What to Do About Perpetual Lateness

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Most groups have at least one or two members who consistently show up late. I’m not talking about the person who unexpectedly runs into a five-car pile-up on the way to group or who gets called into an emergency meeting at work as she's about to head home. I'm not talking about the parent whose babysitter cancels at the last minute, forcing him to scramble to find a backup. I'm talking about the folks who are perpetually late for no good reason at all. What do you do about group members who are chronically late?

A lot of times, the chronically late are unaware that their lateness affects the group dynamic. You have the privilege—yes, it's a privilege—of letting chronically late group members know how their actions are potentially perceived by others. It probably won't be an easy conversation, but it may help them grow by making them aware of a personal blind spot.

Chronic lateness can communicate that a person:

  • Thinks social time is a waste of time
  • Isn't interested in what’s going on in others' lives
  • Believes his or her time is more valuable than others'
  • Is disorganized
  • Doesn't think group is important
  • Has too little margin in his or her schedule because of an inability to set healthy boundaries

None of those things may be true, but it's how other group members probably feel. And if they feel that way, it will affect the group dynamic. It will make it difficult for you to create environments where people can grow closer to one another as they follow Jesus.

So, have an offline conversation with the group member who is always late. Approach the conversation prayerfully. It's probably a good idea not to initiate the talk until you've gotten to the place where you can put aside most of your own annoyance and speak with the other person's best interests at heart.

Let your group member know that you've noticed a pattern and don't want his or her behavior to be misinterpreted by others in the group. Reinforce why it's important to arrive on time. Listen to what the group member has to say—maybe there's a short-term or long-term event unfolding in his or her life that requires adjusting the group's schedule (with everyone else's buy-in) or setting some new expectations for the other group members.

Unfortunately, there isn't a one-size-fits-all conversation for chronically late group members. Just remember that your goal is to understand the group member's perspective and extend grace, but also to set the kind of expectations that maintain a healthy group dynamic and benefit every member of the group.