Analysing Your Minimum Factor: Holistic Small Groups
The purpose of this series is to offer some basic “entry points” for beginning to explore your Minimum Factor graph.
This post is for those whose Minimum Factor is Holistic Small Groups.
Two initial points need to be made.
First, all the questions relate to the degree to which the small groups in the church are places where “individual believers can find intimate community, practical help, and intense spiritual interaction” (Schwarz, Color Your World with NCD, p116). The higher a question’s result, the greater its contribution to groups being “holistic”.
Secondly, the questions are included in the survey because it has been shown to high degree of accuracy in international statistical terms that they distinguish healthy growing churches from those in decline. In effect, churches attracting higher scores for these questions are more likely to be growing, and vice versa. Not liking the questions, or thinking other questions would be better, in no way detracts from the 10 appearing on the graph.
1. Essential foundations for growing meaningful relationships
Q90 – In my small group we trust each other
Q65 – I am a member of a small group in which I feel at home
Growing meaningful holistic relationships always depends on a foundation of trust proven over time. Trust is broken quickly but repaired agonisingly slowly, so it must be paramount in the thinking of small group leaders. If people “feel at home” they are more likely to open up about themselves.
2. Growing relational depth
Q49 – I am a member of a small group in our church where it is possible to talk about personal problems
Q34 – My small group helps me grow in my spiritual life
Q55 – I am a member of a group in our church where others will pray with me if I need it
For commentary on these questions, see point #4 ‘The relational onion’ in the blog ‘Analysing Your Minimum Factor: Loving Relationships’.
To contemplate small groups in your church which largely do not help members grow in their spiritual life can be quite instructive in thinking about the place of small groups in the overall health and growth of the church.
Q27 – In my small group we spend lots of time on things which are irrelevant to me (neg)
Q11 – My small group helps me with the challenges of my life
These two questions imply that small groups must provide an environment where members can raise issues confronting them in their daily lives and then address them with responses (e.g. offering Christian community, applying biblical principles) which are relevant and helpful. Many a “traditional Bible study group” fails because it does not appreciate that simply studying the Bible together is no guarantee of relevance.
4. Small Group Leader training
Q76 – The leaders of our small groups are trained for their tasks
Like churches, small groups rise and fall on leadership. If growing holistic small groups is a priority in your church, then investing in the ongoing training of your small group leaders is a top priority. The essence of the training should be on how the prospective leaders can bring together a small group of people to grow in spiritual maturity and support one another in biblical community.
It is surprising how many pastors say small groups are important but don’t have regular small group leader training and don’t allocate money in the budget to resource them.
I think Carl George set a good benchmark with his VHS meetings – monthly gatherings of small group leaders where some ‘vision’ is shared, the leaders ‘huddle’ to discuss issues of importance to them in working with their small groups, and a ‘skill’ is imparted to grow leader competence.
5. Growing in numbers not just maturity
Q54 – In the group I belong to it is easy for newcomers to be integrated
Q78 – Our small groups actively seek to multiply themselves
I was intrigued to learn once that, on average, small groups become closed to outsiders just six weeks after forming. Yes, that quickly. The reason most often given is that every time you add a new person the relational dynamics change. Good point, but closing the doors to newcomers can also be an excuse for becoming comfortable. I talk about the ‘billabong’ problem (see Wikipedia definition if not Australian) – at some point the lack of ‘inflow’ not only leads to a lack of ‘outflow’ but progressive stagnation. Over time small groups need a steady supply of newcomers to keep them fresh and a vital part of the healthy growth of the church as a whole.
Which leads to the issue of multiplication. I’ve heard the argument that ‘multiplication’ actually means ‘division’, and ‘division is death’. That is, multiplying a group into two breaks up relationships that have been forged over time. I fear the argument is more based on staying within a comfort zone instead of resolutely facing the challenges of ongoing growth (both personal and church). Healthy groups focused on growth in both numbers and maturity can expect to multiply naturally, and welcome it when it occurs.