Use Checklists to Avoid Mistakes

Checklists save lives.

Ask aviators and they will tell you checklists save people from getting hurt or worse. Ask those in the construction industry and they will tell you the same thing.

In his book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Atul Gawande does a deep dive with several industries that use checklists (including aviation, emergency response, construction, and restaurants) to determine the value of using a checklist and to identify lessons learned. He also researched an initiative in Michigan that implemented a checklist in the Intensive Care Units of Michigan hospitals. In the first eighteen months, it saved hospitals money and a significant number of lives.

“In the Keynote Initiative’s first eighteen months, the hospitals saved an estimated $175M in costs and more than fifteen hundred lives. The successes have been sustained for several years now – all because of a stupid little checklist.”

Atul Gawande in The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Why Use Checklists  for Small Groups?

Small groups are also in the business of saving lives. Whether we are seeking out new followers of Jesus or encouraging growth of existing Christians, the ultimate purpose focuses on those lives God has entrusted to us. This is a critically important responsibility that should not be taken lightly. But even with the best intentions, we are not perfect.

Our memories can fail us. I was in a small group where the leader forgot the notes for a small group Bible study. All the questions and all the research were in those notes. It was a simple mistake. But it was also an avoidable mistake if a checklist was used before leaving home for the meeting. Don’t use your mind to remember everything. This only creates unhealthy stress and risks important items and tasks being forgotten.

We’re also tempted to take shortcuts when time is running short or we get overly confident. I did this recently when writing Bible study questions. I didn’t use the checklist and a close-ended question slipped through along with other quality problems. Using a checklist helps reinforce the need to complete important tasks and avoid shortcuts which could impair the effectiveness of a small group Bible study.

Small Group Leader Checklists

There are many ways a checklist can be used before, during, and after small group meetings. To get you thinking about some of the ways you can use checklists, here are just a few ways you could use them regularly:

  • Ensure quality questions
  • Meeting agenda
  • Materials to take to meeting
  • Prayer requests
  • Small group evaluation
  • Activity/outreach planning
  • How to address problems when they occur

Tips for Creating Checklists

Consider the following tips when you create your checklists:

  • Keep the checklist to a small number of items
  • Make the checklist easy to read
  • Identify if the steps need to be completed in order
  • Be concise and specific when stating each step
  • Have others review the checklist
  • Test and update the checklist until it is right
  • Refine the checklist over time

Question: How have you used checklists in the past? Were they helpful or more trouble than they were worth? What additional areas can checklists support in small groups? You can leave a comment by clicking here.