Check out this course that can equip your small group leaders with the relevance, practicality and technology of growing online small groups in the #PostPandemicChurch.
by Patricia Y. Sanchez, PsyPost, 3/23/22.
Social learning helps humans navigate the world by learning the consequences of actions through the behavior of others. Humans are also quite sensitive to group membership, in that we tend to place ourselves within social groups with which we identify (e.g., gender, race, nationality) and membership in these groups can motivate our beliefs and behaviors. New research published in Psychological Sciencesuggests that people are more likely to use social learning to copy members of their in-group compared to members of their out-group.
by Jason Williams, Saddleback Church, 9/30/21.
The Alameda County Study is one of the most thorough and groundbreaking studies on relationships ever conducted. A team of Harvard researchers tracked a group of 7,000 people over the course of a nine-year period, and their findings were fascinating.
They discovered that people who had poor health habits (smoking, overeating, excessive drinking, etc.) but strong group ties lived significantly longer than people who took great care of their health but were relationally isolated. To put it another way, it’s better to feast on fried food with friends than to eat Brussels sprouts alone.
The research team had stumbled upon a truth we were reminded of over the past 18 months and that God made clear from the dawn of humanity: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We were made for community.
Learn more at … https://saddleback.com/visit/locations/lake-forest
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: ever since I studied one of the first megachurches that grew exponentially by moving in to multiple smaller venues, St. Thomas’ Church of Sheffield England, in the 1990s I’ve been a big advocate of multiple sites and smaller groups for almost any church.
(See the chapter I wrote on St. Thomas’ Church of Sheffield, England in Ryan Bolger’s The Gospel After Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions)
That’s because I’ve seen in the churches I’ve coached that multiple venues let you have multiple cultural expressions and smaller groups foster friendships and discipleship.
More research has continued to support this, including the latest exhaustive research from Hartford Seminary. ￼￼
Read the latest research here (there are valuable church health and growth insights for any size church): ￼hirr.hartsem.edu/megachurch/2020_Megachurch_Report.pdf
By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 09/12/18.
Keep these in mind when leading a small group to promote trust and maturity.
1. Trust and candidness
Patrick Lencioni, a well-known author on business management and leadership, was right. Before any team can thrive, it must at its core be bound together by trust. He defines trust in a specific way, saying, “Trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group.” In other words, Heart Attitude #1 means I trust that I can be vulnerable, open and exposed with the group regarding my fears, hopes and failures.
Regrettably, such vulnerability and trust do not characterize all groups, such as groups that are focused on tasks or administration. But, what if it did? What if most of a church’s small groups could transition into heart-to-heart groups. What if administrative boards, such as trustees who meet together regularly and iron out difficult problems, could begin to develop a trust where “there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group?”
2. Accountability to one another and the mission
Another important component that Lencioni emphasizes is “the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team.”
However, the Christian has another accountability that is even greater than team accountability. The Christian is held accountable by God for their participation in the mission of God (the missio Dei), i.e., to participate in the loving heavenly Father’s quest to reconnect with His wayward offspring. Therefore, this attitude stresses an accountability not only to one another, but also for increasing our accountability to God’s mission of reconciling humanity to himself.
3. Discussion with conflict resolution
While chitchat is unbridled in many small group settings, it has been my observation that conflict resolution is not. Lencioni bemoans that most people avoid conflict, and “the higher you go up the management chain, the more you find people spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to avoid the passionate debates that are essential to any great team.”
He has also observed that healthy small groups encourage open and freewheel discussion with give-and-take, disagreement without disparagement and challenge with compromise.
Scripture, along with John Wesley, reminds us that such interpersonal conflict is part of life:
Proverbs 27:17 observes, “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another” (MSG).
And, John Wesley said about this passage that a non-churchgoer can be sharpened by “the company or conversion of a friend.”
Scriptures also remind us that unresolved conflict among Christians is not healthy, nor God’s intent. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:2-3, “Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.”
And the psalmist portrays unity with wonderful poetic imagery:
“How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life” (Psalm 133:1-3 MSG).
