I often have a teacher or leader come to me with a problem about their group not growing. Generally, I have found that they want me to “fix” their group. I have also discovered that by the time they bring their question or concern to me it is often very late in the process. The group is basically on life support already!
Generally speaking, I don’t fix groups. In the past I used to step in and try to fix, heal, reform, or whatever. What I realized in the process is that the group passed ownership of the group off to me and their problem became my problem.
What I have now is a list of characteristics of a dying group.
- Inactivity. Groups that don’t do anything will eventually die. No fellowships, no phone calls… nothing ever happens in the group. Don’t get involved in anything the church is doing either!
- Don’t teach the Bible. Basically, this is lack of preparation by the teacher or group leader. If meeting after meeting, the Bible is never read, studied, and applied to every day life; then the group will eventually come apart at the seams. A corollary to this is “blame it on the curriculum”. Great curriculum will not replace solid preparation by the leader.
- Refuse to minister to your group. Go ahead and let a group member spend time in the hospital without ever hearing from the group. Once it happens to one member, other people in the group will realize that it can and probably will happen to them when they face a crisis too. The result: a gradual exodus from the group.
- Keep all of the group’s ministry to yourself. Don’t inconvenience other people by asking them to help. Refuse to allow other people in the group to use their spiritual gifts. Instead, keep all of the group’s ministry in your hands.
- Don’t follow up on guests. When someone visits your group or the church, be sure to leave them alone. If they need you, they’ll find you!
- Blame others. If your group is slowly dying, be sure to cast blame on the pastor, the staff, the deacons, and that harsh ungodly world out there that hates you.
- Have a dour attitude. People love to attend a depressing group where everything in the world is wrong and beyond hope.
- Never start a new group. Never, never, never. I mean, how will you replace all those people that leave!
- BONUS – Assert your independence. Your group doesn’t need to cooperate with the church, or do anything with the church or other group leaders. Be sure to resist any effort by the church leadership that might somehow cause change. Use your own curriculum; claim your own room; and be as uncooperative as possible.
I hope you’ll pardon my brief journey to the dark side today! Sometimes a perspective from the other side helps bring clarity to the reasons why we do things like:
a) Plan fellowships and activity.
b) Study and teach God’s Word for application and lifechange.
c) Show people that we care by being there when they need us.
d) Organize our group so that we are helping group members develop their gifts and grow as a disciple.
e) Follow up with people to let them know that we care and that our group is a place where they can belong.
f) Accept responsibility and attend training so that we lead our group in a godly manner.
g) Realize that messages of repentance, hope, and mercy are powerful and positive attributes of the Gospel.
h) Support new groups because they bring vitality and change into the church.
i) Cooperate and participate with other groups under the direction of the church leadership.