The question of when it is time to drop someone from a Bible study group’s ministry roll has come up several times in recent conversations. As a group leader myself, I have to answer this question about the people on my roll who don’t attend the group like they have in the past. Here are a few times when it’s OK to let the person go and remove them from your ministry list:
- When the person(s) asks to be removed. There are occasions when a person initiates the disconnect with a Bible study group. If they ever request to be removed from the group’s ministry role, then we should honor that request. An inquiry from us about the reason they have made the request would be reasonable, but it is not something to be pushed if you get the sense they do not want to divulge their reasons.
- When the person dies. When a person in your group “graduates to heaven,” it’s alright to remove them from your group’s ministry roll. Of course, their spouse, if he or she is a member of your group, will remain on the roll for ministry purposes.
- When the person(s) join another church. If I learn that a group member has joined another church, it’s OK to let them go. This is one of the happy occasions when we can remove someone from our group’s ministry roll, knowing they are in good hands and under the care of another teacher/shepherd and his or her group.
Here are a few other thoughts about inactive members:
- If they attend your class less than 25% of the time, they are functionally inactive.
- If they haven’t attended for the last 6-8 weeks, they are inactive.
- When a person’s or a couple’s attendance drops below 50%, they need attention so they do not become inactive.
A few Do’s and Don’ts:
- Don’t drop a resident church member from your group’s ministry roll.
- Do consider moving chronic absentees to a special class (create a “paper class”) who need extreme care and outreach; secure a leader(s) whose job it is to contact these chronic absentees, allowing Bible study group leaders to continue to contact people who are on their group ministry rolls and have a semi-regular attendance pattern.
In one church I served, a particular Bible study group wanted to “clean up its roll.” The group’s secretary asked to have a few chronically absent couples removed from the group’s list of members. The reasoning? “We haven’t seen them—ever.” I challenged the group to reach out to the couples and see what God might do. After some phone calls and encouragement from people in the Bible study towards those couples, two of the four chronically absent couples returned to the group—they just needed a little TLC and some gentle nudging. One wife even told them, “Your call came at a great time—we were really down and needing to reconnect with the Bible study group, but it was awkward. Your call made it easy to slide back in.”
How are you handling those group members who have gone inactive? Share your thoughts with us and help us learn how to more effectively keep up with people who have fallen through the cracks.
Ken Braddy is Manager of LifeWay’s Adult Ongoing Bible Studies and has served as an education pastor and executive pastor for 18 years, prior to his role at LifeWay. He leads a weekly Bible study at his church, blogs regularly on the topic of Sunday School and small groups, and co-authored the book 3 Roles For Guiding Groups. He has written hundreds of leadership articles and trained group leaders across the country. Ken is a native Texan, loves tex-mex, and wishes he had his 1978 Camaro back. Follow him on his blog at kenbraddy.com.