Many churches, with purity of heart, discuss the success of their small group ministry based on the numbers, typically the percentage of people 'connected' in small groups. Numbers can be an indication of success, but we can be misguided by them too. For example, we cannot presume that we are SUPPOSED to connect 100% of our congregation with other members of our congregation.
People may already have nurturing, Christ-focused relationships OUTSIDE of your church. In fact, equipping members to become connected with the unchurched in your area can accelerate a sense of life-giving community with God and others. What if we were to empower people in becoming more effective at introducing and emitting the aroma of Christ within the relational circles they already have (2 Corinthians 2:14-15). Instead of redefining their relational commitments, we validate what they are already doing 'in the world'. We equip them to "plant" a small group where they already are by helping them to naturally bring their faith to their friendships. Cross-pollinating over transplanting!
It is important that church leaders are critical about the goals they set and how success is measured. Small groups are not an end unto themselves. If the goal is to build life-giving community and engage in mission (not mutually-exclusive activities), then the metrics for measurement need to be broadened to include life-change, outreach, conversions, etc. If it is true that the number of people in small groups is an insufficient measurement of success, then it is questionable if it is acceptable to make this the primary goal of a small group ministry.
Church leaders like to track things, but I give particular caution to doing this with small groups. Unless a church has ...