Amid such depictions and exhortations, unity in the church is still not common and will require the ability to openly discuss and resolve conflict.
If heart-to-heart groups don’t have clearly defined results or outcomes, then the group may drift aimlessly until it degenerates into self-seeking and cliquishness. Lencioni calls this the “ultimate dysfunction of a team.” The reader will be all too familiar with church groups that have deteriorated into self-serving rumor mills and self-preservation societies that are unwelcoming to outsiders. The key to heart-healthy small groups is to define the specific objectives of each group and then to measure it until it has attained them.
Thus, the final key to helping groups transition into heart-to-heart groups is to ensure that each and every group creates specific objectives and then at least yearly checks to see if they attained them.
Excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart, by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2013)
Photo source: istock
Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/4-attitudes-to-cultivate-in-a-small-group/
By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 09/12/18.
“You can tell we hate to leave,” began Margaret. “It’s just that this sanctuary is such a comfortable place.”
“It wasn’t always like this,” interjected Mark. “Dark, dank … smelly. The sanctuary had the smell of death about it.”
As I looked around I marveled at how different the sanctuary of Armstrong Chapel Church looked today. Dark red padded pews, newly restored stained-glass windows, and polished woodwork. To this generation, most in their 70s, the beauty and care of the sanctuary represented a desire to honor God. And while younger generations might disagree, who was I to say that God was not honored by their loving care of their house of worship?
“Come this way,” beckoned Gerry. “Some still like to go out the back, but I prefer the side doors into the fellowship hall. It reminds me what God can do through a small Sunday school class.” As I passed through the double doors, I was greeted by a large and bright atrium with a glass roof. Here were milling about over 700 people, some lounging on comfortable sofas and others chatting cheerfully on lounge chairs scattered across the room. Still others laughed across café tables while sipping coffee from the church’s café.
“The two other services got out a bit earlier than us today,” continued Gerry. “But that is okay. There is still plenty of time to fellowship. Get a cup of coffee and I’ll find my daughter and grandkids. I want you to meet them.” And with that Gerry disappeared into the a crowd of laughter, merriment and smiles.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” came Margaret’s voice from behind. “To think, we were a church barely alive. Just over 15 of us in a Sunday school class and most of us serving on church committees too. Only about 30 total in church on Sundays.”
“This is a testimony to your church,” I began.
“Not quite,” interrupted Margaret. “It was the bonds of that Sunday School class that lead to this growth. We banded together and worked hard through the series of pastors the district sent us. We relied on each other in that Sunday School, and slowly the church began to grow. It has been 11 years and now we have three sanctuaries, almost all full.
“But, I still prefer our old sanctuary,” added Gerry, returning with two grandkids in tow. “We kept the old sanctuary just the way it was. But I’m glad we offer other worship options too. They connect with a lot of different ages.”
“How did you come up with your strategy: books, programs or what other churches used?” I asked.
“Partly,” came Margaret’s reply. “Our growth plan really came out of the environment of our Sunday School. It was a weekly place for us leaders to fellowship, dream, pray and plan. I can honestly say that our weekly Sunday school meetings were the place where we supported each other to grow this church. Oops, its almost time for Sunday school. Couldn’t miss it, for I still need it.”
More than a small group: A leadership laboratory
The story above illustrates how a group can bond so remarkably and deeply that they can survive deadly attacks upon a church’s heart. But not all small groups attain this inter-reliance and perseverance.
I learned from members of that Sunday school class, that their small group had bonded after many tough years where a succession of inexperienced pastors had almost killed the congregation. “Our Sunday school was the place we worked out what to do next,” remembered Margaret. “And it was the place where we sought God, insight from His word and advice from one another,” added Gerry.
For them, this was not just a Sunday School class but also a place for them to mull over the week’s challenges, seek biblical insights and learn from one another. In many ways, this Sunday school was their leadership laboratory.
This was a remarkable type of small group and one which more churches would benefit from utilizing.
Small groups customarily include less than 20 people, meet on a semi-regular basis and have participants who:
• Recognize their group as a sub-group within a larger organization.
• Have an informal or formal structure, such as a regular meeting time or place, a schedule, etc.
