observations and readings about church ministry ideas, challenges, solutions, and trends
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Small Groups in Summer
Summer is right around
the corner, and countless churches are facing the same question: What
are we going to do about small groups this summer?
It’s a question that
matters to small groups ministry professionals, and more importantly, to small
group leaders. Often, we do one of two things: (1) cancel our groups over the
summer, or (2) forge ahead as if nothing has changed from the school year. Both
of these approaches have major drawbacks.
When we cancel our
groups, we abandon the one thing that drives the dual engines of community and
spiritual growth in our churches. And we do this during the time of the year
when more people than ever are looking for a new church home.
If we just push through
the summer with our weekly meetings as if it’s the fall or spring, we fail to
take seriously the change in mentality that happens when school lets out. At
best we will have about 25-30% attendance at our group meetings because people
are not up for weekly, long-term commitments over the summer.
Small group leaders need
a summer solution that offers discipleship and community but also takes
seriously group members’ intermittent availability. I’d like to share one
solution that we tried when I was a small groups pastor that worked really
well. I hope this is helpful to you small group leaders out there in the
trenches, as well as those of you who serve on church staff teams.
During the school year,
we would do weekly Bible studies in our groups. But when the summer rolled
around, we changed that up. We chose three “hot topics” that would be
intriguing and timely. For example, one of them was entitled Responding
to Islam like Jesus Would. For that topic, we filmed an interview with an
expert on witnessing to Muslims. We also did one entitled Questions
Every Christian Should Be Able to Answer. For that one I reached out to
Mary Jo Sharp at Houston Baptist University, and we filmed a great dialogue on
basic apologetics. A timely topic for this summer might be something like How
Would Jesus Vote?
For existing groups, we
asked them to meet just once a month over the summer to address the three
topics. We provided them a link to the videos so they could watch them as a
group and discuss.
For people who were not
already in a group, we hosted a corresponding on-campus event where we showed
the videos and people had conversations around tables. We did not ask people to
sign up beforehand; we just told them to show up if they were interested. We
provided dinner and childcare, and some of these table groups launched into
home-based groups in the fall.
Dr. Pat Ford joined Church Partnerships of LifeWay Christian Resources in 2007 after 35 years of ministry in church, university, and seminary settings. He can be contacted at 832-725-4253 or email@example.com, and followed on Twitter at @patford.