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How to End Your Small Group

the-end-road-sign-e1287780483368I hate to break it to you, but your small group is going to end. Every small group, even the very best, is going to close someday. Jesus is no longer meeting in person here with his twelve disciples, and you are not going to do life indefinitely with the wonderful people in your current group.

How do you end your small group? How do you celebrate the cool things that God did in it? How do you bring closure?

My wife Vicki and I just closed our small group last night. I will tell you how we did it, and maybe you can glean ideas for how to best end your group when the time comes.

  1. Eat. We started our time together last night with a meal. Jesus also had a “last supper” in the final official meeting of his group before his death. Do a cookout. Go out to eat together at your favorite restaurant. Or, call a potluck. Families eat together, and you should definitely share food at this crucial point in your journey.
  2. Remember and celebrate what God has done. Usually, at a final meeting I ask people, “What is one way that God worked in your life through this group?” Last night, I asked a different question: “What is one thing that God has taught you or done in your life in the last year?” It was encouraging and instructive to hear the deep ways that God is teaching and changing each person to be more like Jesus.
  3. Share communion. Jesus instituted communion at his last meeting, saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Small group is all about celebrating and experiencing Jesus together and communion is perfect for this. Last night we had communion and recalled and thanked Jesus for his incredible sacrifice for us, his total forgiveness, and his amazing love. (Unfortunately, I hadn’t planned well, and we didn’t have any grape juice on hand. All we had was V8 and cranberry juice. Vicki pointed out that when you read, “This is my blood shed for you,” that V8 has the wrong consistency. We went with the cranberry juice. It worked just fine.)
  4. Worship. We enjoyed an extended time of worship, just recalling and resting in God’s goodness.
  5. Minister. Our goal was that every person present would get upbuilding prayer and ministry, but we didn’t really plan it out; we hoped that it would just flow out of the worship. So after worshipping, we just sat in silence and listened. Then one person said, “I have an impression that someone has a decision to make and we should pray with them about that.” After some more silence, someone spoke up and said, “There is a decision I am struggling with. It’s not a big decision, but it’s a decision I am perplexed by and I don’t know what to do.” So we prayed for wisdom and clarity for them. Then one-by-one, everyone in turn shared a decision they were facing that they wanted prayer for. Everyone received prayer. Allow ample time for Holy Spirit-led ministry in your final meeting.

This is just one way to end a group. Maybe you want to make your last meeting more of a party and break out games or do a bonfire. There are lots of ways to bring healthy closure to a group; and this is what worked for us. I hope that by sharing how we closed our group, you will take courage to plan a good closure for your group when the time eventually comes.

However you do it, be encouraged. Jesus did cool things in your group! I know it, even though I wasn’t there, because I know he was there, and that is what he does. Maybe he changed lives deeply, maybe new leaders emerged, maybe some new people came to Christ, probably he taught and shaped you as a leader more into his character. Whatever he did, it will continue into the future, because he loves you and your members and he has awesome plans for each of you.

Your last meeting is a time to celebrate Jesus, what he has done and what he will continue to do. What ideas do you have about how to best end a small group? Share them in the comments below.

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3 Responses to How to End Your Small Group

  1. Roger Carr May 18, 2016 at 11:27 pm #

    Jim,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. There can be many mixed emotions that take place during a time like this. I agree that celebrating should be a key aspect.

  2. Ronald Klaus June 17, 2016 at 7:18 am #

    “Ending” Small Groups

    The literature on small groups suggests that small groups indeed go through stages of life: Beginning, Conflict, Fruitfulness, and Ending. However, the last phase raises some questions. Does this mean that people no longer need a small accountability group? Do we no longer need the encouragement, opportunity to share spiritual gifts, etc. that small groups supply? I think not. In fact, we would say that if groups merely end without specific transitions for their members, they have failed to help their members move on to continuing growth and expanding ministry.

    There has been an alternate suggestion, namely that after a certain time groups indeed need to go through transitions and either re-invent themselves or else have their members associate themselves with other kinds of small groups based on their particular track of spiritual and ministry development. In our experience here are several examples of forms this took.

    1. Groups that grew and thus multiplied, taking in new members and thus having the continuing members take on more of a mentoring role with the newer members.

    2. Groups being re-aligned where some people move on to shorter-term (6 months to a year) more intense discipleship/spiritual formation groups in preparation for higher levels of leadership.

    3. Groups transitioning into leadership groups, where each—or some—group members transition into being group leaders themselves and where their group now takes on this additional ministry component.

    4. Some members transitioning into being the nucleus of Alpha groups aimed at outreach and evangelism.

    5. A realignment of members, perhaps from several groups to become church planting teams.

    6. People transitioning into other ministries such as youth ministry, counseling teams, etc. thus taking on new ministry components, perhaps with additions and subtractions of members, while still retaining the benefits of close fellowship and on-going accountability.

    7. People transitioning into groups of elders or other ministry leaders.

    In these and other ways, we continued to be churches “of” not only “with” small groups. However, recognizing that the group process leads to natural “break points” as we called them, we expected that all of us would always remain in and experience small group fellowship, accountability, and spiritual formation, although there would be rearrangements and transitions in the types of groups we were in depending on growing identification of our gifts, callings, and other factors.

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