Will This Group Ever End?

February 18, 2009 | Comments Off on Will This Group Ever End?

Business deadline concept

When you start a new group, do you think about how long it will meet? Sometimes that decision is made by your church or ministry, but other times, it’s up to you. Some groups are scheduled to meet for a fixed period of time – eight or twelve weeks, or perhaps a year. Other groups just start and go until they die. If you have any input into the decision, it’s a good idea to address the question before you get started or at the beginning of the group.

Length of Group

There are two ways to manage how long a group will meet. Ideally, you’ll consider this when you define the mission at the beginning of the group.  If you didn’t address it then, bring it up now.  The advantage of discussing the life expectancy of the group in the beginning is that it gives people a graceful way out and at the same time, commits them for the agreed upon duration.  There are basically two ways to approach length of the group: (1) fixed and (2) forever

A fixed group meets for a specific period of time – a certain number of weeks or until this study is done or whatever other schedule makes sense. People understand that they’re committed to the group for that period of time. If they don’t like what’s going on or if their circumstances change, there’s a predefined time when they can opt out gracefully. Meanwhile, they’re committed to contribute to the group and make it as good as it can be.

In many churches, small groups are scheduled to meet from September or October until May or June. They take the summer off or do more social things, with new groups assigned in September. Before I had children, that frustrated me.  Did “those people” think everyone’s life jut stopped cold in the summer? But the reality is that most people’s lives do change in the summer and our groups need to accommodate that. Members who want to keep meeting certainly can, and the whole group can schedule some social activities. And those who want out for whatever reason have a graceful exit point.

The other approach is forever.  There are two types of groups that meet “forever.” The first is  the group where members are committed to one another and to building family-like relationships. This group can change studies, change formats, even add or lose people, but the group is family.  Sometimes it’s hard to get out of these groups. Sort of like divorcing your family. People either do that very well or very poorly. If you lead this type of group, you’ll want to do periodic check-ups or evaluations to see how people are feeling, and you’ll want to allow people to leave gracefully when their needs change, even though everyone will miss them.

The second “forever” group is the unstructured group with no fixed membership – the Thursday night Bible study, for example, or a drop-in recovery group. People come and go, but the group will be there when they come back. This is a low maintenance, low commitment group. It’s easy to leave and may take weeks before anyone says, “Hey, has anyone heard from Jim?  I haven’t seen him in ages!”

A good time to implement or change the mission of the group is at each of these stopping or evaluation points. Do it regularly and it becomes the norm. And it gives people the chance to make a conscious decision about whether this group is meeting their needs or not. How do you handle this question in your group?

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