Brandon Cox has written a great article on the signs of a healthy small group. Take a few minutes and read these indicators, thinking about your Sunday School small group. Are there any of these that represent growth opportunities for your class? Are there any that you feel much more confident about than others?
Knowing and understanding your small group’s strengths and weaknesses are crucial to your ability to lead and get the most out of your people.
7 Signs of a Healthy Sunday School Small Group:
1. There is a consistency within the membership, and a desire to meet.
When a group is healthy, there is a desire and a delight in getting together. It doesn’t feel like “one more thing” but rather “I can’t wait to meet next week” And healthy groups have people who are intentional about meeting if at all possible. Illness, travel, weather, and other events can get in the way, obviously, but for the most part, healthy groups get together regularly because they want to do so.
The metric: Does the small group have a majority of people on role who consistently attend several times per month? What did the classes learn from all their contacts for the Better Together Weekend?
2. There is genuine authenticity and transparent sharing.
The beauty of small groups is that it’s a place to be real. Many Sunday School experts say that it takes about four weeks for people to start opening up and actually sharing more than “we’re doing fine” when sharing time occurs, or to feel comfortable contributing from their heart to the group discussion.
The metric: Do group members know enough about their classmates to pray and care for each other effectively?
3. People are growing in knowledge, but they are also growing in grace.
This is the difference between a traditional classroom setting for Bible study and a living room setting. We need to grow in knowledge, but knowledge does nothing but puff us up unless we’re applying what we’re hearing and becoming more like Jesus.
The metric: Do people who know our group members recognize a more gracious attitude and response to others in everyday life?
4. Real community and friendship is increasing.
A small group might start out as a Bible study group, but if people respond by opening up, it usually doesn’t take long for group members to start understanding the spiritual, family relationship of each member to the other members. This is where real community takes place – a kind of eternal bonding called fellowship.
The metric: Do people get together outside of Bible study times and show up in crisis moments for each other?
5. There is an intentionality about serving together and developing as leaders.
Bonding can happen watching football, but it usually happens more effectively in moments of serving others as part of the same team. There is a reason why groups that go on mission trips together know each other so much more intimately afterward.
The metric: Are needs within the group being met? Is the group meeting needs in the community together? Are leaders stepping forward out of the group for other areas of serving?
6. There is a culture of inclusion and inviting.
I’m a big believer in allowing people to belong before they believe. To put it another way, people need a family to adopt them before they “fit in” or look like everyone else. And a small group is an excellent place for this belonging to happen. Healthy small groups have an excitement about welcoming newcomers and they rejoice together to see a friend make a spiritual step forward.
The metric: Is anyone in the group inviting someone or sharing their faith?
7. New leaders are stepping forward.
This is where multiplication happens. Out of the atmosphere of a church with healthy small groups, the inevitable outflow is a stream of new people willing to host groups and set the table for life change to happen for others.
The metric: Are our groups experiencing the kind of growth that produces new leaders.