Conducting a GroupLife Audit 1.0

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How would your church come out on a grouplife audit? I wondered about this last week when my church was visited by the Generis team who were conducting a generosity audit. It was a fascinating day. I sat in on several conversations. And it made me wonder about the benefit of developing a grouplife audit.

Actually, I determined right away that the need for a grouplife audit was a no-brainer. What are the important questions...that's the question.

Here's what I've come up with so far. See what you think:

  1. How obvious is it that we're made for community to members and attendees of your church?
  2. How frequently will I hear a story about the importance of being connected?
  3. When I hear inspirational stories about the heroes of your congregation, how frequently will they be about a small group leader? How often will I hear about the difference a small group made in their neighborhood or on a mission trip? How often will I hear about the way a friend or neighbor was warmly welcomed and included and later came to faith?
  4. Is there a community element to your children's ministry? How intentional and consistent is each child's connection with a shepherd?
  5. Is there a community element to your student ministry? How intentional and consistent is each student's connection with a shepherd?
  6. Do the serving teams in your ministries have a community element?
  7. Is your senior pastor in a small group?
  8. How frequently does your senior pastor mention being in a group?
  9. Can I be on staff or in a leadership role if I'm not in a small group?
  10. Are there next steps on your menu of programs that don't lead to grouplife?
  11. How many times a year can I attend a weekend service without hearing about grouplife?
  12. If I ask someone at the visitor's center how to get connected, will I be given the right answer?
  13. Will I be asked "what group am I in" (or at least, "am I in a group?") when I have a prayer, counseling or benevolence need?
  14. When I attend your membership class will I hear about the importance of being in a group? Will it be clear that it's normal to be in a group?
  15. When I read the welcome letter from your pastor will it refer to joining a small group as a next step?
  16. Can I look at your weekend bulletin and see that being connected is normal?
  17. Can I see how to take a first step toward connection in your bulletin?
  18. Can I see from your website's homepage that being in a group is normal?
  19. How many clicks does it take to get from your website's homepage to the small group ministry page?
  20. When I'm looking at your website's small group ministry page, will I see features (types of groups, meeting schedules, and contact info) or benefits (our marriage was saved, my faith has been strengthened, we feel like we're known and loved)?
  21. Can I connect with a group directly (via an online finder or connection method)? Or do I need to go through a middleman (by turning in a form to be processed)?
  22. How accurate and up-to-date is your online small group information?
  23. If I contact a small group leader via the online small group finder, how long will it take for me to hear back? What percentage of the time will I not hear back?
  24. Is there a way to talk to a person about groups? Or can I only send an email or leave a voicemail?
  25. When I hear about "how much my small group means to me," do groups seem to be for everyone? Just for spiritual giants? Just for spiritual newbies?
  26. How easy is it to take a first step to get connected?
  27. How hard is it for a new person to figure out what their first step ought to be?
  28. Once I've decided to test drive a small group, how long will I have to wait before I can act on my decision?
  29. How hard is it to find enough leaders to connect the number of people looking for a group?
  30. What was your growth in percentage connected last year? What was your growth in percentage connected the previous year? What was your average growth in percentage connected over the last 5 years?
By the way...I think the questions and the exercise will be very helpful for church leadership. Need fresh eyes to interpret your findings? I'd love to help. You can Email Me to find out how I can help with next steps.

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

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  1. Anne1963 on March 21, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    I think I’d want to add a question or two to learn how “safe” (and able to to be authentic) people feel within their small groups.  I’d also want to ask some sort of question about the spiritual health of my small group leaders.

  2. Anonymous on March 22, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Good thinking, Anne. I like both ideas. I’m planning to edit and produce a 2.0 version soon.


