Jim Egli has done some doctoral work on what makes small groups successful.
For success in each individual group, Egli’s research says the four most influential factors are…
- The prayer life of the leader.
- Having an outward focus as a group.
- Experiencing loving, caring relationships in the group.
- Mobilizing new leaders.
In short, healthy groups pray, reach, care, and empower.
As for a healthy small group ministry church-wide, Egli says it comes down to…
- Equipping new leaders.
- Coaching current leaders.
Egli’s research showed that coaching made the biggest difference of the three. He therefore advocates a lot of training sessions and monthly coaching gatherings. He boasts solid attendance at the monthly coaching by supplying a meal and childcare. His monthly meeting runs 2.5 hrs (30 min meal, 1 hr pep talk & worship, 1 hr meet with your coaching cluster to care for each other).
Although I enjoyed Egli’s insights, I’m not convinced his format flies in every context, particularly amongst small churches. I’m a small group pastor at a church of 300, and although the principles for success may be the same, I’m not convinced the elaborate structure is needed. If the church needs new leaders, I simply ask someone to try it out. If someone needs coaching (which they all do at times), I meet with them when they need it, rather than locking them into predetermined frequency. I’d love to do some training and coaching in larger settings, but I’ve found that when people know they can meet with you as a friend, they are less inclined to meet with you as a professional.