I Killed My Small Group: Confessions of a Small Group Pastor

Posted By: Dean Deguara

How I Killed My Small Group


I am to be found guilty as charged. I can’t hide it anymore. I confess to the killing of my small group. Let the jury proceed in charging me with home group homicide because when the evidence is carefully examined it will reveal me as a small group killer.

Let it be known that this killing was not premeditated. I had no intention of killing my small group on that Sunday after church, but I had it. I was done. I couldn’t take it anymore, when I finally had done the unthinkable.

Everything was going great. We had launched our small group around an eight week church wide campaign. The first Sunday had all the signs of a successful small group; several couples showed up, we fellowship-ed around some delicious food, we watched the teaching video and had great discussion followed my a very transparent prayer time. People were moved to tears, promises were made, new relationships seemed to have been kindled. This continued until about week 5 and now as I look back this is when the everything began to go wrong.

Couples that were so excited about being in a small group started making excuses why they couldn’t stick with their commitment anymore. We continued. One by one they began to fall off. We continued. When week 8 rolled around I put the fate of the group in their hands and they agreed that we should carry on. We continued. To help make the small group more convenient we went to meeting every other week. The group dwindled even more. People lost track of when we were meeting and didn’t come, but we met anyway. And then it happened. I didn’t even want to go. I knew that my wife and I would be the only ones to show up at our host’s home that day. As I walked it was written all over their faces; tired, weary, worn out. We ate what would be our last meal together when I finally did it…

“Let’s kill the group.” I said, not sure how they would respond.

Their eyes beamed with hope, a burden had been lifted with a sigh of relief. They admitted to discouragement and feeling like they had failed. I assured them that I was going to take the responsibility for this killing and that I was responsible for the death of this small group. As I have pondered what went wrong with our group and what caused me to kill it here are some clues that I ignored:

1. I Didn’t Communicate – I delegated the communication piece to our hosting couple and I should have taken that responsibility until the group got rooted and established.

2. I Allowed the Group to Go Longer than 8 Weeks – I wanted the group to continue, but now I recognize some groups are not meant to be long term groups. 8 weeks would have left a good taste in everyone’s mouth asking for more.

3. I Didn’t Connect with Others Enough Outside the Group – I repeat this principle all the time but what happens between the groups is the glue that keeps a group together. Although we did manage to get out on a double date with the host home couple we could have connected with other couples in the group more.

4. I Think the Meeting Time of Our Group Taxed Us – Sunday immediately following our church services got old real quick. It makes for a really long day without a break. A later start might have served our group better.

5. I Started to Look at the Group as an Obligation – I know this is really bad to say, but it’s true. When your small group becomes a have to instead of a get to it’s time to kill it. Your attitude determines the atmosphere of your small group. End of discussion.

As I await sentencing from the Small Group Justice Department feel free to leave your comments that I might be granted mercy…

Photo Credit: Patrick Feller

Dean Deguara

I’ve been married to my wife Amy for over 21 years. We have a Junior and Freshman in high school, who both are outstanding student athletes (It’s in the genes! LOL). I attended Genesis Discipleship Center which has proven to be one of the most transformational experiences in my life, and finished my degree in Professional Studies at Southwestern Assembly of God University . I’m an encourager of leaders at all levels on at DeanDeguara.com. I am currently serving as the Director of Resources at Jesus Culture in Sacramento. 

8 Responses

  1. Mike Mack Mike Mack says:

    Dean, your group did not die. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it never really lived.

    I love all that you say here … not that your group ended, but that you were able to see why it happened and learned some valuable lessons. I’ve seen many many groups die before they really ever lived over the years, and the sad thing is that many of those members and leaders never figured out why it happened or, more importantly, what real group life looks like, and so they repeat this deadly cycle over and over again. One of the big clues (of many) in your article is when you said, “To help make the small group more convenient we went to meeting every other week.” This happens all the time. For some reason we think (illogically, I believe) that lessening the commitment will get people to be more committed. Never works.

    The even bigger clue in this homicide investigation is the lack of members connecting between meetings. And this is why I say that this group never really lived. It merely met. But having meetings is not living. When I read the Book of Acts and the NT letters, I see a church and groups that lived. There was a sense of awe, joy, excitement, sharing, love for one another, taking care of each others’ needs, growth, and all this happened daily. They didn’t have a meeting mentality. They had a life-together mentality. And that’s why we see such life–vitality–in the early church. Because they were alive and healthy, they grew and multiplied and changed the world.

    It can happen again. I believe it. But not with meetings.

  2. Dean Deguara Dean Deguara says:

    It takes commitment to cultivate the community that Acts paints a picture for us, but to have a life-together mentality you have to be friends and friends look forward to being together. Doesn’t always take root in an 8 week campaign starter group (which this group was), but I should have examined the group more closely before extending it beyond the 8 weeks.

  3. Derek Olson Derek Olson says:

    Lol what a great post, thanx for your vulnerability in sharing this! This should be required reading for every small group leader!Laugh

  4. Dean, I love the honesty. And I think your assessment about what went on is spot on. Esp the part about recognizing that this was a 8-week group and that it’s ok for 8-week groups to be 8-week groups. If there is one thing I’ve learned it is this: Not everyone that says that they want community is ready and equipped to live in healthy community. As good leaders, we have to be willing to deal with that reality.

  5. nicki says:

    Aloha Dean,
    When you’re done beating yourself up—–know that you are only one of the many reasons why our Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross. In what we feel to be our failures, he sees it as the reason for his resurrection. He will lift you up, he will grow your group. It is never about the success of our small groups; it never was and it will never be. Our success in any of our small groups is and must be in Jesus Christ, Amen?
    Some will say leave sunday preaching at the alter with our pastors on sundays. Others may say lets just fellowship and share his goodness, what he has done in our lives. All may be fine, but what does scripture say: matt 28:19-20 declares to go out and make disciples of all nations——–well the word shared with us as to how, where, and what to do. Fellowship in laughter(rejoice and I say again rejoice)
    Look around you and see your small group, you have the individuals for his success,but you haven’t seen or listened to him. Just listen he already is speaking and sharing with you. So go out and keep it simple, laugh and his name will be present, share your day, yesterday and all your tomarrows and his name will be there. Pick a subject and have his group share–his name will be there.He will be the begining, the story, and the end. Keep it simple, he’ll do the rest.
    It’s not about small groups— it’s about Jesus and Jesus leading your group. Where two or more get together in my name, I am there !!!!
    Funny how as you saw your small group deminishing every week, it really was growing but you didn’t see it—-but that’s what happens when we are focused on numbers. We loose sight of the mark that was/is placed on that wooden cross. And his name is Jesus Christ. So go have fun Dean, small groups are about having fun with Jesus Christ. Pastor, preach, share his goodness and sad times too, but do it in rejoicing in him and not our sorrows.
    He is seated at the right hand of the Father——WOW!!!!!

    • Dean Deguara Dean Deguara says:

      Thanks for the encouragement Nicki! I’m not down on myself, just honest because I don’t think we hear enough about what to do when small groups get hard. Small Groups are a lot more fun when people come!

  6. Dean Deguara Dean Deguara says:

    Thanks Derek. Many times we don’t hear the failures only the successes!

  7. Dean Deguara Dean Deguara says:

    “Not everyone that says that they want community is ready and equipped to live in healthy community.” True story!

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