By Chris McRae, BCI Discipleship Team Leader
Small groups typically enter a new season when they come to the end of May. Culture tends to revolve around school terms so it’s natural for us to follow suit. Schedules are being adjusted and the daily flow of life is fine-tuned to allow for the flexibility and freedom that defines summer. The question will usually come up as groups think through what they will do for the summer. In some churches a break is hard-wired into the schedule with a re-launch planned for the fall. This makes sense in some settings but not all. The one thing no group wants to do is to simply go through the motions of activity without any intentionality.
Let me suggest some thoughts on making plans for small group engagement through the summer months.
Keep On Carrying On
This might not be a battle worth fighting. For some groups it may make the most sense to take a break. However, if the folks in your group are at the stage of life where school schedules have little relevance to their activities, there is no need to reimagine what is already going on and reinvent the wheel. If things are good, the group is motivated and leadership is strong, and consistency is valued, the right decision might just be to keep going.
Do Something Different
It might be beneficial to mix things up just a little bit. Depending on direction and permission from church leadership, it might be beneficial to look at alternatives to the format that you’ve been following. A new or different kind of study can bring just the right kind of spark to the group. There are all kinds of possibilities with doing something a little different. Some suggestions are for a video curriculum, a “how-to” specialized training emphasis, a Bible book study, doctrinal highlight such as the essentials of Christianity, or perhaps a Christ and Culture Critique examining popular culture in light of Scripture. Summer can be a time to be creative in your study.
Engaging Emphasis in Ministry
This begins by looking around your community and making yourself aware of needs that could be met by your group. Make this the emphasis of your summer. Instead of “meeting” to learn and to fellowship, plan actions that will benefit those who are not in your group. Grab opportunities to make a difference by volunteering to work as a group at a summer festival in your city or clean up an eyesore in the neighborhood. One group took weed whackers to an empty lot and made a ball field. They’d take their kids to the “park” and play pickup games inviting anyone to join them. It was surprising how well this simple activity was received.
Plan A Monthly Fun and Fellowship Time
Sometimes it’s good to just chill. If the group is really looking for a “break” from each other there’s probably something else that’s broken. But it’s okay to acknowledge that busy schedules are going to keep people from getting together with any degree of regularity. Don’t simply default to the easy thing though. It will take some planning and coordination to have a picnic-cookout, go to a ball game, take in a summer concert in the park or fly kites at the beach. Whatever “fun” looks like to your group, make an effort to make it happen.
Instead of fighting against the tide of summer with its warmer weather and lure of outdoor activities, it can be a good idea to be more kid focused. Depending on the interests of group members, this can include things like Saturday hikes, fishing at a local pond, bike rides, carnival evenings, or miniature golf. Get creative. You’ll discover that as your children get to know one another and interact together that will draw the adults deeper into meaningful relationships with each other as well.
Whatever you do, be certain to keep your hearts and minds fixed toward the ongoing goal of engaging your group in growing toward Christlikeness and advancing the influence of his Kingdom.