You Asked For It – Small Groups

Posted on: May 12th, 2017 by Michael Larson

“Can you address how to respond when your small group disbands? I’ve tried 3 small groups at the Well and they have all fallen apart for different reasons. It makes me feel a bit like something is wrong with me since small groups are praised so much.”

What a great question, thanks for asking it! First, I want to apologize that you have had the type of experience you have. I truly believe Small Groups at The Well exist to provide an avenue for spiritual and relational growth and it grieves me when someone’s experience is anything but a fully life-giving and transformational one.

Its been an absolute privilege to get to serve alongside the leaders at The Well. The small group leaders are committed to loving their people into deeper levels of relationship with Jesus Christ as they pray for them, get to know them and help them take next steps of faith in their own lives. With that said, as we all know, life is unpredictable, schedules are crazy and for a myriad of reasons, some groups may eventually lose momentum.

My first, and foundational, recommendation is to implore us all to respond with grace in times of crisis or frustration. Colossians illustrates this beautifully in a couple of places. First, in Chapter 3:13-14, where it says “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Then again in Chapter 4:6, where it says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

While an environment of grace is essential, I also believe fully in an atmosphere of transparent communication. Sometimes the factors that lead groups to disband are beyond anyone’s control. Marriages, new babies, job changes and relocations are just a few of the inevitable events that impact a group’s dynamics and routines. And sometimes there are things that can be changed in the group as a whole. If we believe changes could lead to improved health and vibrancy of the group, we should seek out our leader, discuss our thoughts and offer to help in any way we can. All of us, as we lead, can become blind to certain areas and would appreciate an honest perspective as we strive together towards achieving the mission of our group. When we find ourselves in a group where we might be diverting a bit, we all need to take ownership and engage in the process.

We are all likely to go through seasons of discomfort in small groups and so while those first two points apply mostly to group before it has disbanded, these next two are really at the heart of the question. When we have gone through the pain of watching a group fall apart, what’s next? We are often hurt, weary and reluctant to try something that left us feeling so let down. One of The Well’s core values states that ‘Life is a Lesson, Learn it Well.’ We are all going to be a part of failed things in life and yet, rather than simply moving ahead without reflection, it becomes crucial to learn from the circumstance and apply that wisdom to our lives. Its helpful to look inward at our own role in the group as well as talk through it with the leader, again with the grace and love that are so critical in forging ahead through difficult circumstances.

Now comes the hard part. While our experience with a failed group is typically difficult and painful, we must focus on the importance of this type of group in our lives. We have to do the last thing that comes naturally. We have to jump back in. Now, of course we should do so with care and I would recommend connecting with others who have had great small group experiences and ask about the availability in their groups, but in the end, we need to keep seeking out relationships in which we can spur others on towards love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).

In my role as small groups ministry director, I have come to a realization. Its not when groups go well, when relationships are easy, when everyone is laughing at all the jokes and eating great food together and life is cheery that we are the evidence of Christ’s love. Instead, its when things are tough, feelings are hurt, regretful words are spoken and, yes, when groups fail, it is then that our decisions, our actions, our perseverance towards the goal of unity, really separates us from those wiling to give up. When we truly pursue Christ and the unity found in the people of His church, it is then that our lives become an example, a gospel, of love, hope and grace to those around us.