BAND MEETINGS & Think You Have Lots of Friends? Nope: Science Says We’re Lucky to Have 5 #DunbarNumber

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: English sociologist Robin Dunbar has researched small group dynamics more than anyone, finding a small group of 3 to 4 friends is crucial for a healthy social life. John Wesley 250 years earlier stressed the same thing. Welsey emphasized the importance of groups of 3 to 4 called, “band meetings.” For more on modern equivalents of the “band meeting” search these words on this wiki.

Think You Have Lots of Friends? Nope: Science Says We’re Lucky to Have 5

Research shows that while you’re close to 100% sure certain people are your friends, only 53% of the time do they agree with you.

By Jeff Haden, Inc. Magazine, 8/8/16.

…Now imagine I ask all the people you list to make a list of their friends. Think you’ll be on all those lists? Probably not.

In fact, only about half the time will the people you consider to be your friends consider you to be a friend. (And of course that also means that only about half the time do you consider someone who thinks of you as a friend to be your friend.)

…according to Robin Dunbar you don’t have the time to have dozens of friends. Because of that, Dunbar feels we have different layers or slices of friends: one or two truly best friends (like your significant other and maybe one other person), then maybe ten people with whom we have “great affinity” and interact with frequently… and then all sorts of other people we’re friendly with but who aren’t actually friends. In total, “Dunbar’s number” says you can have about 150 people in your social sphere.

…And that means, if Dunbar is correct, that you can only have a handful of true friends. That means some people you think of a close friends don’t see you that way at all.

So why — apart from making you and I wonder how people really feel about us — does this matter?

Superficial, distant, and less than meaningful relationships can lead to feelings of insecurity and loneliness… which can increase your risk of illness and death just as much as obesity, alcoholism, and smoking.

That means the key isn’t to have more friends. The key isn’t to try to have a tons of friends. The key is to have three or four really, really good friends… and then, of course, plenty of people who aren’t necessarily friends but are fun to be around, or result in a mutually beneficial relationship, or share common interests….

You don’t need to be less friendly — you just need to nurture the most important relationships in your life…

Read more about ways to do this at …

ACCOUNTABILTY GROUPS & How Jon Weist Recreates Wesley “Band Meetings” #Exponential #TheWesleyanChurch

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 4/25/16.

In partnership with the Exponential East conference, The Wesleyan Church holds an “Ignite” pre-conference sponsored by their Department of Church Multiplication and Discipleship.  Here are thoughts gleaned from Jon Wiest (church planter and current church revitalizer):

“We have four congregations plus multiple gatherings (mid-sized group), small groups and accountability groups of 3-4 like Wesley’s band meeting.”

“We have all this information about church organization, but when it comes to discipleship we don’t have a clear answer about ‘How do you do that? What do they do?’ We are changing the way this church thinks about this.  Now they think about these steps:

  1. It starts with the Bible. Everyone reads two chapters a week and then we write down our thoughts. We have a bookmark to remind us about 10-questions (Wesley?) we ask people to answer.
  2. Three people in a group walk through the bookmark and we share one of the journal entries regarding how God spoke to us this week.  Accountability groups recruit individuals to join one of these “discipleship groups.”
  3. Prayer for the unchurched is part of this.  We see discipleship as including evangelism, so that evangelism takes place here.  We formerly did an attractional strategy which forced people down from Sunday attendance downward in this process. Our process is upward instead, where they come into this discipleship group and then get involved in bigger fellowship-orientated small groups and gatherings and our four congregations.

This creates a culture of discipleship throughout the organization.”

ACCOUNTABILITY & 5 Elements of Holding Team Members Accountable #HarvardBusinessReview

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  Ensuring that people meet goals in a measurable, yet passionate way, is an important skill for every leader. Here are the five points for creating task-oriented accountability gleaned from Peter Bergman’s recent Harvard Business Review article.

The Right Way to Hold People Accountable

by Peter Bregman, Harvard Business Review, 1/11/16.

… So what can we do to foster accountability in the people around us? We need to aim for clarity in five areas:

  1. Clear expectations. The first step is to be crystal clear about what you expect. This means being clear about the outcome you’re looking for, how you’ll measure success, and how people should go about achieving the objective. It doesn’t all have to come from you. In fact, the more skilled your people are, the more ideas and strategies should be coming from them. …
  2. Clear capability. What skills does the person need to meet the expectations? What resources will they need? If the person does not have what’s necessary, can they acquire what’s missing? If so, what’s the plan…?
  3. Clear measurement. Nothing frustrates leaders more than being surprised by failure. Sometimes this surprise is because the person who should be delivering is afraid to ask for help. Sometimes it comes from premature optimism on both sides. Either way, it’s completely avoidable. During the expectations conversation, you should agree on weekly milestones with clear, measurable, objective targets. If any of these targets slip, jump on it immediately. Brainstorm a solution, identify a fix, redesign the schedule, or respond in some other way that gets the person back on track.
  4. Clear feedback. Honest, open, ongoing feedback is critical. People should know where they stand. If you have clear expectations, capability, and measurement, the feedback can be fact-based and easy to deliver. Is the person delivering on her commitments..?
  5. Clear consequences. If you’ve been clear in all of the above ways, you can be reasonably sure that you did what’s necessary to support their performance. At this point, you have three choices: repeat, reward, or release. Repeat the steps above if you feel that there is still a lack of clarity in the system. If the person succeeded, you should reward them appropriately (acknowledgement, promotion, etc.). If they have not proven accountable and you are reasonably certain that you followed the steps above, then they are not a good fit for the role, and you should release them from it (change roles, fire them, etc.).

