Discipleship is never described as a class to be attended or a course to be completed.” Very profound Mark! In a recent workshop with Pastors I was encouraging them to participate in their small group ministry. I told them that small groups were not like a new believers class or membership class. There is no completion of the discipleship process. Thanks for the great article!

  4. markchowell on June 13, 2013 at 5:32 am

    Good word, Andrew! Thanks for jumping in here. And thanks for the affirmation!