I am a very big fan of Christian education, so putting this training resource together has been an exciting experience for me. One of the reasons I'm so pumped is that I think Christian Education gets overlooked in a lot of churches—even churches with a strong small-groups ministry.
We think that if people are listening to sermons weekly and attending a small group, they will automatically learn about God, and they will automatically grow and have their lives transformed. Unfortunately, it almost never works that way.
Fortunately, the principles and techniques known by those who study Christian Education and Spiritual Formation can help. And we've tried to highlight those principles and techniques in this assessment pack so that you can get a good idea about how your ministry, group, and personal leadership are doing.
Assessments for the Whole Group
First of all, if you plan on using this training resource at all, I recommend you don't keep it a secret from your group. You won't do any damage to the relationships in your group if you let everyone know that you're working to improve their experience. In fact, getting help and feedback from your group is a vital step toward improving the quality of Christian Education and training you experience.
For that reason, I suggest that you start off by giving the "Spiritual Audit" to each of your group members. Ask them to fill it out and bring it back to your next group meeting. This will be a great way to help your group members think practically about their own spiritual growth, and also a great way to broach the topic of Christian Education and Formation in your group as a whole. The "Spiritual Audit" is also a great conversation starter.
"Am I Being Transformed" and the "360-Degree Evaluation" are similar tools in that they are both designed to be passed at to your group members so that they can help you determine whether spiritual growth and transformation is really happening. The "360-Degree Evaluation" is a little more involved and complicated, but a great way to get some comprehensive feedback.
Assessments for Group Leaders and Teachers
This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. If you're a small-group leader, chances are you have received very little training when it comes to spiritual formation and Christian Education. And that's not your fault in any way. It's probably not anyone's fault, actually—this is an area where experts are few and far between.
But that doesn't mean you can't improve. And in order to improve, the first thing you need to do is evaluate where your weaknesses are. That's where "Checking for Unintended Curriculum" and "Evaluating Group Discussions" can help most. Those assessments will tell you if there is a short-circuit somewhere in your discussion sessions and teaching time.
"Do I Use Different Teaching Styles?" and "Do I Engage Different Learning Styles?" will help you evaluation your preparation. Everyone has a learning style and a preference for teaching, and almost everyone defaults to those styles when they prepare lessons and discussion ideas. But your group members will not necessarily match those styles, so it is important to learn how to address everyone.
"Creating an Atmosphere for Growth" is a very useful tool for determining whether your overall approach will help group members (and yourself) be open to transformation by the Holy Spirit. And "Evaluating Your Physical Environment" will help you see if the place where your group meets is distracting or blocking the work of the Holy Spirit—a very useful bit of information to have!
For what it's worth, here are a few of my own observations on evaluating Christian Education and spiritual formation. These are just some of the things I've noticed or observed as I've done the research necessary to put this training resource together.
Pay attention to the unintended curriculum. I'm obviously a little biased here because I wrote the content for that assessment, but I honestly don't hear a lot of people talking about this. Pay special attention to whether you are creating any negative associations between your group members and the Bible—that it's boring, for example. Â
Don't be shy. I said it before, but it bears repeating. There is nothing shameful about evaluating your spiritual leadership of the small group. There is no reason to keep the existence of these evaluations from your group members. In fact, if they know what you are doing (and why), they are much more likely to give you honest answers. And that's going to be the best for everyone.
—Sam O'Neal; copyright 2009 by the author and Christianity Today International. Â
Copyright © 2008 by the author and www.SmallGroups.com.