3 times to drop someone from your Bible study’s ministry list

Should you ever drop a person from your group’s ministry list (some call this a class or group roll; I prefer the term ministry list to remind me that I must care for the people as a shepherd). As a group leader, I have to wrestle with the question about dropping someone who is on my roll because they’ve stopped attending regularly. Here are a few times when it’s OK to let the person go and remove them from your ministry list:

  1. 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 roll, then we should honor that request. An inquiry from us about the reason they have made the request would be reasonable, but not something to be pushed if you get the sense they do not want to divulge their reasons.
  2. 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 a member of your group, will remain on the roll for ministry purposes.
  3. 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 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 or a couple’s attendance drops below 50%, they need attention so they do not become inactive.

A few Do’s and Dont’s:

  • Don’t drop a resident church member from your group’s ministry roll.
  • Do continue to pray for the person (or persons)
  • Do continue to invite absentees to every group fellowship and special function
  • 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.
  • Don’t wait too long to contact the absentee…the longer you wait, the harder it gets (I know from personal experience!)

In one church I served, a particular Bible study group wanted to “clean up its roll.” The group’s record keeper asked to have a few chronically absent couples removed from the group’s list of members. The reasoning? “We haven’t seen them in forever.” 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, 2 of the 4 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…

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