I had a recent conversation with a small group leader who informed me that her group was falling apart. She also mentioned that she didn’t want to go to her small group any longer…very sad. Here’s another thing she told me. She indicated that the last “study” they went through was not received well by the others in her group.  I won’t say which study it is, but in my opinion it’s an excellent disciplemaking publication. I was perplexed, at first, but then it hit me…this group is a consuming group, not a producing group.

There will rarely be any sustaining growth, longevity, or quality relationships built if you and your group members only exist to learn information. There must be an element of applying the information that you’ve been studying. And, if the material seems to be repetitive, maybe…just maybe, that means the topic, scriptural references, and doctrinal principles are important enough to know and demonstrate in our everyday lives?!

I’ve been to this group, I’ve prayed with them, laughed with them, shared treats with them…they were very welcoming and friendly to me; I know they’ve been together for a long time. You would think this assumed closeness along with the security of not having much change would help them be more externally oriented and serving toward others – to be more “missional”. But no, they have apparently begun to implode and I wonder how effective they have been in sharing the Gospel with others as a result of their disciplined pattern of “study” and inward focus? Sound harsh? Perhaps, but please know that my heart desires to see this flock effectively engaging their culture, neighborhoods, and families.

Here are some suggestions…

Small Group Leaders:

1) Ask God to provide you with a shepherding, disciplemaking heart for your people.

2) Be mindful of the trap of consumerism.

3) Be intentional with the message and demonstration of living out your faith so you can be producers.

Group Members:

1) Lift up your Small Group Leader and respect his/her decision to use certain study materials; there’s plenty of bad material to go around but even in those poor publications we can learn together.

2) Make an effort to be relational with others in your group; do this above and beyond your scheduled group time. Without relationships we fail.

3) Openly discuss the prospects of inviting new people into your group; imagine the possibilities of others hearing the Good News through your healthy small group interactions.

When asking this dear small group leader about finding another group for her she said, “I don’t need another thing to do.” Again, I was saddened by this answer. She is obviously worn out and tired in her ministry as a small group leader. I hope to reach her with a message of being a disciplemaker to encouragement her so she knows that her leadership is important to the Kingdom. In some ways I think the group falling apart is a good thing because it will be one less consuming, non-productive small group. However, there is no victory if these saints fail to engage our world with the Gospel.

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “The “Falling Apart” Small Group

  1. My response to this is that I would encourage her to have some honest conversations with the members of the group on a one-to-one basis as to what has changed in the group. Also honest questions like, “Why did this last study not work well.” “What are you looking for in a group at this time in your life?” Personally I don’t believe it’s as simple as consuming or producing. I believe a group can have both aspects at work at any given time. Sometimes all it takes too is for one member of the group to have a dramatic life change to really change the dynamic of the group. Losing a member(s) of the group can also affect the group dynamic.

    1. Thanks for the wise and compassionate suggestions, Wendy. In this situation (as well as others I’ve seen or been in over the years) the problem is clearly an attitude of taking in information or looking for the next great study rather than having a focus on the relational aspects of discipleship. You see, even a bad study should “produce” fruit in the lives of people if they are engaged with each other in prayer and the “one-anothers”. My hope for any small group is that they will put discipleship and disciplemaking above the opinions or expectations of study material – there’s nothing better than opening scripture together, spending intentional time with each other, and having a desire the grow by being part of each other’s lives. By the way, I do enjoy a good study too. -PB

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