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. Yet I challenge you to think about measuring your groups through another lens. Here are three reasons to measure the size of your group:
1. You want to reach lost groups.
Lost groups are groups that don’t meet anymore or, when they do meet, 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 strategies 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. Group members usually wander off course because of conflict, poor leadership, disagreements, or other relational problems. When these things happen, people stop coming; groups stop meeting. But if you measure and spot these trends in your small groups early on, then you have the chance to go to them, learn what’s going on, and help them grow in their walk with Jesus.
3. You need to steward your time to serve people most effectively.
You can’t do everything and be everywhere at the same time. As a small group pastor, it’s easy to only hang out with your healthy groups. In fact, if you measure these groups, you will quickly realize that 80 percent or more attend every time those groups 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 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 your numbers, then you’ve missed the whole point of measuring. 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 during the last half of his 18 years on church staff as a discipleship and family pastor.