From time to time, a Small Group may experience someone who clearly does not emulate a ”covenant” mentality and does not hold Small Group as a priority.
- This attitude may stem from a genuine schedule conflict or an unavoidable life phase (such as illness, a busy work season, etc.).
- But, in many instances, this attitude is a result of someone who does not highly value coming together in fellowship for the sharpening of other believers (through the means of a Small Group). Individuals with this attitude may not be taking seriously the need to
We want everyone grow in Christ-likeness, with community being apart of this discipleship journey. When someone does not take the vision for community seriously, addressing this attitude allows for a healthy shepherding moment where:
- The person can acknowledge what’s going in his/her heart.
- A solution for them as well as the Small Group can emerge (whether this involves them continuing as a part of the Small Group or not).
- And this process may involve their exit from the Small Group in order to create space for persons who value and want to belong (and engage in) Small Group community.
Attitudes for the Leader
When faced with the situation of an uncommitted Small Group member, Leaders must guard against certain attitudes and must also cultivate some godly attitudes: we must exhibit the heart of a shepherd. What does this involve?
1. Think of Their Interests
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
When we need to direct and confront someone regarding their low level of commitment, we need to do this with an attitude intended to bless them, help them, and encourage them. We should never approach someone from our own anger, frustration, or vengeance; but we should only approach them out of mercy to help them see what is lacking in their spiritual growth and hopefully remedy it.
2. Ask Questions and Be Patient
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
Who we are dealing with? Paul commands us to admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with all. We need to determine which category this person falls into. Are they discouraged? Are they unable to attend because of life circumstances?
Talk through why they are not coming. Maybe they feel inferior because everyone else is more well-off financially. Maybe they can be served through individual soul care. However, they could just be lazy or might not care about enriching their soul (or understand what that really looks like). Regardless, We must be patient, in whatever situation we find them in.
3. Make a Plan with the Larger Church in Mind
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
You as their Small Group Leader want to bless them with a plan:
- Either increasing their commitment and laying some well-defined goals
- Or giving them a blessing to exit because they are not fulfilling the priorities of the Small Group.
You will want to make it clear that, at College Park, we often have people waiting to get into a Small Group—and allowing them to come infrequently with no commitment is stealing a blessing from someone else who is ready to make this a priority.
Blessing them as they exit should be given if you believe their life circumstances make exiting a spiritually viable (or even healthy) option. For example, they may have other healthy spiritual support and need to exit for a season with the coming of a newborn baby.
If you believe the person is not stepping out healthfully (or more significantly, is stepping out to perpetuate a sinful trajectory), further channels of shepherding are available (and should be followed particularly with church members) through a Coach or possibly also an elder.
What to Do Before I “Fire” a Small Group Member
How exactly do I evaluate the commitment level of my Small Group members? And when (if ever) is it appropriate to “fire” a Small Group member from attending our group?
A good rule of thumb for Small Group members is the following: if someone calls himself a “member” of your Small Group, he should be attending the majority (50% or more) of the gatherings and activities of the group in a given 6 month period.
- For example: If you meet every 2 weeks, that would mean the individual has participated in at least 7 meetings in a six month period (50% + 1).
- You would also look at special gathering times (like attending a service project day, THINK, or other special times). Are they showing up to those?
If someone is only attending half or less-than-half of the gatherings of the Small Group, it is hard to say that they are actually a “member” of the group. Obviously, life circumstances must be taken into account (e.g.: work travel, summer vacations, etc.), but leaders should always seek to encourage commitment not just “consuming” and convenience in Small Group.
How do you encourage a step in the right direction?
- First, encourage the person would improve in their visible commitment to the community. They should be given a chance to
demonstrate a change.
- And then, only secondarily, do we offer the exit path as a way to keep the Small Group healthy and to encourage that person to consider long-term growth in this area of commitment to community in the future.
We want to help people grow, not just lay down the law.
Having the Hard Conversations
- Have a preliminary conversation. If you find that a person has not attended the majority of the meeting times, it is a good idea to approach them—not as a means to kick them out, but as a means to encourage further involvement and see where they are. They may want to move on, but are not sure how to go about it. This conversation might help them. They also might not even be aware of the importance of attendance in Small Groups, and this could correct their attendance and bring them into greater involvement with your group. Ask plenty of questions. And be willing to have this conversation more than once before moving to Step 2.
- Have a transition conversation. Once you find they do not want to change their involvement, it is time to clearly help them understand that you have an obligation to minister to those who regard Small Group as a priority. You can encourage them to find another Small Group, but remind them of the commitment that comes with any Small Group.
You, as a leader, have an obligation to be a steward of your group. Therefore, allowing for someone else to join that is more hungry for belonging in community may likely be the best option.
At this point, offer to pray for them and see if there is anything on their mind that they might want to talk through. Emphasize that this is not a personal issue between you and that individual, but based on wise stewardship geared toward effective and fruitful church
ministry. Do all that you can to bless them as they exit, but make it clear that going forward, you will be filling that spot in the group.
Tools to Help Prevent this Situation
Although dealing with uncommitted Small Group members can occur in any group, here are three optional tools that can help foster commitment:
- Small Group Covenant: A covenant, which can be unique to your group, is simply a way that your group members enter into a commitment with each other. It communicates that the group does not exist solely for us to get but rather to give. Sickness
and other reasons may call for members to miss a group gathering, but there should be an underlying priority to be involved (in gatherings and in each other’s lives) that each member holds. If someone has signed the group covenant but is not living it out in commitment, this gives you clear opportunity to have a conversation with them.
- Taking Attendance: This can be a helpful tool in garnering commitment; but should be handled with understanding and not to single one person out.
- Watching Participation: Making mental note of how members are being verbally interactive during gatherings helps gauge people’s personal commitment. This interaction may be something you want to talk about long before the attendance issue comes
While many groups won’t require these “tools” because of the leader’s ongoing conversations with group members, these can assist as needed in creating and supporting a group culture of commitment and participation.