The Single most important thing….

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

John 6:63 (ESV)

I recently re-read Small Groups, Big Impact by Jim Egli and Dwight Marable.  This book is based on a research project that these men conducted to answer the question, what are the factors that impact conversion growth through small groups?  They surveyed over 3000 small group leaders in 21 countries using a survey instrument and interviews to discover the right things that groups should do to be effective fishers of men.  I thought that their findings had applications for DMM / CPM in several respects.  David Garrison found that the first characteristic of CPM’s is extraordinary prayer.  I’ll just lift some quotes from the book to give you a sneak peak into their findings:

The practice that impacts the health and growth of a small group the most is the prayer life of its leader.  If you walk away from this book with only one insight, perhaps it should be this: If you want a vibrant and growing small group, consistently take time to grow in your relationship with God!

The prayer life of the leader correlates positively with the other three dimensions of small group health—Reach, Care, and Empower. Leaders who pray more have groups that are more outward focused. Their groups also experience more community and are more engaged in mobilizing new leadership. But the prayer life of the leader has a particularly strong impact on the evangelistic effectiveness of a group.

the amount of difference that a leader’s prayer life makes on a group’s evangelistic impact is startling. Our research reveals that leaders with a strong prayer life have groups that are more than four times more fruitful evangelistically.

Our research, involving thousands of small groups, dramatically underlines the simple Biblical truth: When we pray, we see God do awesome things! If you want others drawn to Jesus and their lives changed, pray. If you want Jesus’ life flowing to you and through you, draw near to him. Life-giving ministry depends on God and his abilities, not on you and your abilities!

prayer-in-small-groupswe were surprised to discover that the amount of time spent preparing the Bible lesson shows no correlation whatsoever to small group growth. In other words, the leaders who spend five hours preparing the Bible lesson for their groups have groups that grow no faster than the leaders who spend five minutes preparing the lesson! Amazing but true. It does make a dramatic difference, however, how much time the leader spends praying for his small group meeting.

Interestingly, when we asked leaders how much time they spend preparing the lesson and how much time they spend praying for their small group meeting, most leaders told us that they spend far more time preparing their lesson than they do praying for their meeting! Few leaders realize that lesson preparation makes a negligible difference in group health and growth, but prayer makes a big difference. It is much more important to prepare your heart than it is to prepare your notes!

having a vibrant group depends more on God than on you. Your primary role is to tune into him.

we asked small group leaders how much time they spent watching television in the average day. The statistical analysis showed an extremely strong negative correlation between small group growth and the amount of time the leader spent watching television. Most likely this correlation simply means that when we do things that take large amounts of time away from relationship with God and relationship with others—it adversely affects those relationships.”

From Small Groups, Big Impact

by Jim Egli