• Share a sense of inter-reliance and mutual dependence
• Communicate more intimately than they would in a larger group.
• Dream, plan and innovate in a supportive environment.
• Influence one another and stick together.
• Feel that their most intimate needs can be met through the group’s help.
What is a heart-to-heart group?
A “heart-to-heart group” is a good way to describe groups that meet some or most of the above seven criteria. Participants are sharing at a deep emotional and heart level. And, this intimacy and inter-reliance makes them the idea venue for spiritual questioning, maturity and creativity.
As we saw in the story, heart-to-heart groups play an important role in helping people stay connected to a church and plan for its future even when the church is undergoing conflict, challenges and discord. Here are some of the benefits of small groups:
Benefits of heart-to-heart groups
1. It was in small intimate group settings that Jesus:
- Answered His disciples’ questions about theology, history and the future (Matthew 24:1-3).
- Modeled for them healing and how to pray for those in need (Matthew 10:5-10).
- Rebuked the disciples’ willful attitudes and ideas (Luke 16:13).
2. Researchers have found that in healthy churches:
- 77 percent of church attendees say their small group participation is very important for them (Stetzer and Rainer).
- 64 percent say new members are immediately taught about the importance of small groups (Stetzer and Rainer).
- “A member is almost guaranteed to leave the church or become inactive in the church if he or she does not get involved in an ongoing small group” (Rainer).
3. Secular researchers have found that in healthy organizations:
- “The small group is the unit of transformation” (P. Block Katzenbach and Smith).
- “(Small groups) will remain the basic unit of both performance and change because of their proven capacity to accomplish what other units cannot” (P. Block Katzenbach and Smith).
- “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” (M. Mead).
Because small groups are so effective in helping people support one another and develop closer relationships, they have been a reoccurring theme in church history. In actuality, any small group of people that meets together on a semi-regular basis is a candidate for becoming a heart-to-heart group— Bible groups, prayer groups, Sunday school classes, Bible studies, worship teams, sports teams, administrative committees, etc. Consider how you may implement these types of group in the settings where you lead.
Excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart, by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2013)
Photo source: istock
Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/how-small-groups-help-a-church-survive/
Commentary by Prof. B: For 15+ years of online teaching my goal has been to make these online courses personable and engaging. Toward that end, I often record video introductions to the weekly homework, which students tell me they appreciate. Here is a 10-min. introduction to the LEAD 600 week on “Organizational Behavior.”
©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.
In this cure, as well as in all of the cures in this book, the prescriptions spell out the name of the cure. Here the cure is S.M.A.L.L., where each letter represents:
• S: Survey your small groups.
• M: Missionalize all small groups.
• A: Add more small groups.
• L: Lead small groups.
• L: Locate your focus in small groups.
A Comprehensive Definition of Small Groups
There are many ways to define a small group. When you ask most people, they will identify a small group as a home fellowship group like those made popular by the small group movement and exemplified by the body-life churches, vineyard churches, and alpha groups.
But small groups in churches are more than just home-fellowship groups, because any small group of individuals that is meeting semi-regularly and growing in closeness is technically a small group. Therefore, all of the following church groups are types of small groups:
• Sunday school classes;
• classes of any type (Bible, topical, and twelve-step programs);
• standing leadership committees;
• task groups (worship, program, project, ministry, and facility
• fellowship groups (home groups, Bible studies, lunch groups,
alpha groups, and sports teams).
Therefore, to grow small, let’s begin with figure 4.1, a broad definition that ensures you don’t overlook any of the small groups you have already.
With such a comprehensive definition, you can see that you already have many small groups in your church. The key is to first survey them, and then to apply the remaining cures in this
chapter to help them refocus on a biblical purpose.
Survey All Small Groups
Now that we have a working definition of small groups, the next step is to use this definition to count them. Be careful not to miss any, because if you do, you cannot help them refocus on
their purpose. Figure 4.2 will help you total them. But if you have some small groups that have grown too large (twenty or more people), it may be necessary to divide them into several
small groups. See appendix 4.A for ideas about how to create new small groups.
