Empowerment Leadership Model for Small Groups, Teams, & Families
Course 2, Lesson 19
Ending the Group Experience
Note: Whenever "group" or "team" is used, it can mean "group", "team", or "family".
Christian community groups should ideally last as long as possible, even over a lifetime. But, realistically, most groups will end much sooner.
A group must end its existence sensitively. If not done correctly, people will not want to participate in future group experiences. Many people in this day and age are really lonely. Christians are almost as lonely as nonbelievers. When they join a church, Christians want to end whatever isolation and loneliness they experience.
These people, along with those not so lonely, join groups in churches. Then, just as these people are getting to know someone and developing a friendship, or just as the group is becoming a team or highly functional group -- it ends. Sunday school classes are often painful in this way, and can serve as our example. The quarter ends and everybody goes different directions. The pain or frustration of this premature end, not to the Sunday school class, but to the closeness of beginning friendships, can reduce a person’s willingness to go into another group and experience the pain and frustration again. Instead, people decide to keep their distance from others and avoid the pain of disappointment.
Many groups that have been meeting for a long time throw a party when the group ends. That is all that they do. In some sort of crazy way, this is like saying, "We've all gotten close and are able to really trust one another, and it is wonderful that we are being ripped apart and taken away from one another." Doesn’t make sense, does it? Just imagine how that makes people feel about community and intimacy!
What is needed is that the group as a whole and the members individually recognize and deal with the negative feelings of ending. They need to talk about the hurt, sadness, and loneliness. They need to admit that they are going to miss each other. They may cry. The group will mourn.
After the sadness has run its strongest course, the group will need to remember the positive things that have happened. The group will reflect on how the group and the members have grown over the life of the group. Times when the group had wonderful experiences will also be remembered and good feelings will return. The group will develop a realization that the positive memories can never be taken away.
Eventually the ending group begins to point toward the future. The destination of members is discussed. Excitement about the future builds, not from denial of the sadness, but after the sadness has been experienced and the pain drained away through a group mourning process.
When the group ends correctly, people can go on to another group experience without a bad taste in their mouth. No matter how long the group has been together or how skillful the group and its members have become, this ending process will be something new and the group will need your help as group leader.
Avoid at all cost sudden endings. The closer the group members have gotten to one another, the longer notice of termination is desirable. I once worked with a group of very delinquent boys in a housing project in the South Bronx. After just three months together, when I mentioned that the group would have to end at the end of the school year when I would return home to California, there were four months left to go, more months than they had been together. But the group would not talk, not say one word, for the whole hour-and-a-half meeting. They mourned the loss of the group even when more months were left than they had been together! Naturally, the loss they felt was far more than someone feels when a Sunday school class ends. But when a group that has implemented Christian community ends, it is sometimes the ending of the most loving and functional group experience some members have ever had.
This completes Course Two. Congratulations.
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Copyright 2013 Dick Wulf, Colorado, USA