3 Things to Do When Someone Leaves Your Small Group

Margaret —  February 22, 2013 — 23 Comments

3 Things to Do When Someone Leaves Your Small Group

Small Groups. We've all been in one where the numbers keep whittling down until it's just you and the leader left. When you're the one leading, what do you do if people start leaving yours?

1. Don't freak out.

This does not stamp you with the World's Worst Small Group Leader award.

Breathe. Chances are the reason they left has nothing to do with you. Sometimes, life happens. Work shifts get moved around, kids have music lessons and baseball games, illnesses and life crises occur. Nothing gets accomplished if you start hyperventilating and then pass out on the floor.

2. Start talking.

Ask them to a friendly cup of coffee in a nonthreatening tone and dialogue with them about why they left. Did life merely get hectic? Lend your support and listening ear. Is there anything you can do to encourage them to stay? If the time your small group has decided to meet doesn't work anymore, can you change it?

See this as time for you to develop your leadership skills. Do they feel as though they are not being heard or not being challenged? Do they dislike the topic or see it as childish? Remember to approach your conversation prayerfully and in humility; now is not the time to assert your leadership authority over them. You are meeting to learn how to be a better leader. Also, don't use your position as an excuse to share their business with the rest of the group. Trustworthiness should be one of your trademark leadership qualities.

3. Move on.

Once you talk with them, you can determine whether or not their suggestions or complaints are valid and something you want to incorporate. You can't please everybody. Although Christ did feed the crowd, he didn't try to please them. Would switching topics really help the group, or are they only upset because they are not in control? At times, for the sake of the others in the group, it is better to let one person go.

Eventually, you will have to make a decision; trust God with the rest and move on.

What advice do you have for someone who experiencing a dwindling small group?

 

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23 responses to 3 Things to Do When Someone Leaves Your Small Group

  1. When we found our group getting smaller, we asked God to show us what we needed to learn and talk through while the group was small. We always knew the numbers were up to Him. It is kind of weird. Also, you know Monica and I have been seeking a group to connect with in Napa. We may have found one. We are asking God to allow us into the small group ministry at the church.

    • We took a principle from Larry Osbornes book, Sticky Church. You have to create easy on ramps and exits into your small group. We train are small group leaders to not take it personal when folks leave, so it eases the tension. They understand that some folks are just checking it out!

      From personal experience I always ask myself what I can be doing better so that people will want to come back. Which reminds me I need to reach out to some folks today!

    • Dave, praying that God leads you to the right group situation!

  2. We took a principle from Larry Osbornes book, Sticky Church. You have to create easy on ramps and exits into your small group. We train are small group leaders to not take it personal when folks leave, so it eases the tension. They understand that some folks are just checking it out!

    From personal experience I always ask myself what I can be doing better so that people will want to come back. Which reminds me I need to reach out to some folks today!

  3. Great article Margaret! I especially like #1. It’s been said tha average church will have 10% of its congregation leave the church annually. The same could be said for a small group too. We must be realistic in that way and we must continue to reach out to others and see new people enter the group life.

  4. Great straightforward advice, Margaret! I’ve never read a post on this topic before.

    So true: Although Christ fed the crowd, He didn’t try to please them.

    I pictured Jesus saying, “Hey, would you like your fish baked or fried? Would you like that bread to be french or whole wheat?” LOL

    Sure makes life a lot less complicated, doesn’t it? Having an audience of One…

  5. I also have noticed that when I take the time to send a letter of encouragement to “stick with it, push through, keep up the good work, I’m proud of you” and highlight the welly topic, goes a long way in keeping my ladies involved.

  6. *weekly (not welly)

  7. Our small groups are actually house churches which disband each year and then reform two weeks later, so everyone is free to leave and join each year. On a practical level, many groups stay much the same, but it totally eases the awkwardness of oh I think it is time for me to find a new group, but I don’t want to hurt their feelings. Just a comment!

  8. I definitely agree with your first and third point of your post. I guess it depends on the type of environment and type of group it is though as to whether the second point is really necessary. As long as we as leaders keep our true heart and focus on God, He will take care the amount of people in the small group. He will send the right people to the group and keep them in it. It is more important to have a better quality of people in the group than a large quantity of people in a small group. God cares more about our hearts…the leaders as well as the participants. He would rather have people who are truly committed to seeking Him and loving Him in the small group than people who are not interested in a small group. Remember, He does not force His way or His will on us. We as leaders should follow His lead.

  9. Over many years and many studies and many shrinking small groups, I’ve learned not to take it personally. It did take quite a while though. It hit me one day, like a Holy Ghost whack on the head, that the people who wanted to be there would be there. The ones who wanted to make the group and our study a priority would do just that. And sometimes, it’s just not the right season for some people. I can imagine that a few people have chosen to leave because of personality or topic differences, but I can’t carry those either. Just one of the many reasons it’s so important to keep your small group in constant prayer!

  10. I agree wholeheartedly with Dawn and Ebony above! In addition, I find that at the beginning of a small group session, I will spend a couple minutes telling the group what they should expect, and how I will stay connected with each of them (weekly email, phone call, etc.) . I also try to learn their names as soon as possible, and remember little things about them that I can reference in a conversation later (such as a prayer request, etc.). Lastly, when having group discussion, I do my very best to just ask questions, get agreements and not talk unless I have to keep the discussion going. If the group member so most of the talking, I find that they become closer together.

  11. Margaret, this is an excellent post! It is far too easy for a small group leader to assume that he/she is the cause of people leaving the group. On the other hand, some leaders seem to assume they know why people left instead of attempting to have the kind of conversation that you suggest.

    Thanks very much!

  12. Margaret,

    Concerning point #2.
    Listen before you talk.

    Truly Listening will help discerning if returning to the group or if directing to another would be best.
    While talking will happen, the person(s) first need to feel heard. Sometimes they may attempt to hurt to be heard, but this process may need to be prayerfully absorbed so that they can return to God with another fellowship is the former is needing to move on without them. Rest in the immensity of God’s resourcefulness amidst our limited awareness of his alternatives.

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