When Huddle leaders around the world were asked for their most profound small groups learning last year, one pastor in Europe got straight to the point:
“It is not numbers and growth but health and balance of purposes that makes the difference in the life of small group ministry. It was the greatest discovery I found while reading Small Groups with Purpose.”
Stop right there to consider and honestly answer this next question:
What is the main objective of your small group ministry?
Is it to grow a ministry that astounds others with its impressive growth and sheer size? Or, is it to see lives changed as people strive to become more like Christ?
It’s an age-old dilemma, quantity or quality, and at first blush these two attributes can seem mutually exclusive. Some ministry leaders are also deterred by the popular belief that you can structure your ministry for growth or for control, but not for both.
But when we look a little closer we discover that quantity is actually a natural byproduct of quality. Healthy organisms grow. So, if you concentrate on creating spiritually healthy people (meaning quality) the quantity side of the equation will take care of itself. If lives are changing in your small groups you won’t be able to keep people out of them.
If this is true, how do you measure spiritual health in your groups so you know how your groups are doing? How do you keep your eye on the prize?
We started with a once-a-year survey of small group leaders/hosts. We knew that there is a vast difference between what people say and what they do, so did our best to capture behavior as a more accurate indicator of health. What were people in groups actually doing that would indicate their spiritual health? To learn this, the survey posed questions listing types of activities and asked which of these were being done in the group. Here’s one example question from the survey:
What has been the level of fellowship in your group in the last year? Check all that apply.
- Weekly Small Group meeting.
- Every other week Small Group meeting.
- Communicating often with group members to encourage them.
- Attending life events of group participants (i.e. birthdays, graduations, celebrations etc).
- Your group regularly has a meal or does fun things together outside the group time.
- Caring for others in the group (i.e. illness, grief, moves and transitions).
- Sharing what is currently happening in your life and group members sharing as well.
- All the above
The first survey established a baseline measurement. Every year we conducted the same survey again to see how our strategies were affecting spiritual health in small groups. Each annual survey helped us develop the next year’s plan.
So, the lesson is, don’t just make sure you have a great vision; make sure you know how it’s working. Keep your eye on the prize.