Healthy Groups

I’ve been lucky enough to have had a couple of development days over the last month, working one-to-one with a facilitator. One of the things that I’ve been thinking about is what makes a healthy group in a congregation.

This is all rather relevant because, as St Mary’s grows, it seems inevitably to me that we will be supporting and encouraging more small groups.

Here are some of the things that I think I’ve worked out might be distinctive of healthy groups in St Mary’s.

  • You know who the convener or leader or contact person is and this person is agreed by all to have such a role
  • It is clear whether the group is an open group inviting new members or a closed group where new people are added by invitation.
  • Contact details are published.
  • The group reports honestly to the wider community, for example through the AGM papers.
  • There is a clear remit for the group.
  • The group ceases to exists when its business is done.
  • The wider aims of the Cathedral are part of the ethos of the group.
  • The existence of the group is in the public domain.
  • The leadership/convenership changes in an expected way according to a clearly understood process. (For example this could be election by the members or it could be nomination by Vestry or Provost but that should be understood before the need arises).
  • Needs of space and time are managed in a non-confrontational way in collaboration with other groups and individuals.

Have I missed anything? I bet I have.

I noticed that my weekly e-mail from the Alban Institute this week was quite relevant. I’ve thought for a while that the size transition boundaries that they use are a bit higher in the states than they seem to be in the UK. The first example that they quote (the Multi-Celled Church) seems to have quite a few of the characteristics of St Mary’s at the moment.


  1. Andrew says

    Thanks, Kelvin. These are really vital guidelines, but like a lot else in the church, they can be agreed by all and then not acted on. I wish that I had circulated them in one of my previous existences where in London as PCC Secretary, I was expected to liaise with 12 groups each comprising 10 people. A report once a year was hopeless, and activities need to be regularly posted and discussed more widely if there is an issue.
    Has anyone else had an experience not on your list? I have twice recently south of the border belonged to a group which was disabled before it even began its task. In the C of E this is by a ‘sleeper’ member or a non-member up the chain ‘who knows’ (not a man in a purple shirt, but often a lay person worthy of ‘Yes Minister’). They never communicate directly with the group.
    Most of us prefer analysis to synthesis – and, God help us ‘implementation’. Its wrong, but I can see why people give up with their church to go on believing secretly in the cupboard under their stairs. Please circulate this list Kelvin, and lets hope we can share good practise and influence the C of E , and anywhere that ‘SPH’ is the first commandment. SPH? – safe pair of hands, the killer application not found in the New Testament.

  2. Jimmy says

    I wrote this after being turned away from a ‘closed’ Christian? house group.

    George, how are you able to stay
    within a house from which I’m turned away
    when to enter even there I would despise
    if you were turned away from Paradise.

    It was a number of years ago but a Christian closed group is something that still manages to give give me a headache.

  3. In fairness Jimmy, you are going into somebody’s home so it’s fair dos that they can reject who they want without reason. St.Silas are all about the housegroups; I think I have the longest attendance there without being in one.

  4. Jimmy says



    Do not ask
    whose standing in the doorway
    do not ask where they have been
    do not ask about their sin
    call out quickly
    “Come in” “Come in”

    Do not ask
    whose standing in the doorway
    do not ask for a sign
    of appearance to please us
    do not even ask their name
    their name is Jesus.

    The house group in question was made up of my friends in the church. George being my best friend. I was attending this house group up until this point.They would not let me in because they were discussing their break away from the church to make their own church, which was something I disagreed with.
    I have not seen any of them for years but the last I heard they are all back in the fold.

    The only closed Christian house group I know of in the Bible was when the disciples were afraid before Pentecost.

  5. There does need to be clear communications about small groups,I agree especially who it is aimed at, contact details, content,time of study e.g one or 6 evenings say. ,lenght of time.However I do agree that the invitation part is tricky,it depends how it is handled because some inevitably will feel excluded( but I suppose it also depends on the nature and purpose of the group)If it is limited by numbers due to space or no. of leaders this should be clearly stated and if is going to be repeated,if it is a specific topic ,would also be good.However the benefits to the congregation of possibly becoming closer and more involved,deepening their faith is
    surely worth the effort of organising these groups?
    I’m sorry you were hurt by this Jimmy esp since you’d obviously been in the group for sometime but I don’t think this is Kelvin’s intent on talking about closed groups perhaps closed isn’t the right word for them

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