Discuss the Issue
When meeting, don’t make small talk. Gently say why you’re there from the beginning. It can feel patronizing to make conversation for too long and then feel rejected. Respect them enough to spare them the extra grief.
Stick to talking about behaviors—not perceptions, attitudes, or your feeling of frustration. This should never be the first time you are discussing the breech of group expectations, so this shouldn’t come as a shock.
Allow them to express their hurt, anger, sadness, or any other emotions they’re feeling. It will feel like rejection to them. Listen graciously. Don’t make any changes in your decision at this time in the heat of their emotions. The pull to rescue someone out of pain can be strong and is understandable. A process of discernment got you to this place, however, and a process of discernment would be wise to make any further decisions.
Offer them further support as discussed with your coach, pastor, or other leaders. Their needs may be in the realm of pastoral care, therapy, counseling, or something else entirely. Tell them you support them and care deeply for them, even though it may not feel that way in the moment. This is not patronizing if you have walked through these steps motivated by love.
Talk to the Group
Debrief honestly with the group members at your next group meeting, and talk about why the person is leaving your group. I suggest allowing for about half of the group time to process, if needed, and the other half to get back into your content. Ultimately, break up the time according to what feels natural for your group.
State briefly and honestly your process including the counsel you sought, how it was handled, and the behaviors that caused you to make the decision you did. I once had a group member ask, “How do I know I am not next?” Understandably, she was feeling insecure and uncertain of her place. I let her know there were loving and supportive conversations which occurred prior to asking the person to leave. It was not a rash decision I made alone or in frustration, but rather for the spiritual formation of the individual and the group.
Allow space for further questions. Listen attentively and trust the process you have gone through. If you get stuck, don’t feel you have to make something up. Tell your group you want to think about it and be sure to follow up on their questions at the next group meeting.
Assure the group of your pursuit of everyone’s growth and emotional safety, even in messy situations. Spend time praying for the person who has left. If appropriate, encourage others to connect with him or her for support.
Finally, move into your regular content together. It may feel uncomfortable or forced in the moment. Its’s okay. This experience is likely outside of everyone’s comfort zones. Trust the Holy Spirit to be guiding and healing each of you as you continue to pursue love, being formed into the image of Christ.
In this particular scenario, a few other group members told me in confidence they had considered leaving the group because of the ongoing circumstances the individual created. Several others approached me to thank me for my leadership and courage. Interestingly, many said they learned more about leadership and love than they’d ever expected. For them, it was not just about me asking her to leave the group that showed courage and love, but about the grace with which we gently met that person’s needs in all the awkward moments leading up to the decision. The experience of love for someone who could have easily been dismissed was transformational for each of them and taught them they would be graciously and truthfully loved during any season or challenge they may face.