Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 1.16.13 PM copyThis month, I got the chance to collaborate with my friend/hero Brooklyn Lindsey on an ebook called Conversations with Small Group Leaders: How Giving and Receiving Feedback Can Transform Your Culture. 

We wrote it for the team over at Lead Small Weekly. And, by the way, have I told you about Weekly yet? I don’t think I have. I need to. Because I think you’re going to love it. Another day, though. For now, let me give you a peek at this ebook. Then I’ll tell you about another place you can go to hear more about this topic. And then, if you want even more, you can head over to Lead Small Weekly to get the full ebook. Cool? Cool. Here we go.

Several years ago, the Middle School Ministry at my (Elle’s) church seemed to be going pretty well. Our programs were fun, memorable and well received by our middle schoolers. More kids were coming than ever before, and our numbers continued to grow. We attributed that success to small groups. At the time, every kid was in a small group and we had a ton of great small group leaders on our team. As far as we knew, things were going great!

But then we had a wake-up call.

It seemed like a typical Sunday morning.

We played games.
We sang songs.
We taught a message.
We broke into small groups.
We began to take attendance.
And then we spotted the problem.

The good news: 80-something middle school boys had shown up that morning! The bad news: only two of their small group leaders had.

I’m not exactly sure when a small group ceases being a small group and, instead, becomes a violent mob, but I’m pretty sure we crossed the line that morning. While we managed (miraculously) to survive the following 30 minutes with zero injury reports, something clearly needed to change.

Our staff walked away from that morning asking two things. (Okay, three if you count: Am I fired?) We needed to know: How did this happen? And how do we stop this from happening again?

Three things immediately became clear.

1. Our SGLs were not connecting with kids as well as we had thought.

2. We were not leading our SGLs as well as we had thought.

3. Our structure did not support small groups as well as we had thought. 

Somehow we had totally missed all of this. And that was the problem.

How did it happen? It happened because we didn’t have any ongoing systems in place for measuring the effectiveness of our small groups. If we had, it wouldn’t have taken a crisis to help us see our shortcomings.

Hopefully, you haven’t been in the spot my church was in. But maybe you know what it’s like to be taken by surprise—to realize, suddenly, that your small groups culture isn’t working quite as well as you thought it was.

In some ways, the success of small groups can be difficult to measure because small groups are based on relationships and . . . well, relationships aren’t exactly easy to measure. But while relationships can be difficult to evaluate, they’re not impossible to evaluate.

When you’re trying to gauge whether or not your small groups are working, there are some things you can measure objectively. Like:

how many people showed up this week.
how many SGLs you have—or still need.
how many dollars you have left in your budget.

But those things can’t tell us everything, because there are other aspects of small groups that are very subjective. Like:

how much an SGL is investing in their few.
how well you’re training and equipping your leaders.
whether or not relationships are working.

So how can you measure the parts of your small groups culture that seem so un-measurable? We think you can start by having more conversations with the people who matter.

Talk to kids.
Talk to parents.

But maybe most importantly . . .

Talk to your SGLs.


If you’d like to dive more deeply into this topic, I’ve got a couple of options for you. First, you can grab the rest of this ebook when you subscribe to Weekly! And second, you can check out Episode 21 of Youth Ministry Answers: One-on-One Conversations with Small Group Leaders.