When my Small Group is experiencing lethargy because of non-committal members, what do I do? Do I ignore them, confront them, or just shut down the entire group? Here is one proposal for how to reset your group*:
Recognize the Problem
If you feel like it is difficult to get members to attend your Small Group, there is a problem. They are non-committal. Maybe this is for good reasons: they have important family commitments or they have a job that requires them to travel. However, the other members in your Small Group shouldn’t have to suffer lackluster relationships because these members aren’t able to commit to the group.
If you’ve recognized non-committal members in your group, hopefully you’ve started to address this problem by:
- Evaluating and getting feedback about your own leadership (are you doing something that pushes people away?)
- Communicating directly and graciously with those who have been non-committal (always leading with empathy and grace)
If their non-attendance is still impeding the culture of your Small Group and/or this group of non-committal members is a large portion of your group, it is likely time for a “reset.” Make sure to pray and get wisdom from your Coach on this first, but if it is time to start fresh, here is one way to conduct that “reset” of your group.
Reach Out to Everyone in the Group
Contact everyone in the Small Group, likely over the phone, and let them know about your decision. The conversation would go something like this:
“Hey Frank, I wanted to let you and Lisa know that we have been praying about our Small Group, and me and Kelsey are planning to close down our group. Our last gathering is going to be on October 16.”
Allow this to sink in.
“However, I also wanted to let you know that me and Kelsey are going to be starting a new group. It’s going to launch in November. This is going to be a new group, and it is going to different than our current one. Part of this new group is that it will be for folks who can commit to coming to at least 75% of our gatherings.”
“There is no expectation that anyone from the current group is going to be a part of the new group, but everyone is welcome. I wanted to let you know that we’re going to make our last gathering on October 16 a special social time where we’re going to grill out, share some celebration stories of what God has done through this group, and pray for each other. So come with a story or two if you can. I really hope that you and Lisa can come.”
Hopefully, the members of your group will share their care for you as you’ve made this decision about the group’s transition. The attempt here is not to drop a bomb, but to set a clear path forward. Those who are truly ready to commit to the new group are obviously welcome to join it, but beware not to “push” this new group on anyone. Those who are interested will ask about it.
Celebrate at the Last Gathering
Host a final gathering of your Small Group. Make it special, and focus on celebrating God’s goodness by sharing stories of how God has worked in the group over the past months or years that you’ve been meeting. There may be tears, and some of the more emotional people may be people that you thought were the least invested! However, it is important to give this closure.
Launch the New Group
As you launch your new group, it is likely that the more committed Small Group members from the prior group will start with you in this new group. But those who really can’t commit are “off the hook,” in the hope that they will go live out the priorities they believe they have right now. And your new group has three important assets:
- A new clarified vision that involves accountability for attending (new vision elements could be included in a new Small Group Covenant)
- A core of committed members
- Room to add new people who will also be committed
If no members decide to re-up and join the new group, that’s good! You now have a unique opportunity to launch a new group with entirely new members or to take a season out of serving as a leader to find other ways to lead, serve, and enjoy community.
*I am indebted to pastor Derek Irvin for sharing with me this approach to “resetting” a group.