Recently Rick Howerton was asked a challenging question by some small group pastors and Rick responded by sending the question on to a number of small group pastors in order to get a broader perspective. Ready for the question? It might be yours, too!
They asked, “What are the markers for a healthy small group ministry. That is, when a small group pastor does her/his evaluation of the ministry, what are the list of things that that small group pastor should be measuring to determine how effective the ministry really is?”
Isn’t that a great question? I thought you’d think so. I also was sure you’d enjoy reading the responses. Really good stuff from a number of the sharpest minds in small group ministry. I got Rick’s permission to use the idea and asked each of the participants if they’d be willing to share with you. All of them said “yes!”
Here’s what Reid Smith had to say:
I’m obviously late to the party here! From Eddie & Mike’s hallmarks to Alan & Mark’s metrics — not to mention Greg’s raw account of his relate-able experience — I always walk away stronger and encouraged after receiving from you guys. Thank you. I’m chiming in now because I find myself at a different starting point on this question. I would begin by exploring questions about alignment and integration:
- Are small groups seen as another ministry among ministries (or even a program or subset within a larger ministry) or are they seen as the ‘operating system” in and through which discipleship happens throughout the church?
- Is the lead/senior pastor and core leadership on the same page about “groups” with the small group pastor?
- How does leadership collectively value relationships and community in ministry? What are the evidences of this?
- How are groups defined and supported in communications and resources?
- What’s the relationship between groups and the mission of the church?
- Is the core philosophy and direction of a church’s group-life reflected among all age groups / ministry areas?
- What do the “working relationships” look like between the small group pastor and their senior pastor / direct report and other key influencers in the church?
- During weekend programming, are small groups a critical factor in planning or an after-thought? How are they supported?
- Are groups a part of the church’s culture in function and communication or do they feel unnatural, forced, overly-programmed, or obligatory?
- Is there a rhythm to group-life or have groups been ‘used’ erratically as a reaction/fix to some perceived problem in the church such as lack of connection, retention, attrition, spiritual maturity, etc.
- What is the gut-level value that senior / core leadership places on small groups? Does their own participation in word and action reflect this?
Groups have been okay at best where I’m at. By God’s grace, there’s more stability than we’ve experienced in a long time…but there’s also so much unrealized potential. This can be very frustrating and discouraging as I’m sure everyone copied here can attest. I think a lot of it has to do with things Greg mentioned (yes, my friend…I hear ya!). As you can see, I’ve presented questions vs. marks.
In the years that I was engaged with 2orMore, I found myself spending more and more time with the senior pastor and staff of churches vs. small group leaders, especially if I was being invited to help re-invigorate (give the ole shot in the arm to) a church’s floundering or plateaued small group ministry. Not surprisingly, these questions unearthed core issues in leadership, structure, and resourcing that directly affected the vitality of a church’s group-life. I believe that if these fundamental matters remain unaddressed, the small group pastor and leadership in their care will not be set up for success, regardless of the goals that are set.
Reid Smith, Community Life Pastor, Christ Fellowship