Toward the end of each year, a lot of people become more reflective and begin to plan ahead for the year to come. Reflection done right is not a sentimental exercise, but a strategic one that will remind you of what the Lord has done, what to celebrate, and what you can improve.
A lot of learning and growth happens through good reflection. However, reflection alone is not enough – it works best in reference goals. Rick Warren has said, “You have to inspect what you expect.” We all want healthy groups, so this begs the question: How do you do you inspect or evaluate group health?
I recently saw the Small Group Network post this statement on its social media: “Evaluate by health, not numbers – period.” That’s so true, but it’s not easy to do! The most beautiful things take work to discover, like climbing a mountain to experience the scenic view from the summit. Similarly, it’s worth the effort to determine how you can best evaluate the health of your group.
Start by looking at proven examples like Saddleback’s Spiritual Health Assessment and Spiritual Health Planner. Know that you can use online tools like SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo and apply a Likert Scale to questions that are highly-subjective and convert people’s experiences to measurable data. As a small group point person, beware of these five well-trodden paths that will take you off course from discovering a true view of group health:
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- Preoccupation with Attendance – Attendance naturally fluctuates, takes a fair amount of time and energy to ascertain, and tends to mistakenly outweigh other more important factors. This is unfortunate because there is much more to the equation of group health such as knowing the health of your group leaders/hosts and their level of connectivity with the people responsible for their spiritual development. Steve Gladen speaks to this in “Planning Small Groups with Purpose,” where he responds to the question of “How will you measure progress?”
- Obsession with Wordsmithing or Packaging – Although it’s important to link a spiritual health assessment to your church’s mission, leadership can become hyper-focused on how things are phrased or how they get it into the hands of people that it takes months or even years before it’s released in a usable form. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel or pursue the illusion of finding a perfect way to measure spiritual growth.
- Incessant Tinkering – Oftentimes leadership can’t resist changing the measurement tool they’ve painstakingly created. They feel compelled to massage the language, add and subtract questions, and even turn to other tools to evaluate health. It’s best to decide on what you’re going to use and then use it over time. When it comes to evaluating spiritual health, trends discerned over time beats short-term attempts at accurate results every time.
- Too Complicated – There will be wider implementation and usage if the tool you develop to evaluate health is simple to understand and on the shorter-side. Make it portable and easy to do. Don’t go too deep on analysis or too far on figuring out just the right next steps to offer in response to people’s results or else it won’t be effective.
- Failure to Apply Results – The feedback received from evaluating group health is not the end of your effort, but the beginning. Once you’ve gleaned results, there should be dialogue, celebration, and sometimes course-correction. The input of trusted friends helps people digest their results. If a group agrees to do so, all results can be given to the group leader who can create a composite score that can actually help a group learn more about their collective strengths and areas for development.
This last point is where Communities of Purpose can help! C.O.P.s are peer-to-peer learning groups that provide the encouragement, focus, and accountability for small group ministry point people to implement strategic plans to initiate or accelerate small groups in their churches. It’s the next step for people who have read Steve Gladen’s latest book referenced above or attended an Accelerate! small group workshop. Learn how you can partner with others who are reflecting, goal-setting, and improving small groups in their churches by visiting https://smallgroupnetwork.com/cop
If you’re too busy to reflect, you’re too busy. It’s worth the investment of time to ponder this past year, establish expectations for group health, and decide how you will evaluate your progress in the New Year. For more on this subject, look for “Year-End Review” under the Small Group Network’s Group Talk.