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The Life Cycle of a Group

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” a wise man said in Ecclesiastes 3. We see this apply to groups noticing there’s a season of new birth, fruitfulness, trimming and letting aspects fall away that are no longer growing. There are uncomfortable seasons of dying or hibernation.

Every group, whether a team, a small group or a community group, develops over a period of time, formulating its unique identity and personality. Each group goes through phases of development or stages of “growing up”.

We love the times in our groups when everyone is engaged, people are forming new friendships and we see God at work in their lives. But maturing can also be uncomfortable, even painful. We can let these happen, or we can use these transitions as opportunities of disciple-making (Matthew 28:18-20). Increasing awareness of what season your group is in will help you lead it well during this phase. It will also help you discern how to pray and prepare to lead our group into its net phase of maturity.

Which of the following summaries best describes the phase your group is in?

 

Forming: Birth and Infancy Stage

  • What is the leader focused on at this stage?
  • Setting clear communication for the group
  • Settling all the logistics of where and when to meet
  • Clarifying the group focus and participant expectations
  • Help everyone feel welcome and comfortable
  • Provide the opportunity for each member to share their story
  • Demonstrate authenticity
  • Model prayer for the group

Questions people might have at this stage?

  • How should I behave as part of this group?
  • What is this group all about?
  • Do I belong here?

What people might be feeling at this stage:

  • Excitement
  • Anticipation
  • Awkwardness
  • Anxiety

What should the participants of this group be doing?

  • Take the time to get to know each other
  • Be open and share about yourself

Resources to help at this stage:

 

Norming: Childhood Stage

What is the leader focused on at this stage?

  • Clarifying the group focus and participant expectations
  • Help each individual become part of the group
  • Encourage participation
  • Resolve any initial conflicts that arise
  • Develop a rapport with each member of the group
  • Make prayer comfortable

What questions will people have at this stage?

  • Can I be truly authentic with this group?
  • Do I like this group?
  • What is expected of me?
  • What is our mission?

What people might be feeling at this stage:

  • Tension or Anxiety
  • Openness
  • Support

What should the participants of this group be doing?

  • Provide feedback to the leader about their experience with the group
  • Begin to take ownership

Resources to help at this stage:

 

Conforming: Teenage Stage

What is the leader focused on at this stage?

  • Clarify group goals and mission
  • Affirm involvement of each member and encourage
  • ownership
  • Make adjustments where necessary
  • Recognize and foster potential in each group member
  • Begin encouraging everyone to pray within the group time

Questions participants might have at this stage:

  • Will I give myself fully to this?
  • Will this group accomplish its mission?

What people might be feeling at this stage:

  • Eagerness
  • Supportiveness
  • An all-in attitude
  • Resistance
  • Testing boundaries

What should the participants of this group be doing?

  • Express your feelings
  • Take ownership

Resources to help at this stage:

Performing: Maturity

What is the leader focused on at this stage?

  • Maintain group relationships and details
  • Encourage continued participation
  • Help the group be responsible for itself
  • Identify and mentor a potential leader
  • Challenge members towards personal growth and mission
  • Change up your prayer approach

Questions participants might have at this stage:

  • How can I experience life change with this group?
  • How can I reach my friends who are far from Christ?
  • What will we accomplish together?

What people might be feeling at this stage:

  • Eagerness
  • Comfort
  • Interdependence

What should the participants of this group be doing?

  • Feel free to use your gifts and strengths within the group
  • Step out of your comfort zone
  • Care for your peers and support your leader

Resources to help at this stage:

Stagnating or Revitalizing: Death or Rebirth

What is the leader focused on at this stage?

  • Acknowledge the new reality of the group.
  • Offer a safe environment for the members to process the
  • change.
  • Work with the GroupLife staff to offer options and lead well through the change
  • Walk potential leaders through the Leadership pathway
  • Listen attentively
  • Acknowledge the variety of feelings and give space for them to be expressed

Questions participants might have at this stage:

  • Will we survive?
  • What’s next for me?
  • Will we have the chance to experience something like this again?
  • How will our relationships change?

What people might be feeling at this stage:

  • Grief
  • Excitement
  • Anticipation
  • Uncertainty

What should the participants of this group be doing?

  • Feel free to process your feelings with the group or your leaders
  • Be honest and authentic about the changes and how they affect you
  • Support your leaders

Resources to help at this stage:

Growing as a Leader

As you develop an understanding of how your group’s season and phase of growth relates to making disciples, may you grow in wisdom and in becoming more like Jesus. (Ephesians 4:11-16) May the atmosphere you nurture can make a meaningful difference in the group you lead. If you need support navigating a new season in your group and growing your skills as a leader, be sure to reach out to your area pastor for a chat.