By Allen White
People have good intentions. They get excited about groups. They sign up, but you never see them. This has happened in every group that I’ve been a part of. Here are some reasons for this phenomena:
1. People resist what they want the most. People want community and connectedness. It’s a nice thought. But, the practical working out of connecting with others can be intimidating or even frightening. This hiding goes all of the way back to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8). We’ve been hiding ever since. That doesn’t mean that hiding is right. It’s certainly not good for us. Now, keep your fig leaf on, there are some other reasons too.
2. Everyone needs to feel like they belong. If they sign up and don’t show up, it’s not because they are uncommitted. It’s not because you’re a poor leader (you’re not). People worry if others will accept them or reject them. For some, they would rather avoid the group than risk the rejection. They want community, but not at the expense of possible rejection, so they skip out. The fear is rejection, but the need is belonging. This is where we have to go the extra mile as leaders and help people feel welcome and included in our groups. There’s a reason they signed up on your list. God has given them to you. We must put ourselves aside and make the phone calls and send the emails, even when the response is minimal. We’re not badgering them. By signing up, they’ve given us permission to get involved in their lives. It’s just checking in and letting them know that we’re thinking about them.
3. Some people sign up but they didn’t consult their calendar, their spouse, their kids’ schedules, etc. They just didn’t count the costs. In the excitement of the moment, they signed up for a group, but once the “cares of this world” cropped up, they realized that they just couldn’t pull it off. That’s okay. As leaders, we need to do all of the above, but we also need to encourage them to maybe do the study on their own or get together with one other friend. Yes, we believe that groups are the best place to grow, but practically speaking, when they just can’t get there, any type of growth is good.
4. There is something else at work here. The enemy would like to keep us separated and discouraged. He understands the powerful dynamic of the people of God interacting with the Word of God in the presence of the Spirit of God. The enemy can’t overcome that powerful force, but he can try to keep us busy and isolated. This is where prayer comes in. The Bible tells us that “Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). We understand that every “no show” is not the devil’s fault. But, we also understand that if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.
There are many other reasons why people might not show up to our groups. In fact, there are probably as many reasons as there are people who signed up.
Here’s the key question: What does God want to do in your group this semester? Sometimes God works in groups of 12. Sometimes God works in groups of three. Even if you just have a few members, don’t be discouraged. God is at work in your group. He’s not surprised by the result. This is what He had planned for now.