Figure 4.1: A Comprehensive Definition of a Small Group
Any regular gathering within a
church’s fellowship network, meeting
more than one time a month with
typically less than twenty attendees.3
smaller groups within groups
that have grown too big for intimacy
Now use your definition above with figure 4.2 to count your small groups. Keep these guidelines in mind:
• Count only adult small groups at this time (teenage and above). While children need small groups such as Sunday schools, this
chart will look at how to expand and refocus your adult groups.
• List your small groups under the type of group that best describes them. And even though some groups could fit under
several different types of small groups (for example, an adult Sunday school class could also be a task group), list each small
group only under one type of small group. It is not as important that each group fits into the ideal category as that all groups are listed in figure 4.2 (use additional rows as needed).
Figure 4.2: Survey Your Small Groups
Name of small group
Adult Sunday Schools and Other Classes
(Use additional pages as needed)
(Use additional pages as needed) continued
For More Information Read:
• Appendix 4.A: “Are Some Small Groups Too Big? Don’t Divide, Compartmentalize!”
Are you surprised? Most churches are amazed by how many small groups they already have. But as noted in the story of Eastlake
Church, this is why congregants often resist small group programs. When people are already attending an informal small group, such as a Bible study, Sunday school, committee, or sports team, they will often resist the idea of joining another small group.
Publicly Recognize All Small Groups
After surveying your small groups, publicly acknowledge…
Download the rest of the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Get Small Chpt. 3 & 4
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 … http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/think-you-have-lots-of-friends-youre-wrong-science-says-were-lucky-to-have-5.html
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/29/16.
To lead an organization, you must first understand how the organization “behaves” and then begin to “manage” the “organizational behavior.” Here are comments about church organizational size, behavior and management edited together here from my writings.
To lead an organization you must begin by analyzing how the organization behaves. It is like a child, you adjust your parenting as they grow and behave differently. So, to lead a church effectively you must first step back and watch how the organization behaves.
The first step in doing so is to look at how the church is made up of many smaller groupings. Some of these groupings are small groups (around 12 people, but they can get larger), clusters (groups of 20-75 with an extended family focus) and sub-congregations (group of 30-150, notice the overlap) that function as tribal group focusing (usually) around celebrations.
Three Organizational Structures in Most Churches
- Size: around 12 people, but they can get larger
- Focus: intimacy, accountability
- Ministry: UP-IN-OUT (typically):
- IN = strong
- UP = moderate
- OUT = weak
- Size: groups of 20-75, usually a cluster of formal (or informal) small groups
- Focus: an extended family feel of interreliance and task orientation.
- Ministry: UP-IN-OUT (typically):
- IN = moderate
- UP = moderate
- OUT = strong
- Size: group of 30-150, notice the overlap
- Focus: function as a tribal group (Dunbar Group) often focusing around celebrations
- Ministry: UP-IN-OUT (typically):
- IN = low
- UP = strong
- OUT = moderate to strong
More Details About Small Groups, Clusters and Sub-congregations
See these articles on small groups: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/?s=small+groups
In fact, Mike Breen (former rector of St. Tom’s Church in Sheffield England where cluster terminology developed) told me in a personal conversation that “Clusters are like the movie: My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That is because the cluster is made up of many nuclear families, which we call small groups, and this network of nuclear families creates an extended family feel – that’s what we call a cluster” (personal conversation, Peak District, UK, May 2005).
In Mike’s mind you could think of the small groups as each a circular grape, and when you get a bunch of small groups together you got a “cluster” (often sized 30-75). So, a cluster is a network of small groups linked by a tribal or extended family identity.
But, Mike and his colleague Bob Hopkins felt the key to healthy clusters, is to “missionalize” these clusters is by addressing three elements.
Online you can find the book by Bob Hopkins and Mike Breen titled “Clusters: creating midsized missional communities” (3DMinistries.com and Alderway Publishing).
“Churches are taking advantage of Dunbar’s number,” says Bob Whitesel, a professor at Indiana Wesleyan University and church growth expert. Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, found humans can comfortably maintain only around 150 stable relationships. Beyond that, says Whitesel, “relationships don’t seem to have much depth.”
