How your group ends matters. It will shape how you view the entire experience.  So, be mindful of these three questions that tend to occur in this order, and some action-points for each, as you approach the patio season in the life cylce of your group.

Three big questions people have when ending…

1. Why are we ending?

No matter how well you’ve set the expectation of ending/multiplication in the early stages of a group, this is still a question people will and need to wrestle with.
There will be some obvious circumstantial reasons you can address as to “why now?” but use the opportunity to  remind the group that ending is inevitable and actually a good thing!  Ending is a necessary part of enabling people to take a next step.  Ideally, your group ending is leading to a multiplication of some sort–whether through the launch of a new leader(s), or the open invitation to new people to join your group.  When that’s the case, the answer of why you’re ending becomes a bit easier.

2. What’s going to happen to us?

Change = the unknown, and the unknown = fear.  People naturally fear the unknown and the unknown of group ending/multiplication is “what’s going to happen to me through this change?”  It’s important that you acknowledge this reality and talk about it as part of your transition.  When fear is not identified and articulated as such, it usually manifests itself in the form of strong emotions about other things or in desperate attempts to hold onto the familiar.  Talking about people’s fears opening and honestly is the best thing you can do.
Change creates a discombobulation which can be leveraged for good.  This is a great opportunity to push people to consider what next step God is calling them to.  By shaking up what’s been “known” and comfortable, sometimes our eyes are more open to possibilities we otherwise weren’t aware of.
Because of the relationships you’ve developed in the context of this group, don’t be surprised if group participants have a hard time distinguishing between the formal group and the relationships represented in the group.  Emphasize that the relationships don’t end just because the formal group meeting comes to an end.  Yes, they will have to work a little harder, but people will make time for the relationships that are most important to them.
As a part of ending, be sure about talk about the next step for everyone.  If that next step is to join another group, make sure they know the next session of Rooted is the avenue to do that.  If you are launching a leader, and/or effectively dividing the group to create 2 or more new groups, make sure everyone knows how that is being done and their roll in it.  Over-communicate, and be directive, but don’t micro-manage the next steps people decide to take.

3. Was it worth it?

The ultimate evaluation question!  Was our time and experience in this group worth it?   Ending is always hard.  The feeling of loss is real and should be acknowledged. If a group ends too abruptly (not adequate time to process and plan for the ending) it tends to multiply the intensity of people’s emotions in the midst of the change.  A great setup for the conversations about ending is to ask your group members to begin reflecting on the impact this group has had on their life, and try to be specific.  Some questions you might consider using:

  • What is one of your favorite memories from this group experience?
  • If you could go back and do one thing differently during our time together as a group, what would it be? Why?
  • In what ways have you grown and changed as a result of group?
  • How did the members of this group challenge you to grow?
  • What growth have you seen in the life of one of the other group members? How did that growth challenge and inspire you in your own spiritual journey?
The purpose of Community Groups is to see life-change happen!  So, when a group is ending, it’s essential that we reflect on, voice, and celebrate the life-change that’s happened.  This should be a celebration, not a funeral!  When we celebrate, though it will be emotional, the tone is positive and focused on the ultimate purpose for the group (transformation in Christ-likeness).

Two keys to ending well…

1.  Let the calendar be your friend, not an obstacle.

Keep in mind that everyone processes change at a different pace.  Don’t spring this on them–make sure you give your group participants plenty of time to process.  Introducing the idea of ending/multiplying 8-10 weeks before you actually plan to end is ideal.
While there may be some circumstantial factors influencing when you end, take into account the natural rhythms of the calendar.  Leading into summer, or leading into the late-Fall holiday season are great times to end, because it gives them a brief season to process the change leading into natural times for new group launches (January and August).
 

2. Over communicate!

When in stressful situations (and yes, this is a stressful situation), we tend not to do our best listening.  So, make sure you over-communicate through this process.  Remember that as the leader you’ve been thinking about this strategically for some time, much more than your group members have.  Be patient, and communicate clearly, honestly, and repetitively!
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Need a study to end with?

Preparing to Launch 

This is a 3 session study guide to help you lead through the conversation about ending/multiplying your group.

Community: Ending Well

This is the compliment to the Community: Starting Well starter study we’ve used for the last several years.  This is just two sessions–but not designed to be done back to back.  Rather, you do session one as a stand-alone before you start your last study together as a group.  This sets the stage for where you’re going.  Then you do your last study together and then come back to session two, which is the wrap up.  Videos and Leader’s Guide are available at the link above.

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