2 Essential Ways to Know if Your Small Group is Effective

Jason’s small group was thriving. The guys were totally engaged … talking, laughing … and always asking him to hangout together outside of youth group. Ending the time and sending them home was his biggest challenge—a ‘problem’ he was happy to have to deal with. He loved leading small groups. But deep down, he couldn’t help but wonder, “Are they really growing?”

Photo by chiesADIbeinasco at Creative Commons

Jennifer’s small group was focused. They stayed on topic, engaged the lesson, and gave the right answers. When it was time to share, they listened to each other with care and respect. She really liked her girls. But she couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this all there is?”

Maybe you’ve been there. Truth is, we’ve all been there! We know that small groups can be life-changing. We know that Jesus shared his best thoughts through discussion. But our small groups just don’t seem to measure up. How do we know if we’re being successful?

In Luke 10:25–37, a guy stands up and asks Jesus, “What do I need to do to get to heaven?” How would you respond? This is a question most of us only dream of being asked! We might use the 4 spiritual laws, or draw a bridge, or take him down the Romans Road. This guy wants to get to heaven, and we’re ready to tell him! This will be a fantastic small group night … !

But Jesus does none of that. He starts with a question:
“What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
The man replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

It’s a good answer. It’s the right answer. It’s the same answer Jesus gave in Matthew 22. We would be jumping out of our chairs with excitement at this point. Party time! But Jesus simply says,
“You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Notice what happens next: But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Do you see what just happened? The conversation moved from head to heart. It moved from abstract to personal. It moved from ‘out there’ to ‘in here.’ The guy’s uncomfortable. Because Jesus forced him to bring his heart to the conversation.

Your small group is effective when students bring their hearts to the conversation.

You know what happens next. Jesus tells the story of a man who is robbed, is ignored by the priests and pastors of his own race, and then is helped by someone from another country. Then Jesus asks a simple question, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? The man said, “The one who showed him mercy.

What a foreign thought this must have been to that man! He can’t even bring himself to say, “The Samaritan.” The idea that a Samaritan—a half-breed—could be more righteous, more neighborly, more obedient to the law than him … oh, what a terrible, unthinkable thought! This idea has never crossed his mind before—and it has the potential to change his life.

Your small group is effective when students think new thoughts.

Not just repeat good answers. Not just share key insights. Not just tell cool stories. Think new thoughts.

What do you think? What are the other characteristics of an effective small group? Click here to leave a comment.

(Next time: How to Ask Questions Like Jesus)

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