This is why he believes many churches stall around this plateau. “Once it gets bigger than that, people stop inviting others because they no longer know everyone else at church,” he says.
It’s incumbent on large church leaders to capitalize on smaller groups that organically emerge in the church. Whitesel calls these “sub-congregations,” and they mirror other numbers Dunbar found in his research. Groups of 50 can unite around a task, such as the music ministry or preschool volunteers. Small group gatherings of 15 have the feel of an extended family, and groups of five are intimate connections.
These numbers have been seen not only in sociological research but also in church history, Whitesel says. “In the Wesleyan revivals, every leader had to be involved in what they called ‘Band Meetings’ of five individuals. Larger groups of 15 were called ‘Class Meetings.’”
A sub-congregation is a group within the church, that functions, in Asbury Professor George Hunter’s words, as “a church within a church.” (For a definition of a sub-congregation, click HERE)
…I have noted in some of my other wiki- postings (CLICK HERE), that sub-congregations form as a natural “organizational behavior” and that we must recognize them if we are to “manage” their behavior. Thus, I think many students have found it helpful to look at their emerging sub-congregations (which are currently of small group size) so they can manage them into growth and eventually a full-fledged (and larger) sub-congregation.
The idea of sub-congregations is found in church organizational writers such as in my books (2000:25-30; 2007:50-71) as well as:
Eddie Gibbs (I Believe in Church Growth, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981: 276-280),
Pete Wagner (Your Church Can Grow, Oregon, Resource Pub., 2001:101-102 ),
Larry Richards (A New Face for the Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan 1970: 34-35)
George G. Hunter (The Contagious Congregation [Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press] 1979:63) of which Hunter said that every congregation is a really “a congregation of congregations” (p. 63).
Many non-consultant leadership writers are largely unaware to this because they are students of leadership but not necessarily of organizational behavior. Most management scholars believe that you must first understand an organization’s “behavior” before you try to manage it. Thus, while working on my Ph.D. at Fuller I had Kent Miller of Michigan State as a professor (he is a Professor of Strategic Management there). Dr. Miller stressed that church leaders often fail at leadership because they don’t first analyze and understand the organizational behavior they are trying to manage. All that is to say is that the writings on this are not massive (but they should be).
The student also wrote, “But I also notice that the sub-congregations that I do have (boomer’s and GenX) seem to be moving together well – at what point do you beginning looking at their inherent differences and start strategizing for it?’”
SUB-CONGREGATIONS & How To Use Them to Grow a Small Church in Just 6-Steps Take a look at that posting. Also, here is a quick synopsis:
1) Locate emerging sub-congregational cultures in the community.
2) Mentor an indigenous leader from the culture you identified in Step 1 who will bring together a small group for Biblical discipleship of this indigenous culture.
3) Get the existing small group to plant another group like themselves. Don’t try to force them to divide. Rather, encourage them to reach more people by starting another group like themselves at another time or place. This is called “seeding” a new small group, where a couple leaders and a few people volunteer to start this new small group.
4) Cluster or network your small groups at least once a quarter. By this I mean get your small groups from the same emerging sub-congregation together at least once every three months for unity building.
5) Create more small groups as new ones approach 12 in attendance. Use the small group “seeding” strategy of Step 3 above. And, use Step 4 to keep these new small groups “clustering” once a quarter with other small groups of their cultural sub-congregation.
6) Once you have a total of 50 people in your small group network, or cluster, create a new and regular worship encounter for them. This then becomes the new worship encounter for this emerging sub-congregation. (Notice that like John Wesley, small groups [class meetings] are created before big worship gatherings [society meetings].)
I am usually stretching students with ostensibly non-traditional strategies, but the typical strategies (making everyone melt into an indistinct grey-green cultural goo) is not working. And, the strategy I outlined above is working in churches that are growing amid disinterested and unfriendly cultures, such as St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield England (http://www.sttoms.net ).
