This might seem like a bit of a strange question for a website all about encouraging and equipping small group leaders and members, but it’s a question people do ask – so it’s certainly worth having a crack at answering it.
It almost goes without saying that a wise first step would be to think about the reason or reasons you might consider leaving your group. For some, it’s as simple as moving on… either in terms of location or stage of life. It might just be that you’ve come to a point in your life when your current small group isn’t providing what you need spiritually.
Being part of any group should involve a bit of give and take. You should feel happy contributing to the life of your group, but if it has felt like a one-way street for some time, it’s natural to want to move on to something where you will feel that you are receiving as much as you are giving.
If the reason is due to a relationship difficulty in the group, the answer can be a bit more complex. Obviously every situation will be different, but it is advisable in most cases to talk privately with the small group leader, or if that’s not possible for whatever reason (maybe the problem is with them!), have a chat with a church leader or a trusted person in the church who can give you fair, wise, confidential advice.
If the situation involves emotional, physical or spiritual abuse in any way, always remove yourself from that situation at the first possible opportunity and seek help. Your safety and wellbeing is the most important thing.
Hopefully the vast majority of cases will be nowhere near as serious as that. Often all that is needed is a chat with the person concerned. If at all possible, try to have a mutually trusted third person present, and prayerfully come to an agreement to move forward.
I’ve definitely decided to leave. How do I do it?
There are, of course, many other reasons you might have for wanting to leave your group. If you’ve thought about it, prayed about it, even talked about it with someone and you’re sure it’s the thing to do, how do you go about leaving?
If you’re on good enough terms with the group leader, let them know! Try to be as honest as possible about the reasons, and let them know you’ve thought about it about prayed about it. It’s almost always better to let the leader know before telling the group as a whole. You might have one or two close friends in the group who you’ve told in confidence, and that’s OK as it’s always good to have someone to chat things over with. But it is nice for the leader to hear it from you directly. They might well have noticed you’ve not been feeling quite comfortable in the group and been trying to think of a way of bringing it up with you, and they will probably have been praying for you.
Once you’ve talked with the leader or leaders, let the group know. You don’t need to go into too much detail, and as far as possible try to avoid mentioning anything that would put anyone staying in the group in an unnecessarily awkward position. Giving everyone the chance to say goodbye gives them some closure too. They may like to pray for you and/or hold a group social for you. Accept these if you want, or just say no thanks. If you feel comfortable doing so, you might like to offer to pray for them as a group as well.
Like the steps above, the next step is up to you. You might feel that you’d be better taking some time away from groups for a while, or you might want to find another group right away. Either way, keep God at the centre of your decisions and remember that small groups exist to help each other in the Christian walk.
I believe small groups are a great way of supporting and encouraging one another. Even Jesus had a kind of small group! And He sent the disciples out in pairs and as small groups. There are many forms of small group out there – and it might be that you’ve simply not quite found the right type for you yet, or it might be that your small group is a couple of close Christian friends you can share with.
Although in theory it would be possible to be a Christian on your own, community is a theme that runs right through the Bible – from Genesis to Revelation. We’re designed to journey alongside others, so don’t feel alone – in one way or another, there is a group for you out there somewhere! Maybe you’re being called to start a group of your own… and maybe there are others out there just waiting for a group like yours to start!
About Mark Baker
Mark is an editor and is passionate about small groups. He loves writing, reading, and finding out more about God and His purposes for our lives.