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When Small Groups Become Life Draining: 3 Things to Try

by Zach Below

Here’s the scenario: It’s Wednesday night at 7:00, which means you are in the middle of leading another small group. As Tom is going on and on about last month’s debate, your mind starts to wander… “Is this the 3rd straight year I’ve been leading this group or the 4th?  Surely this isn’t the 4th, although it feels like I’ve been doing it forever!”  You look around the circle and everyone seems to be running on autopilot, eyes glazed over and nodding along robotically as Tom talks. You wonder, “Did we ever actually enjoy being around each other? Why are we still doing this week after week?”

Hopefully that scenario strikes a distant chord but is not too familiar. However, I think that anyone who has been in small group leadership long enough can attest that there is a shelf life to the monotony of meeting on the same couches in the same living room with the same format, week after week, month after month, year after year. So if you are sensing that your group needs to shake it up and do something different for a while, your instincts are probably correct. Here are 3 things you can do if your small group is becoming life draining.

1. Take a Break

If your group is feeling stagnant, maybe you simply need to take a break. You might be asking, “Can we really do that? Isn’t that heresy or something?” Yes, you can and no, it’s not. It’s perfectly acceptable to take a scheduled break with your group. This might mean a complete break from each other and all things group for a season (summer and December seem to be natural breaking points) or a break from your regular format. Maybe you simply get together for dinner once a month for a season. Whatever you choose to do, be upfront with your leadership about it and set a restart date to avoid the risk of a break lasting forever.

2. Join Up With Another Group(s) 

If your group is feeling stalled and in need of change, there likely are other groups that feel the same way. Why not join together for a season? If groups need a collective break, get together on campus as a larger group and study together for a season. This gives you a chance to spend time with other leaders in your church, and it can breathe new life into your groups.


3. Get Off the Couch

The classic small group model is so ingrained in our minds, we sometimes forget that we don’t have to meet in living rooms. Regardless of whether your group is in need of change or not, I believe that one of the best ways to infuse life and energy in your group is to give it mission. We spend years in groups talking about what it means to follow Jesus and how to change our cities, but oftentimes we never give ourselves the space to actually get out and serve. Groups provide a great opportunity to open that space. What if for a season, your group partnered with an organization in the community and committed to serving with them once a month? This simple change can provide a breath of fresh air to your group, and you never know—you may find yourself connected to a long-term ministry partner and your group may never look the same.

What are some things you do when your group is feeling stagnant? We’d love to hear from you.

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When Small Groups Become Life Drainin...

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