If a group discussion about expectations doesn’t help, it’s time to meet with the person one-on-one or on the phone and talk more in-depth about the issue and the focus of the group. Ask how the person is doing in the group and how he or she hopes to grow by being in the group.
This conversation is time to ask for greater accountability to the group expectations. Reference their behaviors rather than your feelings of frustration. For example, I might say, “I’m thankful you feel comfortable sharing what’s going on in your life with our group. I’ve noticed, though, that you tend to share in the last few minutes of our group time, which makes us run past the agreed-upon end time.” This is more helpful than, “It’s really annoying when you start sharing a drawn out story when everyone just wants to go home.” Remind the group member of the group expectations and ask if he or she is willing to hold to these expectations. I also ask group members how I can support them in doing so. For instance, I supported one woman by calling her the day before group each week so we could check in. She was going through a difficult time and our short check-in call helped her come to group feeling heard and loved, lessening her need to overtake the conversation to get her needs met.
3. Pray, listen, and trust.
When you experience challenges in your group, pray. Ask the creativity of the Holy Spirit to guide you as you love your group and this person. Ask for clarity in group time as it can easily feel “fuzzy” when you are the leader navigating awkward moments. Ask for what God may want you to notice that you haven’t seen before, and then quietly listen. Trust God will unfold the path as you take the next small step.
4. Consider everyone in the group.
Your group members are waiting for you. They’re watching your leadership and learning from your courage—though it may feel more like fear than bravery! Remember their experience is more than just the content of your study or discussions. The safety you create as a loving leader may teach them more than the material you engage in your group. As the leader, you are the biggest influence on making your group a place for everyone to learn and be stretched in love.
5. Seek wise counsel.
If the group time continues to be compromised, talk with your coach, a pastor, or other group leaders in your church. They will be sympathetic to the complexity of the situation. Invite them into the situation, and don’t be afraid to offer your true feelings about the matter. Process the situation and ask for their counsel. Discuss any resources the group member may need beyond your small group and if it’s the time to ask this person to leave your group to focus on getting needed care.
How to Ask a Group Member to Leave
Though it’s never easy, there are times when you need to ask people to leave your group—for their benefit and the benefit of the other group members. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way:
Do It Right Away
Do it promptly and don’t do it alone. Take someone from the group with you, preferably a mature group member who truly cares about this person.
Choose an Appropriate Meeting Place
Discern if the conversation is best done in a home, public setting (park, coffee shop, etc.), or at your church. Consider the person’s temperament and possible response. I once met someone in a local park to have this difficult conversation. It was a calm setting where the person could express feelings without being watched. A coffeehouse, on the other hand, doesn’t offer this kind of privacy. A home, however, felt too private for the uncertain display of emotions I was anticipating, and the church was not an option at the time. Each situation will be unique; be sure to take the setting into consideration as you plan for this important meeting.