Few small groups go on forever. When the time comes for your group to end, the following tips will help you finish well.
Remember the past. Take time to retell ways in which Christ worked in your lives through your small group, such as answered prayers, transformed attitudes, or an increased understanding of the Bible. What was the happiest moment in the group? When did you laugh the most? What challenges did you overcome?
Release people to future ministry. Celebrate future plans for ministry to form another small group, to get more involved in the community, to volunteer at church, to move to a mission field, and so on. Reinforce that the end of your small group is not the end of personal and ministry growth.
Acknowledge accomplishments. I remember completing the 12-week study "Experiencing God." I was elated to have finished what I started. Reminisce with your group about what you've accomplished together, studies completed, outreach projects, relationships, building events, and give one another some well-deserved applause.
Evaluate. If you spend time discussing the good and bad of your group experience, you will leave with a clearer idea of what you want your next small group to be like. Was your group caring? Loving? Was the curriculum too challenging or too easy? Look at your group covenant: Did you accomplish the goals and objectives you set as a group?
End with a bang. Don't end your group without a party. Perhaps you'd like to create personal collages at your celebration. Provide glue and poster or construction paper one sheet per group member. Ask people ahead of time to bring cutouts from magazines or newspapers that remind them of fellow group members. After you present each other with the images you've chosen (and explanations!), make collages. Each person makes his own collage by pasting the images people have given him to poster paper. Everyone leaves the party with a collage of memories. At the end of the celebration, close with prayer for one another. Ask group members to complete the prayer sentence," I ask that God grant you. . . ." One of my former small groups sealed out time together with a communion service I will never forget. We had a happy ending. So can you.
Diego Pfiffer is an elder in Lavras, Brazil.