5 ideas for evaluating small group time

One of the things our student ministry team is really great at is evaluating our Middle School and High School Programs each and every week. I want to make sure to continually improve and figure out if we are meeting our program goals and desired outcomes.

One things that's easy to evaluate is all the upfront stuff. The things everyone can see, hear, and be a part of. The more difficult part of the night to evaluate [and the one that's the most important] is small group time.

If you have more than one small group...chances are you can't be at all of them to see how it's going. So how do you measure something you are not at? How do you know that the 30 or 40 minute chunk of time you center everything around [the small group experience] doesn't totally suck?

Here are a few tried and true tips for evaluating the effectiveness of your small groups.

1) Keep an eye on the attendance.
Numbers are not everything but if students stop showing up...well ya gotta wonder.

2) Leaders of Leaders 
We have leaders whose only job in our student ministry is to oversee a specific group of small group leaders. We call these groupings 'Families' (can also be classes...such as 8th grade girl leaders or 7th grade guy leaders). These are led by "Family Leaders." These amazing people do not lead any small groups themselves but instead are available each program night to make sure all their small group leaders are there. They help to place new students into small groups, gather attendance rosters, troubleshoot if problems come up, and can pop in to observe and check in on small groups through out the evening. Back where I used to work we used interns for this...but I think it's even better with volunteers filling this role. Most of them are parents of students in our programs. Most have been a part of the student ministry for a long time and really know what the heck they are doing. They are smart, nurturing, and wonderful.

3) Face to Face Check In's
Twice during the school year each Life Group leader gets a Face to Face "check in" [free food is usually involved) to see how things are going. Usually the Family Leader does this, but it can also be one of our student ministry pastors (like myself). I love doing check ins. This is where we talk about expectations, goals, and encourage leaders to do the things they committed to like contacting kids, showing up, coming to trainings, etc...and CELEBRATE the awesome things they have been doing all along.

4) Parents
They are quick to let you know how it's going. They love to share about how their son or daughter's small group leader emailed them or showed up at a soccer game or school play. They are also usually not afraid to tell you when things suck. If their kid's small group leader never calls them, never makes any connections outside of church, or can't seem to handle the group...well parents will let you know! Make sure you are accessible to parents, intentionally ask them how their son/daughter's small group is going, and be proactive [and positive] about it.

5) A Brief Morning-After survey. 
A quick "How did it go" email survey taking less than 60 seconds to fill out gets sent out the morning after small groups. Here is a sample of my latest one [below]...and I heard so MANY GREAT things from this little brief survey I sent out. The feedback it collected is really helpful for me to get a grasp on how things are going.  I use the free version of Survey Monkey and it's awesome...so easy! I also change up the questions a bit each week.

Sometimes I ask questions like... Did you open the Bible with your students this week during small group? Did you use the lesson?  If not..what did you do instead? But I don't want it to feel like a report card, so I am always careful to make sure it's a helpful tool and not "the small group police."


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