How to Kill a Small Group

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McFriends resumes next week.  For the weekend, here’s another “women’s ministry” flavored post:

“Small groups” can be either tremendous blessings or something else.   I’ve seen all kinds: affirming, gracious, growth-producing groups as well as stifling, soul-stunting, epic disasters. The latter are frequently marked by poor leadership and other pesky pitfalls that can easily sound the death knell of any ministry group.

If you’re reading this post, I’ll assume that you’re either interested in or are currently involved in some type of group leadership. With that in mind – and with tongue planted firmly in cheek – here’s my “short list” of 21 Sure-Fire, Never-Fail, 100% Guaranteed Ways to Kill a Small Group (in no particular order):

1.  Avoid a clear-cut group goal at all costs. Meander aimlessly from one meaningless, disconnected text, topic or curriculum to the next. Make sure to aim at nothing so you can hit it every time.

2.  Demonstrate favoritism, exclusivity and cliquishness at every opportunity. People will flock to your group in droves as soon as they figure out they’re not one of your darlings.

3. Be sure to allow unresolved conflict to fester. Make sure that conflicts are ignored, neglected and swept under the rug. Always take the ostrich approach and stick your head in the sand. Gloss over any “issues” without ever addressing them or creating a forum for constructive dialogue and problem-solving. That way the conflict can become a cancer and spread, infecting the entire group over time.

4.  Never touch base outside of your designated meeting time. Isolate yourself and make sure all members do likewise. Don’t contact anyone during the week. Completely ignore any and every opportunity to connect. Keep relationships as superficial and shallow as you can for as long as possible.

5.  Following from the above, make sure that members keep any pain, heartache, stress, struggles or grief to themselves so they can deal with it alone. Never come alongside someone who’s hurting or offer a kind word, a warm hug or engage in meaningful acts of service and compassion. Inject knee-jerk judgments, canned answers and trite cliches into every sticky situation so you don’t have to do the hard work of thinking or cultivating authentic relationships.  NEVER remember anyone’s special dates – birthdays, anniversaries, etc. NEVER celebrate successes or share disappointments. Disinterest and detachment are great relational building blocks.

6.  Keep your commitment to your small group as flaky as a box of Corn Flakes. Place your group and its members so far down your “food chain” of priorities that they rarely see the light of day. Make sure you cram your calendar with all kinds of “more importants” and more pressing priorities.

7.  If a regular attendee leaves your group for no discernible reason, don’t bother to follow up or find out why. Just let him or her go and cross them off your list.

8. Maintain a hidden personal agenda that you can bash people over the head with at any and every opportunity.

9.  Never reach out to or invite anyone new. This way you can corner the market on ingrown myopia. (After all, you don’t want anyone “new” coming in and messing things up!)

10.  Allow one person to dominate the group and monopolize every discussion. Make sure every quiet, reticent member is routinely left out or ignored. Never make any attempt to engage a shy group member or create a safe environment so they can develop a sense of belonging and feel like a valued part of your group. A twist on this theme: Blame shy members for being shy. This approach works wonders.

11.  Never prepare in advance. No one notices seat-of-the-pants, fly-by-night “leadership” sans adequate preparation. If you don’t know what you’re doing, neither will anyone else. Just pray a lot. Expect God to bless your lack of commitment and irresponsibility.

12.  Cancel constantly. Always leave people hanging so they never know when or if you’re meeting. Consistent inconsistency is terrific for achieving group cohesion, unity and purpose. Variation on a theme: never start on time. After all, your time is more valuable than anyone else’s and they should always wait for you. This is especially true if you’re floundering around at the last minute, trying to get your act together (see item above).

13.  Gossip and rumor monger as much as possible. Go out of your way to be hypocritical and two-faced.  Never miss an opportunity to cut down and criticize group members behind their back rather than confronting them directly. Eliminate confidentiality right off the bat, and never track a rumor back to its source.

14.  Never verify anything. Always dive into a situation or address an issue without bothering to get your facts straight first.

15. Do everything yourself. Make sure “your” small group revolves around one person: you.  Nix the concept of “team” or “leadership development.”  Never give anyone else a chance.  Never ask for volunteers or vary roles.  Use a lecture format to squelch any meaningful interaction or participation from group members.  (These options might add freshness, zest and relevance to your group – and we wouldn’t want that!)

16.  Make decisions unilaterally without soliciting feedback or opinions or recommendations. No one else has a valid opinion, suggestion or strategy. As the leader, you know it all, so don’t bother getting anyone else’s opinion or preference.

17.  Pattern your “leadership style” after an M1 Abrams tank. Anyone gets in your way or *dares* to “question your authority,” just run ‘em over. Bulldoze. Obfuscate. Your group members can either sit down and shut up or bail.

18.  As a leader, be as aloof, detached and unresponsive as you can. Never return phone calls in a timely manner. Never check or reply to email. After all, you’re a leader and you’re busy! How dare any member of your group take up any of your precious time outside of the regular meeting!

19.  Pay more attention to the clock than to people. Make everyone in your group feels like you’re going to drop kick them out the door the minute your time is “up.” Cut off discussions and freeze dry conversations so you can be tied to the clock rather than relationships.

20. If you make mistakes, never admit to or own up to them.  Instead, find someone else to blame, defame, or frame.  Whatever you do, NEVER apologize or seek to make amends.

21. Finally, and especially – be sure to “lead” your small group, Bible study or women’s ministry in your own strength. Never pray for anyone or seek God’s guidance, wisdom or help. Do everything yourself and always in the flesh. God will certainly “bless” your hard work!

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One Response

  1. Very creative and informative post. Enjoyed it!

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