No matter how healthy, strong and vibrant your group is, you have to be on the lookout for group killers, which if you don’t address, will eventually take out your group.
If people are spotty in attendance, it will communicate that the group is not a priority, and this will catch on with everybody else. They will soon learn that, hey, coming to the group is completely optional. If you don't address the topic of inconsistent attendance, before you know it, everybody will become inconsistent and then you won't have a group.
Now I'm not talking about like the normal awkward personalities, because we're all a little bit odd. In fact, there's an adage, "If you can't identify the weird person in your group, it's because it's you."
But we're not talking about just weird people. What we're talking about here is the awkward people that messes up the dynamic of a group. For instance, it could be a dominator – that someone who jumps into every conversation, answers every question, and finishes everybody else's sentence. They’re always quick with the word and they talk loud and they take over the conversation. Or it could be the opinionator, the person who always has a thought, an opinion. They can typically be contrary and argumentative as well. These people have firm opinions that they loudly proclaim in the face of other people in the group. If you don't look out for the dominator or the opinionator you will not have a group for long.
Be on the lookout for particularly awkward personalities that hurt other people in the group. In fact, the rest of your group will tell you, "Hey, so-and-so is really bugging me." They may not say that directly, but they'll say it in a similar manner and you'll know, "Ah, I think we have a problem here."
Now the answer is don't get rid of those people or kick them out of your group. But lovingly, pastorally talk to them, encourage them, and challenge them to act correctly in your group and work as a group to help them behave in healthy manners.
The other thing to look out for is fakeness. There's a real problem in the church world: Most of us have grown up getting cleaned up and dressed up to go to church and inadvertently we got the idea that it's also time to fake it, put on a smile, and hide our problems and our struggles. But that kind of fakeness has no place in a group. A group should be a place where people can be authentic, real and honest.
If you sense that people on the group are being fake, model the way, share your real honest struggles and challenge everybody to do the same.
Another group killer is bad curriculum. A discussion guide or a video series that's really not helpful to your group, that bogs you down and you don’t really like can be detrimental. Simple solution there is to just stop doing that curriculum. Just don't use the material. Even if you're two weeks into a six week run, go ahead and set it aside and find something else. All of your type A personalities will really be frustrated that you're going to stop in the middle of it, but there's no shame in saying, "This isn't as helpful as we thought it was going to be. We're going to do something else."
Having no plan for after the breaks.
Then finally, a lot of good groups are taken out by holidays and summer break. It's not really that the vacation takes them out. It's the lack of a plan. As you enter Christmas or summer vacation, have a plan: "This is our last date to meet before the break, and this is the day we're going to meet again." Then you have some communications periodically throughout that break time so everybody knows when to meet again.
Those are some simple group killers. They're not real big threats, but as a leader you need to face them and know how to handle them.
*This is the ninth post in a series of 27 Tips for Small Group Leaders
BILL SEARCH is the author of Simple Small Groups. He has served in ministry for nearly 20 years. Bill loves spending time with his family, drinking great coffee, listening to jazz, and enjoying the great outdoors.