Read more at …

ACCOUNTABILITY & How to Customize Small Group Questions to Meet Needs

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/6/15.

Fostering accountability in small groups is important, but can be challenging.  We are so accustomed to putting up barriers, false facades, etc.

But, what if you customized a list of accountability questions relevant to your personal weaknesses and strengths?  These questions would be personalized to your situation and that of your accountability group.

My exercise to foster this includes just three steps…
Take a look over the following lists of accountability questions from influential Christian leaders.
Build your own list from the most germane questions below (or other lists you find),
Then, share your tailored list with your accountability group.

To help you create this list, I will reference (below) a list of accountability questions curated by my friend Ed Stetzer:

These lists are from Cultivating a Life for God (Church Smart Resources 1999 pp.125-131)

(retrieved from

Typically, these questions are asked in groups of 2-3, are specific to men or women, meets regularly, and hold each other accountable.

John Wesley’s Small Group Questions:

1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite? 
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
3. Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?
4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work , or habits?
5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
6. Did the Bible live in me today?
7. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
8. Am I enjoying prayer?
9. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
12. Do I disobey God in anything?
13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
16. How do I spend my spare time?
17. Am I proud?
18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I going to do about it?
20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?
21. Is Christ real to me?

Wesley’s Band Meeting Questions:

1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting? 
2. What temptations have you met with?
3. How were you delivered?
4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
5. Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?

Reference: John Wesley’s Class Meetings: a Model for Making Disciples, by D. Michael Henderson, Evangel Publishing House, 1997, pp. 118-9
Chuck Swindoll’s Pastoral Accountability Questions:

In his book, The Body, Chuck Colson lists the questions used by Chuck Swindoll.

1. Have you been with a woman anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising?
2. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?
3. Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material?
4. Have you spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer?
5. Have you given priority time to your family?
6. Have you fulfilled the mandates of your calling?
7. Have you just lied to me?

Neil Cole:

1. What is the condition of your soul?
2. What sin do you need to confess?
3. What have you held back from God that you need to surrender?
4. Is there anything that has dampened your zeal for Christ?
5. Who have you talked with about Christ this week?


The questions I (Ed) use are from these cards ( from Church Multiplication Associates. I keep one in my Bible.

The ten questions are as follows:

1. Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and actions? 
2. Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?
3. Have you lacked any integrity in your financial dealings this week, or coveted something that does not belong to you?
4. Have you been honoring, understanding and generous in your important relationships this past week?
5. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?
6. Have you given in to an addictive behavior this week? Explain.
7. Have you continued to remain angry toward another?
8. Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune so that you might excel?
9. Did you finish your reading this week and hear from the Lord? What are you going to do about it?
10. Have you been completely honest with me?

ACCOUNTABILITY & My Learning Exercise For Leaders To Evaluate Their Accountability

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/6/15.

Accountability!  As church leaders we know we need it.  Still, there is something in us that makes us want to chaff at the idea of answerability, perhaps for fear of tyrannical abuses.  In my chapter “Missteps with the Centrality of Christ” in the book Growth by Accident, Death by Planning (Abingdon Press) I suggest that having loving, compassionate, and genuinely altruistic guidance is necessary if we are to grow churches that are guided by healthy pastors.

Here is an exercise I’ve developed to help you understand how you are doing in this area.

GBA_Med11.  Do you HAVE an effective accountability group?  If so, describe how it functions in one paragraph and share what you wrote with someone.


2. If you do NOT have an effective accountability group, describe in one paragraph what an ideal accountability group might look like and give some steps to fostering one.

This is a great short exercise to help us learn from our friends various processes, principles, associations, and structures that can help us stay connected during the growth process with our mission field, our family, and our Lord.

DIRECT REPORTS & The Breaking Point is 10-12 Direct Reports

by Lighthouse: A Blog About Leadership & Management, 7/4/15.

The breaking point: 10-12 direct reports

We’ve had managers of all levels of experience and team size use Lighthouse to help them manage and motivate their teams and the common pattern we’ve seen is managers struggle most with more than 10-12 reports. It’s at 10-12 people that the complexity and demands become too great for even a well-trained, experienced manager. Just look at the diagram above and how a team growing from 6 to 10 people causes the lines of communication to grow from 15 to 45 (and 66 by employee #12!). But don’t take my word for it, here’s what some experts have said:

Jeff Bezos, CEO of, has a “2 Pizza Rule” which really translates to ~8 people, since a pizza is normally cut into 8 slices and 2 slices per person is a reasonable amount.

