Is it time for you to move on? Time to step down from the weekly responsibilities of leading a small group? Is it time to lead your small group by moving on altogether?
These are very difficult—yet honest—questions for any small group leader to consider.
You’ve invested your time, your energy, and more important—your heart—into the lives of the people in your group. You’ve spent hours praying for them, hours preparing for your study time together, hours looking for creative ways to bring the group closer. Yet you find yourself in a weird place—there seems to be a disconnect.
The things you thought the group wanted in a Christ-following community no longer seem to be what the group wants. The strengths you brought to your role as group leader—no longer seem to be strengths the group needs.
Like many successful professional football or basketball coaches have experienced, a leader’s voice can begin to trail off. Your group once heard you loud and clear, and responded favorably to your leading. Today your guidance comes through softly, without little or no response. What’s a leader to do?
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Pray – God needs to hear your heart. He needs to know your commitment to His purposes in this community of His people. Be honest with Him about your former joys and your current struggles.
Then do something that’s hard for many leaders—listen! Listen for His still, small voice to guide you. Are you being released from your role as leader? Are you being given the freedom from God to step away from the role of shepherd of His people?
2. Talk – Be honest with your small group about how you’re feeling, what you’re wrestling with. Sometimes, just being forthright about your recent struggle to lead will get things moving in the right direction. (Typically, this won’t fix all the problems—but it’s a start!) If your honesty leads to a difference of perspective about the current state of the group, (or the future direction) perhaps you’ve come to a point of departure.
3. Announce – After you’ve talked with God (and listened to Him) in prayer, talked with your group members, and come to the conclusion that it’s time to move on, be clear about your intentions to step down as leader. Be clear about your plan to move on. When you leave, be sure to communicate why you’re leaving and what your future plans include. This is critical to bring appropriate closure to your tenure of leadership.
4. Strategize – As you depart, work with group members to figure out who will be stepping into leadership of your community. (As hard as this may be, the selection does not hinge on your opinion. The selection of a new leader works best when done by the entire group.) A gracious hand-off is helpful for the success of the leader moving forward!
Give your replacement any leader tools, tips, and resources that you found helpful for leading your small group. Encourage the new leader(s) to connect with the pastoral leadership of your church’s small group ministry, and be sure to communicate this leadership transition with your pastor.
Transition is never easy. But it can be done in a way that honors all parties involved.