Stages of Group Development

Bruce W. Tuckman, a respected educational psychologist, identified the following five stages of group development after observing of small groups in a variety of environments.  Awareness of these stages may assist the small group leaders in praying for and with the group members and helping the group to reach a high level of trust and cohesiveness.  The description of Tuckman’s fives stages has been adapted to fit the topic of small group ministry.

1.      Forming – Facilitating a welcoming, caring, and accepting atmosphere is important in laying a foundation for the group.  During this time, group members gather information and impressions about each other and the purpose of the group.  The group members often rely heavily on the leader for guidance during this stage.

2.      Storming– During this stage of group development, the members may often feel more comfortable taking risks and sharing personal information.  This is a time when group members experiment with what is safe to share, their roles & responsibilities, and how they can meaningfully participate in the group.  During this stage of group development, conflicts often arise regarding roles & responsibilities, the purpose of the group, personal views, etc.

3.      Norming– During this stage, the group needs to establish rules or norms that are clear and agreed upon.  Past conflicts may have helped group members better understand and appreciate one another.  The leader can provide guidance during this time by helping to provide a safe environment for the members to participate, resolve conflicts, and agree upon norms for the group.

4.      Performing – This stage is characterized by interdependence (balance of feeling free to be oneself and rely on others) and everyone knowing each other well.  As a result, group members have a high level of trust in each other, which results in the ability to discuss and pray about important issues/topics in their lives or accomplish tasks together.

5.      Adjourning– This is a stage when group member may grieve the group coming to an end.  During this stage, the leader can help the members reflect on the joys and struggles experienced in the group.  Also, the leader can assist the members in identifying what they learned, how it can be used in the future, and helping the group members to stay connected with one another.