Small Groups

7 Frustrations That Make Small Group Leaders Quit (and Solutions to Save the Day)

7 Frustrations That Make Small Group Leaders Quit (and Solutions to Save the Day)

Growing a healthy small group system within any church doesn’t solely rely on identifying and training new leaders. Retention – keeping leaders serving in their area of purpose and away from frustration and burnout – is arguably more important than fresh faces.

Without preserving leaders, the system becomes a revolving door of people walking in and out. Such a system appears distrusting from the outside. Why would a church or community member join a group when the leaders don’t even stick around for a while?

While currently in our fourth year of small groups at our church, in the beginning we struggled to keep the same leaders from year to year.

Part of this issue simply came from building and implementing something new, but part of it was our lack of awareness to the obstacles small group leaders face and being prepared to offer scriptural solutions.

No one can deny that more leaders leads to more groups, and more groups lead to more people being pastored, discipled and cared for in a strategic, biblical manner (i.e. Exodus 18).

So, on top of leaning into new leaders, we asked questions to past leaders about why they no longer served. We asked current leaders what frustrations they had that made them want to stop leading.

Overall, recurring statements emerged. Now, we’re better prepared to talk a leader off the ledge when quitting their group over normal frustrations becomes a thought.

Here are seven frustrations that make small group leaders want to resign with seven practical solutions we’ve offered in return:

Why People Don't Want to Be My Friend

Why People Don't Want to Be My Friend

I can always hear my dad’s distant voice in my head when I think about friendship.

“Kayla, if you get to the end of your life with as many friends as you have fingers, then you’ve had a truly great life.”

It wasn’t a totally understandable thought for a fourth grader, but I still let those words sink in deep. As my days through high school, college and career life trickled by, the sound advice became even more true.

Pure friendships with value and purpose are hard to come by – and those in play five to ten years ago may not necessarily be the same circle of comrades still present today.

Spending my teenage years as part of a lively youth group and involved in several school activities, I never seemed to lack in the friend department. I never had available time to even find myself alone or without being in the midst of others.

Yet, this dynamic changed in college. Study time, internships, work schedules and the general daily grind took my attention elsewhere, and an unhealthy balance of leaning on my boyfriend (now husband) for all my relationship/friendship needs was put into play.

Somewhere along the lines I convinced myself that this was normal. I convinced myself that it shouldn’t take work to be friends with someone – and that if it did, it wasn’t meant to be.

 It’s taken years of developed self-awareness and intentional habits to swing back into balance.

I’m grateful to finally be at a point in life where I can say that I have healthy friendships. In fact, I see most of them consistently during small groups throughout the week, which is the perfect outlet for us to catch up, vent, laugh and cry together and share the week’s funniest moments about work or home.

The Desert Island: Where Conversations Go to Die

The Desert Island: Where Conversations Go to Die

I’ll just come out and say it – I love small groups. If it was up to me, I would binge watch Hulu for 7+ hours when I got home from work, but choosing to be in small groups places myself and others in an environment to engage with one another. It’s healthy and life-giving. It’s a good reason to get together. It’s an avenue to create relationships.

Each semester starts off the same way though.

Everyone who may begrudgingly come and even the willing just stare at each other awkwardly in a room. As the small group leader, I more so act as a facilitator to get people to open up. As those who have attended my groups can attest, this usually requires me asking goofy questions until a conversation sparks. Depending on the topic though, that spark may easily spread into wildfire shortly after.

One particular small group I led adventured through a book dealing with life priorities. Essentially, the book helped each person analyze the necessities of their personal life in an effort to clear out the crud we allow to crowd our sight every day.

We already trekked through some difficult conversations about money, faith, and service – but that day we floated into uncharted waters. It was time to open up about our home lives and our families.

Shortly after bringing up family, recollected pieces of the group conversation remains blurry. I’m not sure how we got from point A to point B. All I remember hearing is the sentence that started the spark – “If my child did that, I would just spank them until they learned their lesson.”

Here’s some key background information for you: our small group at the time was equivalent to that of Gilligan’s Island.

While there wasn’t a Skipper or a Mary Ann, we did have two moms (one who spanked and one who didn’t), one empty-nester, one divorced father and one confused leader who didn’t have any children. The conversation was headed out on a three-hour tour, and I was afraid we would eventually end up on a deserted island.

Only one word can describe what came next -- tension. Some became defensive. Some offered empathy. Each shared their experience with their own children or how they were raised. It was difficult.

The conversation had to be navigated carefully. I don’t believe we ever got through the curriculum. I firmly know we never came to a conclusion of what was right or wrong. Yet strangely enough, we all left satisfied.

Each had an opportunity to have their voice heard at the table. Each had an opportunity to listen to an experience that was not their own. We all talked. We all listened. It was a strange feeling to all disagree yet all remain part of the same group.

I believe it’s what’s we call out for today yet struggle to find – unity without uniformity. Communion with one another without compromise.

From Idol to Assest: How Football Changed Everything

From Idol to Assest: How Football Changed Everything

It was the big leagues. The Super Bowl of preaching.

For the first time ever, I spoke to adults in a church service. It was Wednesday, June 13, 2012 and despite the fact that there was only 30 adults in the building, it was a big deal.

As I prayed and labored over my message, I decided to skip over the fun topics on God's love, grace and purpose, and instead go right for idolatry -- putting things above our relationship with God). 

If you read my last blog (The Story Behind the Frame) you'll get a reference to my perspective at this point. It was during this time of life that I was in the middle of my 'remove everything journalism' related stage along with my 'stop watching football forever' stage.

I had stopped watching football for two full years because I felt it was an idol in my life. I felt it was keeping me from being close to Jesus. The reality -- yes, hindsight is 20/20 is that my self-imposed barrier to Jesus was still there regardless of if I spent three hours watching the New England Patriots or not. 

Still, as I got ready to speak on idolatry I had a compelling idea. I spoke in a Patriots jersey and talked about my own personal idolatry hoping to connect with the audience. (Don't mind the cheesy Instagram filter. It was 2012)

When No One Comes to Your Small Group

When No One Comes to Your Small Group

Let’s just cut to the chase – small groups can sometimes start out awkward. Like really awkward.

No one likes needed small talk, no one enjoys meeting random people for the first time, and I can only think of a few fun individuals in my life who truly enjoy the good ole’ “breaking the ice” experience.

Now for those who are SG veterans, we’re aware that it’s just how things go with the small group game. Eventually, you meet with someone in your group outside of the weekly set time or run into him or her at a store in town.

At some point a funny story or a vulnerable moment will be shared, and everyone else will feel free to open up as well. The awkward stage is just normal, and will usually wear off in a couple of weeks.