By Boyd Pelley
Pastors are generally not numbers people. Small group pastors especially are more oriented to shepherding than accounting. If this is you, then measuring seems tedious, time consuming and not something you are wired for. You are more interested in reaching, discipling and serving people. I challenge you to think about measuring through that lens. Here are three reasons to measure group life:
1. You want to reach lost groups.
Lost groups are groups that don’t meet anymore or when they do less than half of them bother to show up. These are groups that are wandering around the open country separated from the vision, values and strategy you are providing as their shepherd. Like the shepherd in Luke 15 you need to count to identify which groups have lost their way.
2. You want to build groups where disciples are made.
When you go to lost or struggling groups, you have an unbelievable chance to pick them up and carry them back to the vision and goal of Christian life together. They likely wandered off course because of conflict, poor leadership, disagreements or other relational problems. When these things happen, people stop coming, groups stop meeting. If you measure and spot these trends in groups early on, you have a chance to go to them, learn what is going on, and help people grow in their walk with Jesus.
I saw this most plainly with a small group working through curriculum on parenting. Half the group home schooled their kids, the other half were in public schools. Exaggerating just a little bit, the home schoolers didn’t believe you loved God and your family (Deuteronomy 6) if you didn’t home school. The public schoolers didn’t believe you were committed to the great commission (Matthew 28) and being salt and light (Matthew 5:16) unless you were in public schools. Conflict arose and people stopped coming. Because we measured we spotted this in a few weeks. When we heard the story, we brought everyone together and opened up Romans 15:7 on accepting one another and John 17 about unity in the body. The reconciliation that happened that night was unbelievable. Disciples of Jesus were being made in ways that only community can provide.
3. You need to steward your time to serve people most effectively.
You can’t do everything and be everywhere at the same time. It’s easy as a small group pastor to hang out with your healthy groups and encourage them. In fact, if you measure you can quickly spot the groups that have 80 percent or more attending every time they meet. This tells you something is happening in this group that people love. They don’t want to miss. They will even plan their vacation around when their group gets together. These are the groups where new leaders are being formed. You want to stay close to them. But you also need to invest time in the groups that are in critical growth seasons.
It has often been said that the best times for coaching in small group ministry are when a group: 1. begins, 2. goes through a stormy season, or 3. needs to reproduce to stay healthy. By developing a system to measure when a group is in any of these three seasons, you can focus your time and energy where it will count the most.
If your primary reason for measuring group life is to brag about how many groups you have and how many people are in your group, then you’ve missed the whole point of measuring. The character this perspective of measuring builds is exactly opposite of the humble, faithful Christ-follower we are all trying to become and make. Good shepherds measure not to brag but to reach lost groups, make disciples, and be found faithful stewards.
Boyd Pelley is co-founder and CEO of Churchteams.com. This software for groups and church management was developed the last half of his 18 years on church staff as a discipleship and family pastor. He and his wife Pam have been married for 28 years and have two children.