Gary McIntosh in “Taking Your Church to the Next Level: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” In the book and conference he outlined Church levels as such:
The Relational Church: 15-200 worshippers
The Managerial Church: 200-400 worshippers
The Organizational Church: 400-800 worshippers
The Centralized Church: 800-1,500 worshippers
The Decentralized Church: 1,500-plus worshippers
Whitesel Typology = McIntosh + Dunbar
Gary McIntosh has helped by delineating different types of churches. But he knows that I disagree with him on one aspect. And that is that you don’t have to have that number of worshipers to be that type of church. In other words, some of us have seen churches that are overly organized in the 150 range. And we have seen churches that exhibit all the hallmarks of the centralized church in the 300 range.
What I think is a key is that churches can be “decentralized” much before they’re up to 1500 worshipers. What Gary is saying is that churches typically are decentralized once they get over 1,500 worshipers.
But, I have seen many churches that are over 1,500 worshipers which really are structured like an organizational church. Gary knows I disagree with him and that is because I tend to work with more different varieties and sizes of churches. But I think the personalities of these five churches are valid … but just not that these personalities are limited to these size ranges.
Now, why is this important? It is important because the “decentralized church” is for McIntosh the goal of churches. And, I agree. I just think you can be “decentralized” for health and growth much earlier … even around 100 attendees.
by Mark Molloy, London Telegraph Newspaper, 5/20/16.
The pursuit of happiness can be a lifelong search for some – but researchers believe they may have found a key factor in feeling a greater overall sense of wellbeing.Individuals who feel a strong sense of belonging to social groups are much happier people, according to new research by psychologists.
Nottingham Trent University researchers found that the more an individual identified with a particular group, such as family, in their local community or through a hobby, the happier they were with their life. “Our findings suggest that thinking more about one’s group life could have significant benefits for an overall sense of wellbeing,” said Dr Juliet Wakefield, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University. “We tend to identify with groups that share our values, interests and life priorities, as well as those that support us in times of crisis, and we can see how this would link to happiness. Our work taps into knowledge that is deep within all of us, but which we often forget due to the fast-paced and achievement-focused nature of modern life – that to be your best self, you tend to require the support of others.”
They studied how 4,000 participants felt connected to certain groups, and then measured the impact this had upon their levels of happiness. She added: “It’s important to note that identifying with a group isn’t the same as membership, though. You can be a member of a group with which you feel no connection at all. It’s that subjective sense of belonging that’s crucial for happiness.
“Healthcare professionals should encourage people to join groups that they are interested in, or which promote their values and ideals, as well as advising people to maintain association with groups they already belong to. Simple social interventions such as this could in turn help to reduce NHS expenditure and prevent future ill health.”
In His Grace;
Bob W. <><
(Typ@s by Siri.)
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.
Alfredo Barreno is a Hispanic American church planter. He discussed how he was thrust into church planting (selected by his pastor) and found “intentional discipleship” the most challenging. “I selected a group of 10, with core principles such as investigate the scriptures, pray together, sermon discussion, fellowship and reach out. Soon were were only five left. With those five I continued a small group with the goal that each would start their own group eventually. Several months later we opened five more small groups started by those five group leaders.”
QUOTE: “Small groups are one of the most important structures in the church for discipleship.” Bob Whitesel.
VIDEO of Bob Whitesel Ph.D., Oct. 2012 at the Turnaround2020.com Conference, Nashville, TN. Published by ChurchCentral.com. For more info see Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Wesleyan Publishing House).
Speaking hashtags: #PowellChurch #DWC
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/29/15.
Most people intuitive understand that accountability and discipleship take place in small, intimate groups (e.g. Jesus’ twelve disciples or Wesley’s band meetings). And, I have some to believe that small groups are probably the most important of the three tiers in a church (congregation – sub-congregation – small groups). But, my students and clients often say people in their church resist the idea of small groups?
If you have encountered this situation, let me explain a dynamic that is sometimes the source of this variance in viewpoints regarding the suitability and validity of small groups. Then I will follow with a short leadership exercise to help you (and your leaders) identify where their reticence comes from,
Where does small group reticence come from?
