075 - How To Know if Your Small Groups Are Making Disciples - Leaders.Church

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075 – How To Know if Your Small Groups Are Making Disciples

What’s in this Episode?

Are the small groups in your church really helping make disciples? Are people growing in their faith? Or are the small groups more just connecting points for people? That’s the question so many churches are asking. How to determine if people are growing in their walk with God is a critical part of knowing the success of your small group ministry. So in today’s episode, we’re gonna talk about how to know if your small group ministry is helping make disciples.


Read the Transcript

Jonathan Hardy 0:00
Are the small groups in your church really helping make disciples? Are people growing in their faith? Or are the small groups more just connecting points for people? That’s the question so many churches are asking. And how to determine if people are growing in their walk with God is a critical part of knowing the success of your small group ministry. So in today’s episode, we’re gonna talk about how to know if your small group ministry is helping make disciples. Here we go.

Dick Hardy 0:28
You know, I’ve had the privilege of being involved with small group ministry for 13 years, actually going back to point when you were driving the ship for much of what was happening with small group ministry there at the church. And we’ve had three small groups. Mom and I have had three small groups, and the middle one kind of bombed. So that will not be the focus or discussion today.

Dick Hardy 0:54
That would be another good episode – what we did wrong. But the first and third one were really outstanding groups. In the first group, we had a friend that was very, I’m going to use the term new and her faith. And now she looked like she just was like everybody else in the group. And we had a lot of people who really were solid in their faith, had known the Lord for a long time. But this one particular gal, I’ll just call her Ann. Ann was just so new, you know. I remember one time even, we had suggested that maybe she would pray for the meal. And she was so nervous about doing that now, she would really would prefer not. And yet we knew she knew the Lord, but she was such, really, an infant in her faith. And I watched Ann, over the period of probably four or five years that we were together, really get strengthened in her faith. Now, I would not say that even at the end of those four or five years that, you know, she’s gonna be a raving evangelist, or something of that nature. But she got grounded in her faith, because she hung with people who knew Jesus, and she desired to be like that. And that was such, to me, a beautiful story of how a life group walked life with Ann and her husband. So it really, it really does happen. And this is what we want to happen, for your life group, small group ministry. And we want to talk a little bit today about how you actually know if your small groups are producing disciples. So we’re gonna, just going to give you two or three items, and it’s gonna be very simple for you to just track through in making that determination.

Jonathan Hardy 2:47
Well, and I would mention, too, that in this current day and age, the small group ministry, for a lot of churches is their primary discipleship mechanism. This is where the ongoing relationships with other people are happening. This is where the more in depth discussion is taking place, whether it’s particular Bible studies that churches are doing or whether they’re kind of doing a follow up to the Sunday morning sermons, or whatever it is, but this is kind of, in this particular, you know, time in life, really, this is the primary vehicle for discipleship for a lot of churches.

Dick Hardy 3:21
It really is – really is. A lot of churches previously, and including our church had done a Sunday school, adult Sunday school or adult Bible fellowship. And those were wonderful. They served their purpose during their time. Small groups now, really, have stepped into that role, and are doing a wonderful job discipling. Now here’s how, as the leader, you want to know, am I making progress? Is this just a social club of 10, 12, 15 people? Or is the group, are the group members really growing in discipleship?

Dick Hardy 3:53
First, the church has to really define the goals of what small groups are all about. Certainly, small groups are about fellowship, for the body to come together, to break bread together, to enjoy being together. That’s a key component. But there’s also the discipleship component. And then, and for your church, how is it that the Bible is consumed in the small group? Is it some sort of a defined curriculum? Now, we certainly don’t recommend that it’s a curriculum like a Sunday School curriculum. But as you have your fellowship together, are you doing some things, maybe video curriculum, or it’s, there are all sorts of video curriculums out there that are very small group oriented? So you can watch a video. You can have discussion guides that are Bible based. That’s very good. Jonathan mentioned the sermon-based curriculum, which serves a great purpose. I’ll have to tell you when our church first started doing sermon-based, as a group leader, I thought, “Oh, man, this is going to be a lot more work on me.” Which the way archers put it together, is not a lot more work on me. And it actually helps reinforce what the Lord has spoken through our pastor. The point is, YOU define the goal of the small groups now and then you work those goals out through your small group leaders. So you don’t have them going to hither and yon. But they’re very defined. And when you get them to find it’s going to help you determine – are you successful to the goals you’ve laid out.

Jonathan Hardy 5:27
That’s the key point — is you have to know the target in order to see if you’re gonna hit it. And if you don’t know what that target is, then you’re not going to be able to hit it. And so that’s why it’s so important for us, if we’re going to be able to look and measure okay, are we actually making disciples? First, we have to have those goals in mind.

Dick Hardy 5:42
Exactly. Now, when it gets to the actual point of measuring small groups, here are some things I want to encourage you to take a look at. Certainly, you measure enrollment. So you know, you’ve got a church of X number of people, and you say you’ve got, I’m just going to pick a number. Your church would depend on your size. But, let’s suppose you have 45 people in small groups. Okay. Well, then, next semester, do you have 45, 48 50, 52? Or do you have 32, 38, 35? You know, are you growing in the total number of participants?

