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The Power of Small Group Statistics: The Hows and Whys of Reporting

By Joel Comiskey

July 2005, small group network

Over the past few years I’ve tried numerous weight reduction programs. During those weight loss weeks, I’ve forced myself to get on the scale, knowing it would tell me the truth—the reality of the situation. In some of my heavier moments, I’ve avoided the scale like the plague.

The main reason to keep and review weekly small group statistics is quality control—to know the reality of the small group situation. Statistics also provide the necessary shock treatment, forcing us to see the reality of the situation—“you mean Susana’s cell has also closed!” The positive results of analyzing weekly statistics are:

  • Reality. The leaders will be aware of what’s really happening.
  • Healthy Groups. Small groups will be healthier because timely coaching and resources can be provided before serious damage occurs.
  • Plans for the Future. The church can make more accurate plans for new small groups based on correct data.

Until the year 2000, I thought keeping small group statistics was a good thing—but not necessary. After all, I thought. We were asking a lot of our small group leaders. Why burden them with another chore? At that time I didn’t know how to successfully obtain weekly reports, so I acted like it wasn’t important.

The black hole of fuzzy statistics hit hard in 2000 when we launched a bold small group goal based on faulty data. As the year progressed we discovered too many “ghost groups” that existed only in the minds of the small group coaches. We miserably failed to reach our goal that year because our small group system was weaker than we thought. Our failure stirred us to keep exact statistics and review them consistently.

What statistics to look for?

The basic statistics that pastors, coaches, and small group leaders need to know are:

  • Whether the group met
  • How many were in the group
  • Facts about the group such as conversions and new visitors
  • What the leader did during the week to visit attendees
  • How many from the group are in the small group training
  • Goal for multiplication
  • Prayer requests

A normal report might look like this:

Weekly Life Group Report

Please return to Life Group mail slot in church workroom by Sunday.

Leader: ___________________________ Attendance: _______ Date: ___________

Conversions: ________________ Topic/Theme of gathering: ____________________________

Multiplication date: ___________ Multiplication Leaders: ___________________

Contacts of members/visitors: _______ Visitors: __________

How many in Training Track: ________ Meeting with Coach: __________

Utilize the back for prayer requests or information you deem important to communicate with your Coach/Pastoral Staff.

Another good example from the International Christian Center in Staten Island, New York is:

Weekly Bridge Group Report

Date: ____________________

Leader: __________________________________________ Coach: ___________________________________________

Weekly Activity Report:

Total Attendance: ________ Visitors: ________ Conversions: ___________

Bridge Group Trainees :

_________________________ _________________________ _________________________ _________________________

Number of Follow-Up contacts during the week:

Phone: _______________________________ One-on-one Appointments: ___________________________

Other: ________________________________________

Utilize bottom of sheet for prayer requests or information you deem important to communicate with your Coach/Leadership Staff. If you need more room please use back of page. Thank You.

Please return to Angela Munizzi’s Ministry Office mailbox in the Choir Room

How to get the reports?

If the church is small, a person with the gift of helps may be able to collect and summarize the small group report for the pastor and his team. As the church grows and the coaching team develops, other methods should be utilized. Two common options are:

  • The secretary is responsible to obtain and summarize the small group stats for the coaching team. With this option the secretary might ask the small group leaders to send the reports to her via email, voice mail, dropping them in a small group box, or reporting online. If the report doesn’t come through those channels, the secretary would need to be responsible to call the leader or someone from the group to get the information. She would then summarize the data in a general report for the coaching team to use. It’s important to note that in this option the secretary is ultimately responsible.
  • Each coaching team member becomes responsible to obtain and summarize the reports. The coaching team member might use similar techniques to get the reports (e.g., email, voice mail, etc.), but ultimately he or she would be responsible to have the report summarized by the time the coaching team meeting arrives. This might sound crude, but I recommend fining a coaching team member 25 cents per missing report (this practice quickly reverses gapping reporting holes!). With this option, each team member could ask help from the secretary, but ultimately the team member is responsible.

Under most conditions, I would suggest option two. It’s too easy for a secretary to say, “I tried to call Bill, but he wasn’t available.” Or, “I left a message with Susan, but she didn’t get back to me.”

What are the best statistical programs to use?

The hardest task is to obtain the weekly reports from the small group leaders. Placing them into a data base or spreadsheet is easy in comparison.

Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel is easy to use and adequate for most situations. The great thing about Excel is that it’s easy to make print-outs to pass out to everyone on the coaching team. The weakness is data base storage—specifically tracking each member’s name and progress in the training track. Here are three examples of weekly reports made in Microsoft Excel.

