Does Your Small Group Have A Relational Environment? Take This Test To Find Out!

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How Relational Is Your Small Group Environment?

I’m sure you have heard at least one story of someone who stopped going to their small group because they never felt  ‘connected’ with the people there. And you have probably also heard from someone else with the exact opposite experience, that is thriving in their small group. 

Being in a small group together can enable relationships to go deeper, and transparency to occur. But sometimes people in small groups don’t seem to connect, and the group may have a high turnover rate.  Why is it that some small groups work and other small groups don’t seem to? Is it just a matter of chance or personal chemistry, or are there some components that can cause a small group to be more successful, and even foster relationships?

The good news is, there are some components that work together to help make a small group more effective! One very important one is the atmosphere, or ‘environment’ of the group. An intentional relational environment can set the stage for deeper, more open conversations between group members. This kind of environment can provide a safe place to be transparent and vulnerable. And as trust and grace grow deeper, this kind of environment also encourages accountability and spiritual growth, and can be a place for discipleship to begin.

[tweetthis url=””]An intentional relational environment can set the stage for deeper, more open conversations between group members[/tweetthis]

In a relational environment, the people involved are doing life together with a kingdom mindset. The relationships go beyond just their weekly time together in small group. They begin doing things together outside of group – become involved in each others lives. They move from strangers to friendship. These relationships press into areas of privacy, transparency and vulnerability. This is the kind of environment where discipleship happens, and this is the kind of environment being talked about in the following passage:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” – Acts 2:42-43 NIV

 So – what makes a Relational Environment for Discipleship? You may be looking at the groups you are leading or are a part of and wonder how you can tell if the environment is conducive to deeper relationship. Is your group effectively modeling a relational environment?

Here are 10 questions to help you gage the relational level of your group environment.  Rate your group’s strength or weakness on each of the components listed below using this scale:

5. Outstanding Strength
4. Strength
3. Competent
2. Needs Improvement
1. Needs Significant Improvement

⎯ Is your small group a safe place to show compassion and pray for one another?

⎯Does your group model transparency?  Sharing your lives openly and honestly, including struggles?

⎯ Does your group maintain confidentiality? Do things shared within the group remain there?

⎯Is your group good at listening? Do you focus on people when they talk, actually care about what they are saying?

⎯Patience – Do you allow awkward silences to occur to give each person the opportunity to share?

⎯ How big is your group? Do you keep it at 4-12 people so that each person can be known?

⎯If struggle or sickness arises in a members life, is your group there to help out both physically and emotionally?

⎯Mutual Accountability – Do you lovingly and courageously address behaviors that do not glorify God?

⎯Is your group encouraging? Do you celebrate each others victories and thank group members for sharing?

⎯Consistency – Do you meet with your group regularly? Personal relationships do not happen from a distance.


40-50 points

Your group is doing well at modeling a relational environment! Take a look at the things that you didn’t score a 5 on to see what you may need to work on.

30-40 points

Your group might have a few things to work on, but you are well on your way! Get together with someone else in the group and go over the things you see that need work. Talk about what the two of you can do in the group to lead the way toward making it a more relational environment.

30 points or less

You may need to take a closer look at the purpose of the group – If the goal is primarily to educate people,  you may have a class rather than a small group. There is nothing wrong with a class, but it is difficult for disciple making to happen in that atmosphere.
If you goal is to create a small group where discipleship can occur, and
you have determined that your group is not as relational as you would like it to be, it is never to late to start! Here are a few additional components that can help take relationship to the next level;

•Food – sharing food has always been a sure way to connect with others
•Homes – the best place to meet is in someone’s home; it is a great way to get to know them better
•Have fun – get together outside of your normal life group time to participate in fun activities together

We also have some resources that can help you and your small group leaders to become more effective at providing a relational environment where your people can become more connected and grow deeper in their spiritual maturity.

The Real Life Discipleship training manual: This twelve week study can be utilized as a personal study or gone through together as a group. It is a great place to start when getting ready to launch a small group, and also a guide to improve and deepen the small groups you already have going. Click the picture below to order!

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If you would like to learn more about Jesus’ method of Relational Discipleship, take a look at our DiscipleShift 1 Training.