We’ve all seen those scenes in the movies. The disgruntled employee quits and takes his last day as an opportunity to air his grievances. There’s usually yelling, commentary on weight, aroma, or personality peculiarities. Occasionally, there are exaggerated, semi-celebratory, perhaps premeditated body gyrations that add emphasis to insult. Exiting a small group doesn’t have to, and obviously shouldn’t, be that way. There are many reasons why a person might choose to leave a small group. But whether you have grievances to air or not, there’s a healthy way to leave that doesn’t include hand motions, “boo-yahs,” or words you won’t let your children say.
If you’re thinking about or preparing to step away from the small group you’re in, here are some things to consider.
Set the Group Up for Success
Good leaders always make replicating themselves part of the plan. They know that developing those around them is the only way to sustain a group. In a small group setting, a leader also knows that the entire point of the group is to make disciples. So if you’ve been leading your group and you’re about to step down, leave your group with a leader or plan of action. There are many reasons why people must move on or out. If your group is healthy and you want the group to continue on without you, approach someone in your group who can model what it means to make disciples and ask them if they might consider taking over the group.
Let your parting words be helpful, not hurtful. No matter what sort of drama has unfolded in your group and no matter how offensive that one member was last week and the week before and the week before that, remember the grace you’ve been given by Jesus, and do your best to extend it to the broken people you’ve been walking with.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” —Colossians 3:12-13
When I’m mad, sometimes the enemy will twist my mindset on the command in Matthew 18:15-20 to confront a brother or sister who sins against me, and I’ll think that verbally punishing the person who is hurting me by telling them how awful they were is a righteous act, but it’s very much the opposite. There is a time and a place for Matthew 18. More importantly there is a grace for Matthew 18. The time and place is not when you’re mad or hurt by someone and want to make them feel bad with your words. The time is when you can help and heal and love with truth you share.
When you leave a group, give grace. Give grace. Give grace.
Find a New One
There’s nothing wrong with taking a season of rest, but, as Christians, we need community. We need to live by and follow the example of the early church shown in Acts 2. Not just because “the Bible tells us so,” but because living in Christ-centered community is as important to a Christian as breathing oxygen.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” —Proverbs 27:17
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” —1 John 1:7
If we aren’t sharpening and being sharpened, we will become dull and doubtful and despondent. We need others with whom we can walk in the light. For encouragement, for comfort, and for conviction and repentance, we need our brothers and sisters regularly with us.
Don’t let too much time pass before you join or start another small group. And please, please for the sake of the Body and the children, don’t blow up on your way out.
Scarlet Hiltibidal is a writer living in Nashville, TN. Scarlet has a degree in biblical counseling and worked as a Christian schoolteacher before she started writing. She has written for and managed various online publications. Currently, she writes small group curriculum for children and articles on motherhood for Smart Mom. Scarlet is wife to Brandon, who is part of the Groups Ministry Team at Lifeway, and Mommy to her daughters, Ever Grace and Brooklyn Hope. Visit her blog at scarlethiltibidal.com and follow her on Twitter @ScarletEH.