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

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.

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?

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.”

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

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.


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.

‘Square 1’ for Leaders

If you’re reading this you’re in a role (Small Group Leader or Coach) that involves helping others in some way in their spiritual development. At First we like to call this helping other become “Fully Devoted Followers of Christ.” However, we must realize that, as we do this, it’s important to remember that we begin by continually working on ourselves.  Think of it like an in-flight emergency on an airplane when the oxygen masks drop down in front of your face. If you’ve ever heard that pre-flight announcement about the potentiality of this happening, you may recall the instruction to make sure you put your oxygen mask on first, before helping children or others around you with theirs. It’s a frightening experience, but there’s a universal truth in that example.

So it is with spiritual development – we need to work on ourselves first, and continue to do so as we seek to help others grow. I read recently that, “There comes a time when a Christian leader realizes that he or she must take responsibility for his or her own spiritual development.” This is so true – only then can others help. For our purposes here, it is this spiritual development that will help empower you in leading a small group, not acting like a “leaderby checking things off you should do or trying to be an “authority figure.”

How do we do this – where do we start? A good place to start is with something called spiritual disciplines.” Much is written on this subject, but in his book Leading Life-Changing Small Groups, Bill Donahue offers this advice:

  • Study – spend time reading God’s Word – the Bible – regularly. This really is the oxygen of spiritual development (read 2 Tim. 3:16-17)
  • Worship – His praise should be constantly on our minds and lips (not just on Saturday/Sunday) (read Psalm 95:6-7, Matt. 4:10,  Luke 4:8, Romans 12:1-2 )
  • Service – be a humble servant, remembering the example Jesus gave us as He washed His disciples feet (read John 13, 2 Corr. 8:4)
  • Prayer – find time to talk to God on a regular (daily) basis, without distraction of people or things (read Matt. 6:5-8Mark 11:24Philip. 4:6 John 16:23-24)
  • Fellowship – care each other mutually as the body of Christ (an important role for small group leaders) (read Matt. 18:20, 1 John 1:7)
  • Confession – confess your sins to God, and others around you, especially where forgiveness is needed (where applicable; read 2 Timothy 2:19  , James 5:16Mark 11:25)
  • Submission – humbly seek to server others and seek others that can hold you accountable for your actions and growth in Christ (read Luke 18:14, )

Is this an “all inclusive” list or process for spiritual development (as small group leaders or otherwise)? Is this all there is to “spiritual development?” Absolutely not – but it’s a good place to start for leaders (and everyone else)! Ask yourself, “how often do I do these things?”

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to ask myself or Pastor Brian.

In Christ…

“Churchteams” and Small Group Meeting Reports

Hi, and Merry Christmas – everyone!

Just an FYI that ‘Churchteams’ is a tool that we use to help manage/administer the Small Groups ministry at First.

One of the ways we you can help us in keeping track of what’s going on in “Small Group Land,” is to fill out a meeting report after each of your Small Group meetings. It’s easy and only takes a few minutes.

How can this be, is it true, you may ask? Answer – yes, it’s easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.  Here’s how…

You will automatically receive a reminder (via email) within 24 hours of each meeting to complete your report. The email will contain a link you can click on, which will take you to the FCC Churchteams site where you can easily fill out the online meeting report form. It’s super easy and only takes a few minutes! You’ll get three reminders (one each day) to fill out your report (you’ll stop getting them after you complete the report). After the fourth reminder (i.e., no report), your Small Group Coach will get a reminder to kindly ask you to please! fill out your report. If prompted for a login – just enter ‘Leader’.

You can also click a box on the report form to send a copy to your group members, if you like. This is a great way to remind the group what was discussed, as well as a “friendly reminder” for those who were unable to attend.

That’s it – it’s quick – it’s easy – and it helps the Small Group Ministry at First in our ultimate goal of Growing Together!!!


What’s our next study!?

Many of our groups may be getting close to wrapping up the initial study that Pastor Brian put together for getting the groups started (BTW – great job, Pastor!). Typically, you should begin thinking about what you’re going to do next shortly after beginning any study series (at least by the half-way point). Again, a good place to start is – prayer. Pray first about the general topic you should look at, then begin looking and evaluating.

We have a fair number of DVD based studies available for use in the FCC library (more on that at a later date).

Another good site is to scan through the materials at www.christianbooks.com , which has a huge amount of material available. Still another cool site to check out is http://store.northpoint.org/small-group-solution-center/dvds.html. Northpoint is Andy Stanley’s church. You may not (or may) be familiar with Andy Stanley, but the small group DVD curricula they produce is typically very well produced and well presented, and the lessons/messages are well thought out. Lastly, ask around about what other groups are doing.

BTW… if you find a study you want to do, you can order it online from various sources, or you can ask Christina in the Mosaic Book Store to order the DVD/Participant’s Guide books for you! It couldn’t get any more convenient than that!!!

There’s a start – hope it helps.  If you have any questions (about this or anything else), feel free to contact Tim Revis trevis@firstdecatur.org (FCC Small Groups Coach) or Pastor Brian.

Overwhelmed? Am I cut out for this?

Most new Small Group Leaders often begin to question their ability to be a “Leader.” This usually begins with a feeling of simply being overwhelmed. Well, here’s good news – that’s not unusual, it’s natural. Here’s even better news – that doesn’t mean that you’re not cut out to be a Leader, nor does it necessarily mean God hasn’t called you into this role. So, what do you do about it?

Well, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first thing you should do is pray about it. God always hears our prayers, and He always answers (even if we don’t like the answer we do/don’t get). The fear you may be feeling usually comes out of uncertainty, especially for those new to Small Groups or those who haven’t had the benefit of being led by another good Leader. Pray that God will lead you and equip you.  We’ll help! With a large amount of reliance on the Holy Spirit and a little bit of preparation and training, you can do this!

We’re trying to do our part in this too as we all Grow Together. Listen up for upcoming Small Group Leader “Huddles” – where we (the Leaders and Small Group Coaches) will share ideas and learn how to navigate this journey… Together.