The purpose of this grounded theory research study was to discover the transformational learning elements of a small group experience at an Evangelical Christian church that fosters personal transformation. Given the lack of Evangelical Christians experiencing personal transformation within small groups, leaders and teachers could learn much from transformational learning theory that continues to be the predominant framework for research in the area of adult education. The source of data for this study was interviews with small group leaders, teachers, and participants who had experienced a personal transformation while attending a small group. Analysis of the data found that participants faced a variety of circumstances that were personal, meaningful, and transformative, revealing 8 elements, mostly relational, within the small group experience that fostered personal transformation. The concluding theory for this study is that the relational elements of small groups, such as love, care, prayer, and connection create a transformative learning environment where personal transformation is likely to take place through the transparency and development of close relationships with others in the group. Implications of this study include pastors and leaders incorporating relational elements into small groups by taking intentional steps to match individuals, set expectations, set an example, be open and honest, know members, focus on the Bible, be ready to learn, and assess throughout. Creating a life-changing small group experience is an essential mission of Evangelical churches and by incorporating these elements churches can make great strides in fostering spiritual growth and personal transformation in individuals' lives.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Transformative learning; Small groups -- Religious aspects -- Christianity; Evangelicalism; Spiritual formation -- Christianity

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Patterson, Michael;