Why People Don’t Join Small Groups – Part 1

If you are in a position of leadership over a small group ministry, you know the feeling of excitement that comes when you are planning for a big push toward community with your ministry at the center. Outside of the few mentions here and there about the benefit of groups, this is the marquis moment for what we do and love. Yet, with that excitement, at some level, comes a time of disappointment of the people who didn’t take advantage of the call to community life. If you are like me, the next question that comes is usually, “Why?”

Here are some reasons I have compiled that I have heard as to why people don’t join groups. It isn’t in anyway an exhaustive list because as long as there is breath in our lungs, we will always come up with crazy and unbelievable reasons not to do things:

1. “People in groups are Bible experts and that is not me!
When I hear this one I always have to chuckle inside. Yet, I also hurt a little. What has happened that we have begun to communicate to people that there is some sort of Bible aptitude prerequisite for being in community. I think maybe it comes from the “Small Group Bible Study” model of the past…

2. “It’s another Sunday School class.”
Now, there a few (emphasis added) Sunday School classes that I have personally witnessed that developed the type of community that is hoped for in small groups, but that is the exception, not the rule. Some people use this excuse to say that they don’t need to be in a small group because they are already in a Sunday School class, when in reality they are comparing apples to oranges. No comparison. Others use this excuse because they don’t want to have anything to do with another Sunday School class. Along the way, they experienced some sort of hurt or bad experience through a Sunday School class and they will not be a part of that again.

3. “These people don’t know me and if they did, they wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
There are no perfect people, yet for some reason we (by “we” I mean the Church) tend to walk around with an attitude, intentional or unintentional, that says now that we know Jesus everything is perfect. That is why stories are vital to growing a small group ministry from the grassroots level. There is something amazingly organic about watching people who have experienced the acceptance and grace that can accompany a healthy small group share their stories with others. That happens one on one and it happens through the intentionality of the ministry leader. Just because it is pre-produced, doesn’t mean it isn’t organic. You have no idea what and who sharing someone’s story in a corporate setting will impact. God is a grassroots kinda guy. He wants to change things from the root of the issue. Sharing real life stories lets people know they aren’t alone and there is hope.

4. “I can’t stand being around these people!”
Seriously, I have heard this one. There are bigger issues here than just getting them in a group sometimes. Maybe a counseling referral is a good play here. Maybe it is just finding the group the fits best. I know how difficult this can be, there are no perfect groups, but doing your homework here on this person’s temperament and the group’s dynamics is crucial. You also have to be absolutely convinced that the leader of this group is top notch and is comfortable with this challenge. Sometimes, there is no solution for this person. Know this! I used to think that everyone should be in a group. I don’t think this way anymore. That would be like me trying to fit in a pair of jeans that I wore in high school. It would be painful for me and painful for anyone who would see me wearing them. Trying to force-fit someone in a group just because “They should be in one,” can be painful for the group and can leave the individual more relationally damaged. Remember this…Don’t do it just because you can.

More to come later.
Start the discussion…What reasons have you heard and how did you deal?

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