Diagnosing Small Group Health

A simple tool to help evaluate health at the various levels of small group ministry.

I have found that small group "health" gets evaluated from very different perspectives depending on your role in small group ministry. When I talk to small group directors or staff pastors or leadership boards, small group health seems to have much to do with uniform measurements (% of people in groups, development of new group leaders, retention of existing small group leaders, % of leaders who actively participate in training events, number of leader coaches, etc.). Additionally, speaking from experience, church leaders are tempted to measure group health based on what they do not hear (the old idea that no news is good news—the absence of news bubbling to the surface about relational conflict, divisions, shaky doctrine, poorly shepherded members, etc.).

If you are a small group leader, I have found small group health gets evaluated from a very different perspective. Many group leaders do understand their role in the bigger church mission and vision. However, the health concerns and "measurements" are very different for the small group leader. For instance, we recently surveyed the small group leaders at my local church, Harvest Community, and found the major concerns related to small group health included:

  • seeing group members develop a daily relationship with Christ (personal devotional life)

  • seeing families of our group members becoming Christ-centered in their lifestyle (family devotional life)

  • having group members committed to following Christ and the mission of the church (being committed to the larger church community)

  • keeping an external outreach and service focus among group members

  • developing new leaders who can work side-by-side with the current group leader

Because there are different perspectives, depending on where you function in the overall ministry structure, there is a need to do a broad diagnosis of small group health. That broad diagnosis, I believe, involves three unique levels of assessment:

  • spiritual vitality of the group leader(s),

  • spiritual health of the group members and their relationships together in the small group community, and

  • the health and effectiveness of the small group ministry within the whole church.

At Harvest Community Christian Church, we have been working on a simple tool to help evaluate health at the various levels of small group ministry. The tool (below) has been an ongoing work for the past 4 years and is still being refined to fit our local ministry situation and philosophy, but perhaps you will find components of it useful in your own ministry situation.

Small Group Ministry Assessment

The Group Leader(s) Heart
  • Am I actively modeling a Christ-centered devotional lifestyle in my relationship to God, my relationship to my spouse, and my relationship with my family (e.g. with my children)?

  • Am I experiencing the nurture and safety of a leadership community and regularly attending training events with that community (group leader huddles, retreats, coaching one-on-ones, etc.)?

  • Am I being prayed for, and am I praying specifically for those in my sphere of influence daily?

The Life and Ministry of my Small Group Community. Is my group…
  • Making intentional relational connections with people in need of Jesus and inviting them and their families into Christian community?

  • Facilitating group members to become involved in accountable discipleship relationships?

  • Selecting a balance of study topics that address the specific growth needs of the group and, over time, give a "whole counsel of God" perspective (rather than choosing similar studies repeatedly)?

  • Demonstrating the "one-anothers" of Scripture toward each other?

  • Raising up apprentice leader(s)?

  • Shepherding one another by:

  • Making contact with my group members outside of our meeting times?

  • Welcoming new people and facilitating follow-up as they enter our group?

  • Caring for the emotional and physical needs of group members (providing food/physical resources, going directly to the church benevolence ministry for specific financial needs)?

  • Growing in these areas…

  • Keeping a daily connection with God, with spouse, with family?

  • Obeying God more today than a few months ago?

  • Becoming more loving?

  • Becoming more approachable?

  • Becoming less judgmental?

  • Becoming more serving?

The Group Leader's Role in the Group Gatherings and the Church as a Whole
  • Within the life of the church, is our group finding a good balance between learning, service, outreach, worship, fun, fellowship and rest? Are we finding healthy balances between Life Stories and Bible Truth, between Care and Discipleship, between Kindness and Confrontation, and between Openness and Intimacy?

  • Is there a larger purpose and mission in our group gatherings?

  • Is the logistics of group gatherings being worked out? (where, when, food, kids involvement, etc)

  • Is the group preparing for multiplication?

  • As needed, are group members embracing congregation-wide service and vision?

  • Is the leader or administrative person in the group keeping attendance and individual group member records for updates to the church, reports and directories?

  • Am I, as a group leader, completing occasional reports and self-evaluations designed to help me with the above?

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