As a group leader, you're empowered to influence others and their relationship with Christ. But sometimes people face seasons of life that require additional support. These are bumps in the road (or outright crashes) that are too severe and traumatic for a group to handle on its own. That's where the church comes in.
It's important that you foster a collaborative relationship with a church staff member now—even if it's currently smooth sailing in your group. You'll want that relationship in place in the event that one of your group members enters a difficult season.
Let's say you’re leading a married group and a couple separates or decides to divorce. Unless you happen to be a marriage counselor, you're probably not equipped to offer that couple the level of care they'll need. The church can partner with you to provide deep care, so the group can do what it does best without exceeding its mandate.
In the case of a couple separating or divorcing, it's important for the group to maintain relational connection as much as possible to both people in that marriage (it's not unusual, though, for one of the spouses to check out and not respond to your attempts to make contact). Those group relationships can be a vital support system as people navigate difficult circumstances.
But it's also important that the couple's situation doesn't become the main focus of your time together as a group. A small group isn't a support group. Its purpose isn't to address major life crises. That's why it's important to partner with the church so that pastors and professional counselors can step in and do a lot of that heavy lifting, while the group offers emotional, relational, and spiritual support.
When you partner with the church, you don't have to have answers. You don't have to have solutions. You just have to be willing to be there for the people you lead.
So, if and when you decide to bring church staff in to support a group member, think of it as a partnership. You're not “handing off” your responsibility. Your connecting a group member in need with the appropriate ministry support so that your group can continue to do what it was designed to do: give everyone in the group the opportunity to connect relationally and grow spiritually.
As a group member pursues deeper levels of care, your group can encourage and rally around him or her. This requires wisdom, humility, and a lot of intentionality. As a leader, you’re not responsible for your group members' well-being during difficult seasons, but you can still provide care by partnering with your church staff, surrounding the person in need with prayer, and encouraging his or her journey toward healing.