Small Groups Assessment

The purpose of the Small Groups Assessment is to measure the effectiveness of your small group ministry in seven key areas identified by Jim Egli and Dwight Marable in their research on over 4,000 small group leaders (you can read more in their book, Small Groups – Big Impact). Four of these areas relate directly to the groups themselves:

  1. Prayer
  2. Outreach
  3. Care
  4. Empowerment

The other three are elements within the church’s culture that support the growth of the entire small group ministry 

  1. Prayer saturation
  2. An equipping system 
  3. Coaching of small group leaders

Click here if you’re ready to start the assessment or read more about the seven key areas below.


Egli and Marable’s study found that 83% of groups that had a leader who modelled and facilitated prayer saw someone come to Christ in the past nine months (versus 19% of groups that did not have a praying leader). Praying leaders spend time with God. They actively pray for group members and group meetings. They pray for unsaved people in their lives and in the lives of others within the group. As the leader and others in the group engage in a lifestyle of prayer, people sense God’s presence in the group. Life change happens. People get saved. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that kind of group? 


When group leaders and their groups have an outreach focus, they are much more likely to see people come to Christ. The study found that 90% of groups with this kind of focus saw someone come to Christ in the last six months (versus 11% of groups without this outreach emphasis). In the book, Egli and Marable talk about the five I’s of reaching out:

  1. Investment - members spend time with friends in order to share Christ
  2. Invitation – leaders encourage members to invite others
  3. Intention - outreach is a stated purpose of the group
  4. Intercession – group members pray during their meetings for unsaved friends
  5. Imitation - leaders model relational outreach

If we want to grow our small groups, outreach needs to be an important part of group life.


A strong caring orientation is another key strategy for growing our small groups. The study showed that 44% of caring groups added at least four new members since starting (versus 18% without this emphasis). Caring groups spend time with one another outside of group meetings. They pray for each other, support each other and have fun together. Group members function like a family.

People sometimes assume that they will sacrifice care if their small group focuses on outreach. Egli and Marable found that the opposite was true. “If you want to experience deeper community in your small group, you should make it an open group that actively reaches out to others” (p. 37).


Growing groups often have group leaders who empower group members to live out God’s calling on their lives (62% of groups with empowering leaders had multiplied or sent out new leaders versus 27% of groups without an empowering leader). They see the potential in people and encourage members to take risks to realize their potential. They are constantly looking for and developing leaders who will be able to lead the existing group and possibly lead a new group in the future.

Prayer Saturation

Churches with a strong small group ministry have a culture of prayer. The pastor models a life of prayer and communicates its importance through sermons and in other ways. Church leaders emphasize prayer and fasting. The congregation regularly experiences and hears stories of answered prayer including miraculous healings. It’s easy to find opportunities to pray with others. God moves powerfully in this kind of praying church.

Equipping System

Churches with healthy, growing small groups have a growth orientation. They’re always looking for ways to equip people to love and serve God. They have a clear equipping system and are constantly developing new leaders.

Coaching of Small Group Leaders

Coaching involves a coach meeting with small group leaders individually and as a group for support, prayer, and growth-oriented interactions. The coach is aware of the needs of small group leaders and prays regularly for them. This person could be the one overseeing the small group ministry or someone else. It could even be a group of people. The bottom line is that someone is investing in the life of each small group leader.

These are the seven elements that Egli and Marable discovered were essential for growing small groups. The Small Groups Assessment will help you see how your small group and church are doing in these seven areas. Ready to check it out?