How to Respond When Your Small Group Disappoints You

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Recently I heard from one of my small group members that they were excited to gather back together in person soon. They missed being with the group and they missed being connected. This was all great to hear. But then they said they were disappointed that the group hadn’t been more connected over the last few months. They asked why I had not reached out more, or set up a gathering.

I realized two things from that conversation.
One – I need to be more intentional as their small group leader in active, almost aggressive, communication.
Two – I had unintentionally created a small group of consumers. Because my wife and I host the group, and lead the discussion, and start the chats and post in Facebook, our group was waiting on me to create community for them. They did not see that they had part of the responsibility for their own community and connection.

I know, I know, I need to share leadership responsibilities within the group, maybe I will write a blog about the struggles with that later.

So, there was plenty of disappointment to go around. While they were disappointed in me, I was also disappointed in them. They had not reached out to us, or tried to gather, or even invited anyone in the group to connect with them.

A quick definition for disappointment might be helpful here. To be disappointed is to be discouraged or sad because of an unmet expectation regarding someone or something.

When that happens in your group, I believe there are four steps to work through.

First – Pray and Praise

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. 
Romans 5: 3-5

Invite Jesus into the situation, into what you are feeling. And praise him for the disappointment you feel. Feeling disappointed allows you to examine why you feel that way. Looking back at our definition, my small group member was disappointed in me because of the expectations they had. I was disappointed because of my own expectations. Being disappointed allowed me to bring that to Jesus and ask him why I felt that way. And what to do about it.

Own your part

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone
Romans 12:18

The next step is to examine why you are disappointed and to own your part in it. By the very definition, disappointment means we had expectations for others. In my example, I had not been clear with my expectations for the group to own their spiritual growth and community.

Forgive

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Colossians 3:13

To truly forgive, you must be willing to let it go and never bring it back up again. That is what Jesus does with us. It is the enemy who reminds of past sins, not Jesus. This step can be the hardest of all. Admitting your disappointment, and your unmet expectations, is hard. Giving others grace and mercy to be human and fail is harder still.

Move On

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. 
Philippians 3:13-14

Finally, after processing through the previous steps you can move on. This may mean that you need to go back over expectations with your group. Maybe you need to change your own expectations. Maybe it is time to hand off ownership of the group to someone else. Whatever the next step is for you, you need to take it. So that you do not get stuck repeating the same things over and over.

One last thing, your group and the people in your group WILL disappoint you. I can guarantee that. Because they are human, and not Jesus. So, give them lots of grace, and give yourself just as much grace.