How to Kill a Small Group

When it comes to women’s ministry, small groups, Bible studies and the like, 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 or 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 20 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 conflicts to fester unresolved. Make sure any disagreement or difficulties are ignored, neglected and swept under the rug.  Always take the ostrich approach in these situations: stick your head in the sand.  “Just ignore it, it’ll go away.”  Don’t address any issues or create 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 you can.  Variation on the theme: NEVER remember anyone’s special dates – birthdays, anniversaries, etc.  NEVER celebrate successes or share disappointments.

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.  Coldness and disinterested 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 bigger 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 or conversation.  Make sure quiet, reticent members are routinely left out, ignored or talked over.  Allow the loquacious member to constantly interrupt others who are less vociferous.  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 and be sure to cut down and criticize group members behind their back rather than confronting them directly.  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.

15. Do everything yourself. Forget about developing a team.  Never give anyone else a chance.  Don’t cultivate other leaders or initiate intentional mentoring relationships.  Never ask for volunteers or vary roles.  (This might add freshness, zest and growth to your group – and we wouldn’t want that!)

16.  Make decisions unilaterally without soliciting feedback, opinions or recommendations from others.  You know it all, so don’t bother soliciting or valuing anyone else’s opinion or preference.  (You are the “leader”, right?)

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.  Never initiate any contact during the week.  After all, everyone should understand that as a leader, 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 feel 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. 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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3 Responses

  1. really like your site a wealth of information….

  2. Hi,
    I am a pastor’s wife and have been looking for such linformation for some time. I am Kenyan and a pastor’s wife who has a women ministry. Thank you so much for this wonderful information that I will help me the ministry in a Godly way because I would hate to destroy what God has started in us.
    Thank you once again.

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