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October 6, 2010

The Four Stages of Group Development

Get a better understanding of what your group members are experiencing, and what they need.


Our newest featured download Evaluations for Small-Group Leaders is filled with great assessments and tools for groups and group leaders. One of my favorite is written by Carolyn Taketa, who talks about the four stages of development in all small groups.

Those stages are: 1) Forming, 2) Engaging, 3) Maturing, and 4) Transitioning.

Here is a brief overview of each one:

  • The Forming Stage. In the forming stage, people are connecting for the first time, checking out the group, and figuring out if this is a place where they can belong and grow. They are evaluating the leader, other members, the purpose of the group, and its expectations in order to determine whether this group will be worth their time and effort. The leader's prayers, preparations, and follow-up with potential members are vital at this stage. In addition, a welcoming, gracious, and encouraging environment where people have opportunities to get to know each other helps the group start off strong.
  • The Engaging Stage. In the engaging stage, group members are learning more about one another and starting to trust each other. Commitment to the group increases as friendships continue to grow. Members share increasingly more personal issues, support each other, and care for one another's needs. Unity is strengthened and a sense of "us" begins to emerge. As people become more open and authentic with one another in this stage, personality conflicts or clashes of opinions may arise. When such conflicts are handled with gentleness, truth, and grace, the group will be propelled to deeper levels of love for one another.
  • The Maturing Stage. In the maturing stage, members know and accept one another, recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of each person. The group is cohesive, mutual respect is high, and members are interdependent. Desire for personal spiritual growth and greater missional purpose drives the group's relationships and activities. The group goes "beyond itself" to reach out to nonbelievers and show God's love to those in need. Members regularly engage in spiritual disciplines and understand the role of the group in their spiritual development. The group consistently looks for ways to encourage and hold each other accountable in their commitments toward change.
  • The Transitioning Stage. In the transitional stage, the group begins to disband for any number of natural reasons (most of which are listed below). Group members reflect and rejoice over the ways God has used the group to help them grow and be a blessing to others. While some friendships will flourish beyond the group and others will end, the impact of the group on the members' lives will endure.

Interesting, huh? The nice thing about Carolyn's assessment in the aforementioned download is that it helps you identify what stage your group is in, but also whether or not your group is thriving in that stage.

And if you've made it this far, why not post a comment and let us know what stage you would guess your small group to be in?

posted by Sam O'Neal on October 6, 2010 8:24 AM

Related Tags: Development, Stages

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