Jonathan Hardy 5:57
Yeah. Then I might even mention, too, it’s not just necessarily total number of participants. You also want to look at percentage of participation that’s actually showing up? Yes, because you could grow by five new new people in a small group. But if your church had 50 new people to attend church, you’ve actually declined in the total percentage wise. So I think that’s maybe just a good distinction to point. That is a good impact. I might even mention, we actually talked about this in Episode 73. Not just specific to small group ministry only. But just a lot of the church metrics as a whole. We talked about what data to measure in ministry, that’d be a good episode to check out. If you are kind of wondering, you’re questioning how can I? What data should we be tracking? And how can we know if we’re hitting a target? Check that episode out Episode 73. Anyway, I interrupted,

Dick Hardy 7:02
Yeah, no problem. It’s a gift, right? Not the first time. The other percentage to measure is the percentage of people in the groups that are actually showing up. So let’s use, let me I use 45. Let’s use 50, a round number. No, let’s use 100. Really, if you’ve got 100 people in your small groups, and every week, your average attendance is 72. That means 28 are not. 72% are showing up. Next semester, you want to see that number go up. So you want to see, okay, so we have 76% participation. Well, that’s a sign that your your groups are getting stronger, because the people who are in them, more of them are beginning to come more frequently. You want to measure the number of leaders you have, and whether your leaders are reproducing. That’s the key. You want to measure the percentage of giving. Here’s another one, where you’ve got 100 people in small groups, and let’s pick a number — 50 of them are regular tithers. They’re regular givers of the church. You want to see that number go up. So if all of a sudden, next semester you have 60 of the 100, well, that would say, your churches or your small groups are being effective in discipleship. Then you’ve got the the participation and outreaches. You know, lots of churches do serve days or project partnership. Our just church does project partnership, where you’re giving an opportunity for people to participate. And these are perfect for groups to do together. Right? Are you increasing the participation in your local outreaches, your foreign missions outreach, stateside, mission outreaches, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. You can come up with way more. The whole point is you’re measuring your small groups.

Jonathan Hardy 8:58
Yeah. Well, and hopefully those gave you some ideas of things that you can be measuring, if you’re not yet measuring those. And this is just a way to quantify what’s happening spiritually, because spiritually, you know, you can’t quantify that, but you got to look for the things you can quantify. And these are some things you can quantify, that’s really going to help you in the overall measurement. Does more participation mean that everyone’s growing at deeper levels than ever before? Well maybe, maybe not. We don’t know. But our job as pastors is to get people is as much involved with one another as the body and you know, growing. And the more exposure they have, the more people that have more exposure to the gospel and being around other Christ followers, the greater likelihood that they’re going to walk with the Lord.

Dick Hardy 9:48
Now, what’s the last one here, Jonathan?

Jonathan Hardy 9:49
The third thing would be, in how to know if your small groups are making disciples is if you’re regularly receiving testimonials of small groups, whether it’s the leaders or the members, of what God is doing in people’s lives. And so, the idea here again is trying to measure, how can we how can we measure this, is looking at are we seeing more of this? Are we hearing more about the Lord using small groups or the Lord working through the small group ministry? Or how some small group made an impact on a particular individual. The more we hear that the more we realize, okay, stuff’s happening. And you know, there’s a good way for us to, just a good reminder for us to make sure we’re writing these down, saving these. You may even have a spreadsheet or something, where you’re tracking all these stories of how God is working. And every time you hear these testimonies from people, then that’s, a good indicator, that okay, things are happening. On the on the opposite side, if all of a sudden it’s crickets, you’re not hearing as many stories, you’re not hearing a lot of what’s happening, then, that says one of two things. One is we need to make sure we’re asking for that, if you’re not asking for that. But second, it could be an indicator that the discipleship is not happening like you want it to. And so, that’s just maybe the red flag or the yellow flag that’s saying, Okay, well, let me let’s get digging here. So but that’s just another idea.

Dick Hardy 11:09
And I would say too, when you’re hearing those testimonies, have your antenna up to what the Lord might be saying to you. I would be capturing some of those on video, because you want to be showing to the body, on a Sunday morning, “Look what just happened in one of our small groups.” And when they’re giving a testimony of somehow the group came around them. Now the group, what you’re doing is, you’re reinforcing in the body as a whole, the small group doing what body ministry is supposed to do. So anyway, let me let me give you just a snapshot of what Jonathan and I just flew over here with you. To really determine if your small groups are truly making disciples, you, you need to define the goals of your small groups. You need to measure the small groups. And then you need to seek testimonies, or receive testimonies of small group leaders and members — things happening in their life and in the group itself. So when you do those things, you’re going to be well on your way to really making that determination, if the small groups are working. You know, I want to encourage you too, as the leader, for you to take a look at the Four Secrets Masterclass, that actually Jonathan put together here a few months ago. Just go to leaders.church/secrets. This is slightly less than an hour presentation that will help you as a leader, be better and get better on this subject of small groups and the evaluation of their effectiveness to discipleship and a whole host of range that you have to deal with as a pastor. Because here’s the drill. Growing churches are led by growing pastors. And if you want to get better, if you want your church to get better, you have to get better. And the Four Secrets Masterclass will help you get there. Just go to leaders.church/secrets. That’s leaders.church/secrets, and you’re gonna be well on the way to making the improvements you need. Anything else, Jonathan?

Jonathan Hardy 13:01
That’s it.

Dick Hardy 13:02
I think we’re good to go. Thanks so much for hanging out with us today. Make it a great one, and be blessed.

Jonathan Hardy 13:07
Hey, Jonathan here. Real quick before you go. Everything in your ministry rises and falls on your leadership. So investing in your leadership is essential to staying healthy and growing the ministry. And that’s why I want to invite you to join us inside the leaders.church membership. This online streaming service for pastors gives you access to more than 300 videos, plus training material to level up your leadership and improve your ministry skills. If you’d like to do that, I want to invite you to go to leaders.church/boost. Again, that’s leaders.church/boost. Well, thanks again for joining us on the Church Tips Podcast. We’ll look forward to seeing you next time.

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