Skill Training: Healthy Groups Integrate Four Components into Every Gathering

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How do you answer the question, "What does your group do?"

Probably the most common answers would be, "Our group...

  • meets to discuss their pastor's last message
  • works their way through a book of the Bible
  • always has a DVD-driven study
  • eats a meal together twice a month
  • chooses a service project to do together
  • etc.

Healthy Groups Integrate Four Components into Every Gathering

One of the many helpful insights that Carl George introduced with the Meta Church model is that four components are present at every gathering in healthy groups. These components are love, learn, decide and do. The balance between the components are determined by the purpose or function of the group (for example, a small group that focuses on Bible study might be 20% love, 70% learn, 5% decide, and 5% do, while a serving group might be 20% love, 10% learn, 5% decide, and 65% do).

The key to the insight is that for a group to be healthy, all four components must be present.

Remember, designing your group for life-change is much more than simply choosing the best activity or study. The way you spend your time together is a key element. If you want your group to be healthy, all four of these components must be present. See also, Skill Training: Design Your Group for Life-Change.

Four Simple Steps for Healthy Groups

  1. Identify the function of your group (is it a Bible study, a service team, a prayer group, etc.)
  2. Determine the current percentage of time the group currently spends on loving, learning, deciding, and doing.
  3. Discuss the four components and determine the ideal percentages given the function of your group.
  4. Implement a plan to ensure that all four components are present

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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  1. Larry Baxter on March 20, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Great post Mark! I really like how this recognizes that God calls different groups to focus on different things because the people in them are different. One size definitely doesn’t fit all when it comes to groups. But if transformation is the goal (as it should be), I think you’re right in that you can’t totally neglect any of those even if you have a main focus in one. I found Bill Search’s approach on this to be helpful in Simple Small Groups, where he shares similar advice around connecting, changing, cultivating.

  2. Mike Mack on March 20, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Mark Howell’s going old school! You’re right on, here. I’m old enough to remember that others before Carl George talked about three or four components of a healthy group (although they used different terms), but I think Carl made this very easy to remember and apply. Lyman Coleman had been talking about his “3-legged stool” in much the same way for years. All really good and helpful stuff for us to reiterate. Thanks!

  3. Glen Blow on March 20, 2013 at 8:00 am

    Any examples of groups that are high on the “decide” component Mark? I’m trying to envisage what they would look like.

  4. markchowell on March 20, 2013 at 9:00 am

    That’s true, Larry. Simple Small Groups addresses this concept in a good way.


  5. markchowell on March 20, 2013 at 9:01 am

    Thanks Mike! And you’re right…it’s not really new with Carl, just presented in a different way.


  6. markchowell on March 20, 2013 at 9:02 am

    The first group or team that came to my mind is the elder board. In most cases, if you look at what they’re spending the most time on, it’s the “decide” component.


  7. Kevin on July 7, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    I think discussing how much time a class will spend loving will scare away most of the male members of the class. It’s feminine terminology.

  8. markchowell on July 8, 2013 at 5:24 am

    Thanks for jumping in here, Kevin. I’m sure you’re right for groups that can’t see past the word “love”. There’s a lot in the word, though. I think most would interpret the word to mean a kind of “authentic fellowship” (i.e., not just talking about football, but actually sharing life). And there are certainly men that rarely use the word “love”. Still, some of the most testosterone guys I know have the least trouble using the word. Kind of like Jesus.


  9. Andrew Mason on February 12, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Good stuff Mark. I think when essential components of a meeting are discussed it would be good to also give scripture too. Not so much individual principles, but examples in the Bible where we see the essential components being lived out in a way that give us a template for the church. Just an idea…

  10. markchowell on February 13, 2014 at 6:58 am

    Actually…Bible study is the “learn” component. What is learned and how it is learned would certainly be unique group to group, but the fact that it is scripture based is important.


  11. Andrew Mason on February 13, 2014 at 7:45 am

    I understood that, what I meant is that it would be great if there was an example of a small group gathering in scripture where you see the love, learn, decide and do happening at their small group meeting. Obviously, Acts 2:42 comes to mind. I think it’s good to always reinforce strategies with Biblical context as much as possible.

  12. markchowell on February 13, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Ahhh…sorry, I didn’t catch that Andrew! I’m not sure a single scripture passage demonstrates the concept.