By Layne Smith
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2a (NRSV)
Giving birth to and encouraging the growth of new small groups is solid and joyous work as is supporting existing groups. The writer of Ecclesiastes, however, understood the life cycle well. There is a time to be born and a time to die. Like it or not, all groups eventually come to an end. There are a variety of reasons for that reality, but it is inevitable. How a group ends can be as important as how it began. CBF wants to provide the resources for both ends of the life cycle, in this instance for peer learning groups.
If a PLG has run its course and finished the race, ending it well is as important as beginning well. As with any loss or “death,” inevitably there is grief to be experienced. There also is thanksgiving to be celebrated. A good ending will provide for both.
A bad ending can keep participants from wanting to invest in other groups. Good endings offer the opportunity for a future of good beginnings as well.
Some ideas for a good ending:
- Get clarity on whether or not the group actually is ending. Perhaps you need to take a hiatus. If so, set a specific time when you will check back with each other to make a final decision about whether or not to continue.
- Offer testimony to each other about the gifts and blessings each of you has received during the life of your group. Ask questions to elicit responses. Keep it positive. “What is your favorite memory from our group?” “What was the most helpful book, meeting, retreat, etc. that we experienced together?
- Provide an opportunity to express the grief being experienced because of the ending of your PLG. “What will you miss most about our group?”
- Have a party or meal where thanksgiving is offered for the rich and meaningful experiences while the group met.
- Hold a fun outing – bowling, skating, something out of the ordinary that enables the group to end with positive feelings.
There is no right way to do this. Use your imagination. End with a prayer of thanksgiving, enriched by all that you have experienced together.
Layne Smith is CBF Regional Director for peer learning groups in North Carolina, Virginia, and the Mid-Atlantic. He is Interim Transitional Minister at McLean Baptist Church in McLean, Virginia.