  3. Anne on March 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    I read a post somewhere recently about the connection between spiritual health and emotional health. When I think about the difficulties the can sit under the surface of small groups (and go unnoticed by church leadership) I always sigh.  If our inquiries are too probing, we may find that the assumptions we have about our leaders and the needs that folks have place us in a ministry conundrum.  These are complicated times.  People have a LOT of BIG problems…some seen and some unseen.  Small groups distribute the load of church ministry and relationships, but it also distributes the problems.  It is just as likely that small groups can help detect issues and create a pathway to ministry, as it is that these same groups can conceal issues from the knowledge and responsibility of the pastor(s) ultimately responsible for ministry.  There are soooo many assumptions in play. We believe that our church leaders are emotionally (and therefore, spiritually) healthy and safe…but you and I both know that every church has pastors, executives, deacons, elders, lay leaders, etc who can be pretty messed up.  Their “stuff” often hides behind their authority, position, ability to compartmentalize, age, gender, popularity, and such.  Finding the right rubric for assessing their spiritual and emotional health and determining the method(s) of accountability and action is no small or easy task.  When it comes to the people who depend on these group leaders, we can’t escape the fact that building meaningful relationships has greater implications than disseminating doctrine, promoting engagement, and distributing the ministry load. Meaningful relationships are also subject to serious messiness. When people’s “stuff” surfaces it has an effect upon the whole group.  Thoughtfully constructed groups presumably provide appropriate training for group leaders to guide folks to appropriate pastoral/deacon/elder/executive care, but we can’t ensure that we’re guiding folks to a healthy place. (The stories I could tell!!!)  And frankly, if group leaders or members sense that their lives are under a microscope they will quickly recognize us as sin sniffers and fruit inspectors rather than constant, careful gardeners. These are the scenarios that cause people to disengage and ultimately disappear.  We seldom have a pastoral and/or executive team that have gracious, tenderly applied plans of redemption that help folks stay at church and get restored to good fellowship.  Churches big enough to have lots of small groups (ours has over 100) just accept the turnover. They got it bad and that ain’t good.

  4. Anonymous on March 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks for a very thought-provoking analysis. I think you’re pointing out the need for a few questions on the GroupLife Audit that would diagnose leader development. Any recommendations for a question or two?


  5. Anne on March 22, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    I just remembered what sparked my thinking. I saw someone link to this site: I've heard about Scazzero’s work, but haven’t read it myself…yet.  Still, just the title was enough to drive some thinking on my end.As far as questions for your GroupLife Audit, go…I’ll think and pray about those a bit and get back to you.  In the meantime, looking at your project let me share this tidbit of advice with you, which comes from my previous work helping to enact a University mandated, campus-wide writing initiative.  The steps I outline below will help you craft a really thoughtful, adaptable audit that can be used in varied contexts. I recommend thinking of the audit as at least two documents that are continually reviewed, assessed, and revised..  One document is the actual audit, and the other is a detailed explanation.  (I’m assuming that you’ve already created a statement of objective/purpose to guide you.)  At any rate, I’d highly recommend following these steps…1. Collect information/ideas from others. (I like that you solicited in-put on the questions.  I hope others pitch in and contribute.  You’ll end up with a better product in the end.)2. Create headings/categories for the distribution of the information you gather. 3. Distribute your questions under the appropriate headings. (This will force you to make your questions precise, because initially you’ll be likely to find that some questions fit in more than one place.  That’s an indication that you need more clarity and precision.)3. Create a master document that sits behind your audit.  This document should provide the details–the reasoning, scripture, and any other supporting text references– that explains each question’s purpose/goals.4. Pilot the audit.5. Revise the audit.6. Schedule reviews of the audit.7. Develop a rubric for reviewing the audit.I know it sounds really over-the-top, but your final product will be publishable and super valuable.  You’ll be able to take this show on the road and teach it to others.  :)Blessings,

  6. Anonymous on March 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks for the input, Ann, and if you think about specific questions…I’d love to hear them.


  7. Anne on March 22, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Try these and see if they fit your objectives:

    How do you ensure the spiritual/emotional health of your pastoral staff and group leaders?

    Do members of your pastoral staff assigned to sit-in with each group from time to time?

    Do your small group participants have a clear, effective means of providing small group assessment feedback to your pastoral staff?

    Does your small group leader training provide clear, easy-to-follow steps to identifying and directing participants in need of pastoral care?

  8. Anonymous on March 24, 2012 at 7:48 am

    There’s some good angles here. Thanks for thinking through it.