Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Stages of Group Formation

Every group goes through certain stages of life. A common model of group formation is known as Tuckman's stages of group development, and small groups are great examples of this. As each new group comes together to meet and build relationships with one another, the small group will typically navigate through all (or at least most) of these stages:

During the first few meetings, everyone is excited to begin the new group, meet new friends, and dive into learning new ideas. These first few groups meetings are key to allow the group to explore its purpose, its covenant, and its goals. As everyone is just getting to know one another, group members may not speak up as much as they may be getting a feel for the group environment and its structure.

As group members get to know each other and speak up more within the group, conflict will naturally arise. Some group members may tend to dominate a bit more of the conversation, while others hold back. Personality quirks and political viewpoints enter into the mix and worldviews collide, regardless of the Christian backdrop of the group’s purpose.

After settling down from the storming stage, the group members begin to respect each other’s differences and settle into the journey of the small group. Focus is placed back on the group’s goals and progress is made as a team as the group members begin to utilize their spiritual gifts more.

Members within the group become more of who God has called them to be, and deeper relationships with each other are achieved. This stage is the sweet spot where group goals are accomplished and deep bonds are established between group members as they share the mutual experience of walking through the group together.

Although the Ending stage is not always listed among the traditional stages of group formation, it is nonetheless proper to include it within the context of a small group ministry. While some groups have the extraordinary ability to continue growing for years, there are others that should have ended years ago. While there’s no special formula to determine if indeed the group should end, there may be some indicators to help, such as: Group goals are either not established or not met on a continuous basis; the purpose of the group is no longer known nor communicated; the organizer of the group is leading out of habit rather than out of passion; the group members are no longer growing in Christ. Ending a group isn’t a bad thing. As a matter of fact, this is one of the strengths of a thriving small group ministry! By allowing the group to end with a celebration and a meal together, it provides an opportunity for the group members to take a break, reflect on where the Lord is calling them, and then it grants them the ability to join another group if the Spirit is leading them in another direction. 

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