Often times rejection occurs because people in the church have a preconceived notion of what constitutes a small group, such as a weeknight home fellowship group. They may have had a bad experience with what they perceive as small groups in the past, if they had been encouraged (they may even feel coerced) into joining one. You see, they will resist joining a weeknight small group because their small group needs are already being met in the Sunday School “style” of small group. Thus, they have a restricted impression of a small group, as some sort of extra weeknight meeting. Why would they want this when their small group need are already being met in Sunday School class or elsewhere.
But, as you will notice from my books, a home fellowship group is only one type of small group. There are hundreds of types of small groups: committees, teams, worship bands, tech crews, leadership teams, etc. etc. etc.. And, most of our churches already have them in Sunday School classes.
A leadership exercise.
- First, if you encounter initial reticence to the idea of small groups, educate yourself on the history of small groups in the congregation. See if there isn’t limited view of what constitutes a small group. Take a piece of paper and divide it down the middle. On the left side, write out the history of small groups in your congregation in bulleted points (no more that a half dozen).
- Next, in the right column describe how people in the church felt about small groups at each bulleted point. Use a Likert Scale (1 – 5):
- = “highly disfavorable,”
- = “disfavorable,”
- = “no opinion,”
- = “favorable” and
- = “highly favorable”).
Put at the top: How were small groups viewed as a result of this stage?
- Finally, create a plan of four (4) stages to educate the reticent ones (slowly and tactfully) that small groups are (per the definition above) informal conclaves or many, many different varieties. Also address the times when small groups were increasingly disfavorable.
When congregants realize they are already in a small group and you are not asking them to join another … then they will usually not dismiss them, nor be wary of them.
by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/17.15.
A student once fell into the typical misstep of concentrating on events as the primary avenue to grow a church. Let me quote his query and my answer to explain the importance of “discipleship” rather than “event” turnout.
Student A said: “I truly believe as I am writing my paper that God is revealing Himself to me in great and marvelous ways. My prayer is that we can be more innovative in reaching the lost. We are already planning on an outdoors Sunday service next month. We are going to have hamburgers, hotdogs, games, etc. and most importantly we are going to share Christ. Does anyone have an idea about how we might make it more relevant to the community? Something that we might be able to do that would draw in some of those who do not go to church on Sunday morning! Let me know!!”
Dear Student A;
The key to an outdoor service is the follow-up small groups event. Notice I said small groups (plural). Events are often only marginally useful if they don’t lead the unchurched attendees to small group involvement (where they can share their heart with others and be discipled).
Thus for any suggestions students might tender, they will be primarily ineffective if they are not directed toward connection of unchurched people with discipleship groups.
Speaking hashtags: #StLizTX #StMarksTX
by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/9/15
Can there be too much of a good thing? Yes. I have observed a recurring misstep with small groups is to have too many meetings (with too little spiritual formation).
A student once tendered a very good question saying,
“Dr. Whitesel, Would you say that it’s necessary for all ‘small groups’ that don’t have a formal meeting time to have one?
For example, we have a team of people who direct traffic. This group could probably be considered a small group, but they don’t have a collective meeting time, because they serve at various services, etc. In your opinion should they have regular meeting times where they all come together?
It seems that if that is the case and people are involved in multiple ministries like this, they could very quickly become overwhelmed with the number of meetings and groups to be a part of. Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid burnout if people are in multiple groups and need to have collective meetings with their groups regularly?”
Here is my response.
Hello; Good questions. The cure for burnout is to not have too many meetings. Thus, you would not want to make groups such as the parking team have to have additional meetings.
But the key is that you want to make them do UP-IN-OUT activities regularly. UP is worship/word/prayer time. IN is sharing hearts, supporting one another and prayer requests. OUT is regular service to others.
Thus, you would require the parking team (at some time, perhaps before the cars arrive) to have an IN and UP time, e.g. perhaps sharing prayer requests and then praying for them and singing a worship song together.
They are already serving others well (the OUT element of small groups) through their parking lot hospitality.
But adding these missing “spiritual formation elements” can revolutionize your team! That is because in the example the student gave, the small group was not growing in all three areas, but primarily only growing in service OUT.
by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/9/15.