Michael Lopp, author of Rands in Repose, uses the formula 7 +/- 3, which crucially takes into account how much time you could be committed to in 1 on 1s with everyone on your team.

Tomas Tunguz, VC at RedPoint Ventures deep dives into the concept from many sources to conclude “roughly 7″ and explores how “Span of Control” and “Span of Responsibility” impact it.

The consensus appears to be that double digit team sizes are generally a sign of trouble for a manager. So what do you do? Start developing leaders on your team.

Read more at …

ACCOUNTABILITY GROUPS & Can They Hide What Should Be Public Knowledge? #USAToday

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “USA Today published an article worrying that accountability groups could become the locale for hiding public sins from public scrutiny.  Using the example of the Washington-based Capital Hill house on C Street, the writer wondered,

C Street is a Washington base for The Family, a secretive Christian group that prays together — nothing wrong with that — and holds each other privately accountable for straying from Biblical values. Again, nothing wrong with that — unless the secrecy overtakes things that should be public knowledge, such as hush money payments a la Sen. John Ensign or vanishing to visit a mistress in, say, Argentina, Gov. Mark Sanford style. (See Rachel Maddow’s interviews with Jeff Sharlet who roasts The Family in his book by that name).

Now, I’m not taking a side on this issue.  I just want to get leaders thinking deeper about not only the importance of accountability groups, but also the ramifications if something comes up in a group that should be public knowledge (or if something comes up that is illegal).”

Take a look at the article from USA Today (below):


Does ‘C Street’ give ‘accountability groups’ bad name?

USA TODAY, Jul 16, 2009 by Cathy Lynn Grossman.

Retrieved from

Does the Capitol Hill house on C Street — home to several congressmen although it eludes property taxes by being listed as a church — give prayer “accountability” groups a bad name? Should elected officials seek God in secrecy while hiding sins from public scrutiny?

C Street is a Washington base for The Family, a secretive Christian group that prays together — nothing wrong with that — and holds each other privately accountable for straying from Biblical values. Again, nothing wrong with that — unless the secrecy overtakes things that should be public knowledge, such as hush money payments a la Sen. John Ensign or vanishing to visit a mistress in, say, Argentina, Gov. Mark Sanford style.

(See Rachel Maddow’s interviews with Jeff Sharlet who roasts The Family in his book by that name).

But millions of men and women belong to small prayer and accountability groups where they read and discuss Scripture together and hold each other to truthful living in God’s name. Remember Promise Keepers, the men’s group that hit a popularity peak in the 90’s? It stressed accountability groups heavily and even if PK no longer packs stadiums for rallies, many of those small groups continue to enriching lives.

But the original purpose of privacy was never to shield nefarious behavior. As it says on one church site among scores that talk about the importance of such groups:

The secrecy of such closed groups isn’t rooted in anything nefarious. As Carter Shotwell, pastor of a Lake Pointe Church in Rockwell Texas, writes:

The point is that members are available for one another. Members are aware of one another’s struggles and temptations; they commit to pray, listen, and support as needed. They also ask difficult questions of one another. This level of interaction is only possible in a closed group.

Where this goes astray, as it says in the Christian-focused World Magazine look at C Street and its two adulterous alumni, is when members mistake when to stay silent:

Cstreet2x-mug-shot Rev. Rob Schenck, who leads a Bible study on the Hill inspired by C Street, wrote on his blog Friday that “all ministries in Washington need to protect the confidence of those we minister to, and I’m sure that’s a primary motive for C Street’s low profile.” But he added, “I think The Fellowship has been just a tad bit too clandestine.” Schenck has himself sent a letter to Sanford calling for his resignation.

But as Ed Stetzer, director of Lifeway Research, says,

It’s good to have a safe place. It’s better to have a safe place that helps you live right.

LifeWay has no numbers on how many Americans belong to “accountability groups” although small study groups overall are hugely popular. One in four people say they meet with 20 or fewer people as “a primary form of spiritual nurture,” Stetzer says.

An accountability group, Stetzer told me today, is intended to promote love and good works.

I think C Street was trying to do that but, accountability groups are only as good as the truthfulness of their participants.

On his own blog, Stetzer lists many of the questions asked in such groups. Reading scripture is stressed, but so is confronting the essentials of righteousness. Most question lists — and variations go back decades — end with something similar. People ask each other, “are you being honest with me.”

Alas for John Ensign and Mark Sanford, no one seemed to consider whether anyone is honest with their spouses or with voters. Should the C Street men have pushed their adulterous prayer partners out the door?

DO YOU … belong to an accountability group? Should elected officials seek God in secrecy while hiding sins from public scrutiny?