Actual Cell Groups Cell Groups That Met Leaders without Report Cell Attendance Conversions Cell Goals Cell Visits Contact of Leaders
Acum. Actual Telef. Personal
Pr. Hans Vera 48 44 0 229 33 0 50 3 15 8
Pr. Denis Fiallos 81 49 0 231 12 0 90 2 8 10
Pr. Vinicio Gonzalez 46 35 1 202 29 0 57 2 5 7
Pr. Javier Silva 48 26 0 171 45 0 63 2 8 10
Pr. Porfirio Ludeña 38 29 0 223 9 0 50 5 5 4
TOTAL 261 183 1 1056 128 0 310 14 41 39
Figure 1-Weekly Report of a large Cell Church (larger staff)
Actual Cells That Met Attendance Conversions Goal: New Groups Visitors in Cells Contact of Leaders
Acu-mulated Actual Act. Goal Personal or Telphone Contact Coaching Meeting
Pastor David Sanborn 15 12 79 2 0 15 17 3 7 7
Pastor Earl Clugh 22 15 109 0 0 22 27 7 10 4
Pastor Tom Scott 6 6 40 1 0 6 7 4 2 3
TOTAL 43 33 228 3 1 51 80 20 19 14
Figure 2-Weekly Report of Medium Range Small Group Based Church (small pastoral team)
Cells that Met Attendance Conversions Goal: New Groups Visitors in Cells Contact of Leaders
Acu-mulated Actual Act. Goal Personal or Telephone Contact Coaching Meeting
Jane Campbell 1 5 0 0 1 1 0 1 0
Andy Mack 1 6 0 0 1 2 0 3 0
Jim Johnson 1 10 0 0 1 1 0 0 0
Nancy Correll 1 7 1 0 1 2 4 1 0
Tim Duncan 1 5 0 0 1 1 1 0 0
Kirk Miller 1 12 1 0 1 1 0 0 0
John Jones 1 7 0 0 1 1 0 1 0
TOTAL 7 45 2 0 7 2 6 19 14
Figure 3-Weekly Report of Cell Church Plant (lone pastor with small group leader team)

Excellerate

Excellerate is a data software system that is designed for small group based churches (http://www.msdweb.com/ )Their web site states: “Excellerate was designed with Bethany World Prayer Center, one of the leading cell churches in America, and refined by hundreds of other cell churches around the world, to be a comprehensive, user-friendly solution for churches with small groups." Excellerate will help you streamline the management and effectiveness of your small group church in all areas including:

  • Small group management, reporting, leader development...
  • Member tracking, counselings, development, follow-up...
  • Classes, Organizations, Contributions, Pledges

The two strong points that stand out:

  1. The ability to track each member’s progress on the training track
  2. The ability to store loads of data about each person.

The weakness is simplicity in making printable, accessible reports to use in coaching team meetings.

Churchteams

Churchteams software (www.churchteams.com) is all about simplifying the small group reporting experience. It's extremely simple to use but powerful in its application. Churchteams software is entirely web-based. That is, the church doesn't own the software but leases it on a yearly basis. The church places a link on the home website that redirects itself to churchteam's website. Members, leaders, coaches, and pastors can access the church's small group information at this website (although members can see less information than those in higher levels of leadership).

I was very impressed by how Churchteams has designed the reporting system. Emails are automatically sent out to the leaders reminding them to fill in their reports. Leaders need to only click ONE link in the email that will sign them in and bring up the report page. If the leader doesn't fill in the report, the email will be send two days later, etc., until the leader fills in the report.

Churches pay an annual fee to use this software based on the number of church members. We've begun using churchteam's software and like it a lot.

What to do after the reports are processed?

I recommend starting each coaching meeting with prayer and meditation on the Word. Then the lead pastor should ask each coach to give a report about the state of his or her network of small groups. Each coach will give a verbal report, based on a written report of all the cell statistics for that week.

Since every team leader has a written copy of the report, while one coach is talking, the others can follow along. Each is free to ask questions like, “John, I noticed that Mary’s cell group hasn’t met in awhile, is she still leading the group?” Godly peer pressure keeps everyone on track.

Know the state of your flock

Proverbs 27:23 says, “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.” To know the state of your flocks, it’s important to get in the habit of obtaining regular statistical reports. Some people downplay regular reports as mere statistics. What they don’t realize is that quality control happens when coaches know the spiritual state of the small groups. This allows them to pinpoint problems and provide immediate solutions.