Have you met someone that was turned-off to the idea of small groups in a church? I certainly have. A student once shared about his failed attempt to talk to someone about small groups, saying:
“I talked with someone a couple days ago. Mentioned small groups. She got fairly worked up. She was not interested in all that ‘social engineering.’ She felt that all that the small group could accomplish could be accomplished quite well in church and amongst her chosen relationships. My attempts at defending the concept did not accomplish much (as far as I could tell). This person, whether she NEEDS a small group or not, will not be found in a small group. Your brother, _____.”
Here is my reply.
Thanks for sharing. This is an all too common reaction that we often get when we unknowingly use loaded language. Loaded language means that this lady probably already has a negative view of small groups (she probably saw some sort of program called “small groups” and did not realize that there are many types of small groups and many types of small group ministries).
Thus, in hindsight you probably would want to talk with her about her friendships and how small gatherings of her friends have helped her.
Then if you ascertain she has a small group outside of the church, tell her that is great 🙂 We want everyone to have a small group of friends. But we also hope that this group can lead them closer to Christ. If she has that, encourage that. But, if she doesn’t have such a group, then graciously and tactfully guide her toward finding that type of environment.
Speaking hashtags: #StLizTX #StMarksTX
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Elmer Towns wrote the introduction to a very good book on small group leadership and since he is a friend and mentor, this encouraged me to check out the book. The book is titled, “8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders” and it is by Dave Early. It covers each of the “8 habits of effective small group leaders” in a chapter. Here are the chapters, but for good insights, check out the book.”
- Dream of leading a healthy, growing, multiplying group.
- Pray for group members daily
- Invite new people to visit the group weekly
- Contact group members regularly
- Prepare for the group meeting
- Mentor an apprentice leader
- Plan group fellowship activities
- Be committed to personal growth
by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/9/15.
A student after studying my chapter and chart on “Missteps With Small Groups” in Growth by Accident, Death by Planning (Abingdon Press) said, “I believe we should re-assess all of our small groups and find out if they are truly needed and if not then we should transition people into different groups.”
This statement was a red flag for me. Let me explain why.
People in small groups like to stay in their small groups. It is their accountability and small community group. You must be careful before you “transition people” into other groups unless they really, really need this.
It has been my observation that when groups have change thrust upon them in the name of innovation, most of the time the innovation doesn’t occur and people are only hurt because they’ve lost the small group community that meant so much to them. And, over the years I’ve not seen small groups as the place where we innovate. Instead, they are where we commune. Thus, if at all possible don’t eliminate small groupings.
Instead, you can combine 2-3 small groups together once a month for outreach. This is called “clustering” small groups (see Bob Hopkins and Mike Breen, Clusters: Creative Mid-sized Missional Communities (3dm Publications). Clustering lets the groups remain together, but when they join with a few other groups once a month they then have enough person-power to do effective social action ministry in the community.
- Add small groups (so more people can be in small groups)
- Cluster small groups (so more social action can take place via a cluster of small groups)
- But don’t split or close a small group (for this is their spiritual community) unless, absolutely necessary.
I hope these reflections help you pause before you close a small group.
Speaking hashtags: #StLizTX #StMarksTX
by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/9/15.
Over the years I’ve discovered that using the terms “cell groups” (e.g. leadership teams or discipleship groups) or “celling” too often confuses people because it insinuates that small groups of leaders or small groups for discipleship must equally divide, as a biological “cell” would do, into two even halves.
I have found that this tactic, based upon equal division of a small group, is often resisted by group members because they need a consistency of participants to foster openness and accountability. Thus people’s need for the stability they have found in small groups and teams makes them resist launching a new small group out of the their group (which they fear would undercut their cohesiveness and candidness).
However, small groups will usually be open to a few individuals “planting” a small group like them (I sometimes call this “birthing a small group from the DNA of the mother small group”).
ATTACHED IS AN AUDIO NOTE with more of my thoughts on this. I think this helps explain why celling (equally dividing of a small group) usually does not work in North America, but why “birthing” a small group from the DNA of the mother group does work.