Sooner or later it happens to almost everyone: you feel trapped in a small group that no longer meets your needs. AWKWARD!
Despite knowing you need to leave, you stay because you worry about what might happen.
- “Will my friends understand?”
- “Will leaving hurt their feelings?”
- “What do I do if they beg me to stay?”
- “What if they get mad at me?”
While understandable and common, these fears are calmed by taking five simple steps to leave well.
Leaving is the right choice, right?
Before we jump into how to leave well, let’s make sure leaving is the right solution. Sometimes, fleeing really is not the answer and we need to put our big-girl/guy pants on and do what is necessary to stay and make things right and healthy.
Too many times, I’ve seen people leave over a simple misunderstanding, slight, or something that could have easily been addressed had it been brought to the attention of the leader or the offending party. Be sure you have given yourself and the group a fair opportunity to address your needs.
- Are you clear as to the purpose of the group, your purpose for being in the group, and what gap, if any, exists between those purposes?
- If it isn’t a difference in purpose, is there another type of problem? Is it the group, someone in the group, or you (or some combination) that is responsible for the problem? Can the problem be solved? If so how?
- What would need to happen for the group to be effective for you again?
- How much control do you have over effecting that change?
- What steps, short of leaving, could you take to effect change?
With that being said, sometimes leaving is the appropriate solution. In those cases, how you leave can determine the success of the transition and stave off hurt feelings and damage to relationships you formed while in the group.
How to Leave Well
If resolving the issues proves impossible, put your efforts into leaving with integrity and grace using these five steps.
1. Communicate your plans to your group leaders and any other group members with whom you have close relationships. Be kind and gracious in explaining why the group is no longer a good fit for you. Take the high road and don’t throw another member or leader under the bus. Acknowledge how the group has blessed and benefited you. However, be clear and direct about your plans so you don’t give the impression you are inviting them to convince you to stay. Be sure to phrase it as you are leaving—not that you’re are thinking about it.
2. Nurture relationships with those remaining in the group when it is appropriate and beneficial to do so. Just because you are ending your affiliation with the group doesn’t mean you are ending your relationships with the people in the group. Communicate your intention to maintain your friendships. If your friends know your relationship is not dependent upon your group membership, they will be quicker to wish you well in finding a group that better meets your needs.
3. Maintain healthy boundaries with those resisting your decision. Most people will wish you well and understand your need to find a better fit. If some members of the group lay a guilt trip on you or try to manipulate or coerce you into staying, it is evidence they don’t have healthy boundaries. Bone up on your boundary setting and enforcing skills and kindly, but firmly, stick to your plans.
4. Don’t drag it out. Unless you serve in a role for which a replacement is needed, you should leave immediately. If you do perform an essential task in the group, do your best to line up a replacement prior to making your announcement. If that isn’t possible, give the group leaders a reasonable time frame in which you will continue to participate and fulfill your responsibilities while a replacement is found. Then, leave at the designated time. Don’t allow the group to hold you hostage because they won’t find a replacement.
5. Find and commit to a new group that better meets your needs. Having reflected on your needs and reasons for participating in a group, you are in a good position to evaluate the choices available to you and select a group in which you can thrive and contribute to the effectiveness of the body of Christ.
Small groups are wonderful venues in which we grow as disciples and build vital friendships through which we can minister to one another. It is not in the interest of you or the church to languish in a group that doesn’t meet your needs when you can take these five steps to leave well and flourish elsewhere.
Healthy Boundaries Help
Whether you decide to leave or stay, you’ll benefit from a better understanding of boundaries. I’ve put together a little Boundaries Basics Cheat Sheet to introduce you to this life-changing topic. Click the button below to request your copy.
Question: Have you ever faced this situation? What helped you? What worked well (or not so well) in the way you left a small group? You can leave a comment by clicking here.