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4 Questions to Evaluate Small Group Model Effectiveness

There are a number of small group models or systems. The question is, how do you evaluate the effectiveness of a small group model or system? Better, how do you determine whether the model you’ve chosen is the right choice for your church?

I thought about this last week when a reader disagreed with my assessment of a particular model. And it occurred to me that what I’m calling effective might not really match your definition of effectiveness

Four questions I use to define and measure effectiveness:

First, can your model connect more adults in groups than you average in your weekend worship services?  

Since I believe that the optimum environment for life-change is in a small group, I’m looking for a system that can provide connection for more adults than you have on an average weekend. Don’t forget, average weekend adult worship attendance in most churches is only part of the total number of adults and Easter or Christmas Eve adult attendance are much better estimates of the total number of adults involved to some degree. For any small group model or system to be effective it must be able to connect more adults in groups than attend the weekend worship servies. See also What Percentage of Your Adults are Actually Connected?

Second, does your model work theoretically…or in reality?  

In my mind only “asterisk-free” small group systems or models can be deemed effective. “This is a great system. We just can’t find enough leaders” and “We love this model! We just have more leaders than we need for the number of people interested in a group” are both indications that the system may be theoretically effective but not in reality. There are no problem-free systems. Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.

Third, does your system make disciples?  

Remember, connecting is only the beginning. If your system connects people but doesn’t make disciples…you can hardly call it effective. Potlucks without purpose are just that. Moving from a face in the crowd to joining a group is a nice toe-in-the-water, but life-change happens when doing life together means you’re being challenged to live your life the way Jesus would if He were in your body. Life-change happens when you’re known, cared for, forgiven, loved, challenged, prayed for, trusted, supported by and depended upon. See also, Top 10 Things I Need to Know about Discipleship.

Fourth, does your system allow you to pay attention to the right things? 

If you’re spending so much time updating next semester’s catalog, match-making prospective members with existing leaders, or reminding leaders that it really is about time for their group to birth that you don’t have time to focus on develop existing leaders, recruit new leaders and launch new groups…it might be that your system is inefficient and diverting attention from the right things. See also, Matchmaking: Making It Easy to Find a GroupWhat’s the Best Way for People to Sign Up and Commit to a Group and Birthing, Splitting, and Dividing Groups vs. the Jedi Path.  

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Mark Howell serves as Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV. He founded SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services to help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. He spent four years on the consulting staff at Lifetogether and often contributes to ministry periodicals such as the Pastor's Ministry Toolbox and ChurchCentral.com.