As term finishes does Small Group feel like a disaster zone? I’ve been there. Maybe nobody’s turning up or nothing is said; sessions become a debate between two people; others have been unreliable; or someone has been causing tension. Whatever it is you may be low on confidence, high on frustration, feeling tempted to quit. However, it is often in the interests of our leadership, community, and relationship with God that we persist. You need Small Group and it needs you. Perseverance isn’t easy, but here are some suggestions that may help.
Don’t go it alone
When you’re in a rut with Small Group involve someone you trust and that it’s appropriate to be vulnerable with. Seek their advice, encouragement, and company - don’t navigate this journey alone. If you don’t know anyone suitable, then ask to connect with someone in church. And if there is a particularly difficult situation, refer it to your overseer so they can support you and those involved; you can’t carry everyone’s burden.
Sometimes having a Sabbath can feel like a crime. It’s important to work well, but rest is just as vital. Even God knows this is significant (Genesis 2:2-3). Take a regular day off where you don’t focus on your ‘to-do’ list or Small Group. Do something replenishing and enjoyable. You’ll have more energy and vision for Small Group and work; nobody wants a burnt-out you leading them. Occasionally mute the group chat too - notifications don’t help you switch off so catch up later.
Don’t doubt yourself
It’s easy to doubt our position, calling and God-given gifts when Small Group is difficult. We can believe the Devil’s lies: “I’ve got no time”, “I’m not experienced enough”, “I don’t offer anything”. Timothy, a young leader in Ephesus, probably felt these things when leading in a sometimes unaccommodating culture. However, Paul encouraged him he could still impart and model something despite what Timothy or others thought: ‘set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity’ (1 Timothy 4:12). Likewise, we can choose to shift the culture around us regardless of what we think of ourselves.
Seems obvious, but we often neglect to do so. Sometimes situations only change when we’ve spent time lifting them up to God repeatedly. This can feel like pushing against a wall, but we can rest in the knowledge that when we bring our struggles to God, He hears them: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’ (Philippians 4:6). Are you regularly praying for your Small Group?
Do conflict WELL
As a people-pleaser, challenging someone makes me queasy. Avoiding conflict seems easier, but it means the situation happening only grows, weighing you and Small Group down. So, gently, kindly, and with someone else if needed, have the necessary conversation. It may feel awkward and difficult, but the situation can start to be resolved, and you’ll ultimately feel better. And don’t assume people will react negatively - it may be the wake up call they needed (and wanted)!
Don’t over prepare
Whilst you should prepare well, don’t devise a weekly sermon - nobody is coming hoping you will! This is freeing and allows you to prioritise your time more effectively, growing your capacity. It shouldn’t just be your voice in the room anyway, so does the rest of your Small Group know their contribution is important? You can create space for this by question-asking - this allows the group to drive the conversation and saves you researching every potential answer.