Friday, July 22, 2011

Review - Small Groups Big Impact

Recently Rick Howerton made me aware of a book called "Small Groups Big Impact" by Jim Egli and Dwight Marable. This book presents the results of a careful study on the factors that result in healthy small groups and a thriving small group ministry. I made several posts (Part one, two, three) reflecting on Howerton's interviews with Egli. Their findings seemed so interesting I immediately ordered the book and read through it. Here are my thoughts...

In "Small Groups Big Impact: Connecting People to God and One Another in Thriving Groups" the authors share the results of research studying 3000 groups in 200 churches in 21 countries. Some of the results were very intuitive, but some findings were quite surprising. For example, they found that neither the leader's personality, giftedness, age, gender, nor any other factor outside the leader's control had any impact on group health or group. Also, the time spent in preparation for the study had no statistical impact on group health. What was the key factor? Time spent in prayer for the group meeting and members each week. Sure we say prayer is important, but do we really believe that enough to make it a top priority for our group? Another surprising finding: open groups were found to have a significantly higher level of community than closed groups! Typically people favor closed groups in hopes of finding intimacy and close community - in practice the opposite occurs: inward-focused groups stagnate and do not end up experiencing a greater level of community.

The authors found three sets of factors that correlate with strong groups that experience health and growth.

Small Group Health Factors -- Pray - Reach - Care - Empower

Leaders who pray for their group, empower their people to lead and serve, and group members who actively care not only for themselves but reach out to those outside the group are the groups that thrive and grow.

Small Group Growth Factors -- Conversion Growth - Assimilation - Group Multiplication

The research found three distinct dynamics which all had to be present for small groups to multiply and thrive within a church. Conversion is not enough unless they are enfolded into group care and life. New groups are almost impossible for form without multiplication of leaders.

Church-level Growth Factors -- Intercede - Equip - Coach

What can the church do to best support its small groups? Consistent and visible prayer for groups, members and outsiders was vital, as was an intentional leadership development process. But the most important factor was the presence of an active coaching system. Systems that thrive consistently answer 'yes' to the question: "Does my coach or pastor meet with me to personally encourage me as a leader?” while small group ministries that fail to thrive have leaders that would say: “I feel as if no one keeps track of our group or me as a leader.” What do coaches do in practice? They pray for and care about their leaders, just as the leaders are expected to do for their group members. Coaches pray for them and with their group leaders, meet with them 1-on-1 primarily for encouragement in spiritual growth and leadership, and they regularly gather them in huddles to talk and problem-solve together.

Small groups are the most crucial factor in the health and growth of churches.

Coaching is the most pivotal factor in the health of the small group ministries.

The book concludes by giving some very good advise on facilitating group meetings in a way that exemplifies the healthy group factors. It also discusses what church leaders can do to support the small group ministry as a whole.

Overall I found Small Groups Big Impact an outstanding resource for small group pastors and group leaders alike. I would really call it a must-read for senior pastors, small group coordinators and coaches. The book is well-written and not very long - get a copy for yourself at Amazon or other retailers.

No comments: