UNDERSTANDING THE 5 LIFE STAGES OF YOUR SMALL GROUP

Small Groups, like any organization—big or small—experience shifts and changes with time.  Businesses, churches, even marriages experience these seasons.

While these stages identified in the “S” curve illustration below can seem to apply across the board, lets see if they can help you identify both where your small group is and is going.

Small Group Life Stages DIAGRAM

FORMING
This is the first stage where your group is first meeting and getting to know one another.  This is the honeymoon phase, if you will.  There is some apprehension on behalf of everyone given the unknowns, yet a general excitement for this step in everyone’s spiritual walk.

STORMING…
Now that folks get to know one another they start to discover things about each other and the dynamic of the group they may not like.  Perhaps unrealistic expectations of the group are surfacing?  Maybe they are painting an unfair comparison to a previous small group experience, wearing rose-colored glasses?

NORMING
With some time, the purpose of the group seems to settle.  There is a commitment to care for one another as the body of Christ—warts and all—as it relates to one another in the group.  Members “get” that this group exists to invest relationally with one another, and that this is “being the church” in one another’s lives.  Thus, as we say often, “Relationships with one another that are encouraging our ultimate relationships with the Lord.”

PERFORMING
This is when the group begins firing on all cylinders.  While you remain the point person for the group, the sense of leadership feels more shared as others express their God-given gifts for the betterment of the group.  Whether hospitality, counseling, teaching, helping, serving, leadership, etc. it’s a great to witness “everyone play!”

but then what? 

Because it is when a small group (or any other organization) is at its best, that we must ask, “Where do we go from here?”

If you as a leader do not recognize “the pinnacle will not last forever”… your group may eventually move to the stage called

ADJOURNING….
Where no new life is breathed into the group. Participation, interest, and energy all begin to fade.  With no new vision for your small group moving forward, your group risks becoming like the “dead sea”—where no new water flows in, nor out.

Or…

REFORMING
Where at the height of the “S” curve, new life, vitality, energy, and vision is poured into your group and its future…

You’ll likely notice some overlap and blurring of the lines between each of these stages.  They are not cookie cutter, but they are there. And it is helpful to reflectively assess your small group through this grid.

As your group continues to advance, we want to prayerfully move toward yes—Norming and Performing, but eventually—Reforming.  That is what the next three posts will aim to provide—step you toward always reforming your group.

We encourage and welcome your feedback and questions in the comments section below, both on this entry and those coming in the days ahead.

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