Steps To Graduate Your Small Group


Graduating your small group is a normal, and healthy, part of its life cycle.  Here is how you can help lead your group through this process.


First, assess where your group and individual group members have been and where they seem to be going.  This will help you understand if God is leading your group to graduate.  God will confirm this in your heart as you act as a shepherd to your group in this way. All small groups should have a graduation at least once per year.  This helps the group proactively consider how God is working and avoids complacency and having the group drift into a “bored state” or having folks slowly stop attending.


Second, if you are sensing it is time for your group to graduate, pray to God and seek His answer to the following question: "What's next for the group and the individuals in the group?"  Consider each group member individually.  Consider the group as a whole.  Every group graduates periodically to their "next step".  This is what you are sensing, and what God is preparing you for, if you hear Him saying, “It’s time to Graduate your group!”  ALL groups do this at different points but they ALL go through this life cycle step.  So, your group is healthy and normal in this regard if is ready to graduate (just in case you were thinking something must be wrong with your group for this to happen!).


Here are the typical steps to the graduation process:


  1. The leader announces a special group meeting called a "Graduation".  At the meeting the group celebrates the group's past and considers the group's future.  At this meeting two questions are discussed:


    1. Celebrate:  How has God blessed you, grown you, and/or used you as a part of this group?  How has this group been special to you?


    1. Consider:  What is your personal next step for staying connected to the body of Christ?  Is it continuing with this group?  Is it moving on to something else God is calling you to?


  1. At the end of this meeting the group has a special prayer time and the leader declares the group graduated.  The leader then encourages everyone in the group to pray for confirmation over what God's next steps are for them.   They’ve had a chance to share their hearts on this. Now they simply need some time to have God’s confirmation of what they are sensing.  Are they sensing God wants them to continue on with a re-launch of this group or is He leading them to find a place of connection elsewhere? 


  1. It is very important for the leader emphasize that either of the directions described in #2 above is fine, and good, and that folks should not to feel bad if they hear God calling them to another point of connection (e.g. maybe they decide to be involved in some other group they are already ministering with).  The group wants to affirm everyone’s personal decision for what they decide to do.  This is important so that everyone in the group, regardless of where they end up, will feel comfortable saying a genuine “hello” to one another when they see each other and not feel guilty and try to avoid one another.  This is especially important for those that decide to move on and not re-launch with the existing group.


  1. After the meeting, the leader then hears back from folks (typical response deadline of 1 week is reasonable) and helps those moving on (if they need help) get connected elsewhere and lays out a plan for a re-launch of the group for any folks that decide to continue on in the group.  The folks returning to the group began discussing a re-launch and what new folks they want to join them.  The group then starts a new "life cycle"!  The group’s life starts over again!


See Re-launching a Small Group.