In case you haven’t been outside in the heat this week—summer is here! That means kids are out of school, vacations are drawing near, the days are longer, and usually any semblance of “routine” goes out the window. Your group will NOT be immune to it! Most leaders tend toward one of two responses: either cling more tightly to your usual group routines and patterns, only to become more frustrated and burned-out; or, to throw group life out the window: “Everyone’s schedules are so crazy, we’re just going to take the summer off.” Neither of these are healthy options, however. Instead, determine now to be proactive and beat the Summer Slump by intentionally doing things outside your normal group routine.
As we’ve discussed before, the Summer is a great opportunity to do some evaluation of where your group is at in order to chart a course for the future. Revisit the three questions to help you assess your current situation. Because attendance at group meetings may be sporadic and tend to drain group momentum, the key is to encourage opportunities for relationship building outside of your group time. Use these principles and suggestions for ideas of ways to lead differently through the summer. This is just the starting point though—let your creativity run wild and have fun with it!
Change the Environment
Some of Jesus’ greatest teaching opportunities with his disciples were not in formal settings, but in social gatherings. Follow Jesus’ example by using every occasion to disciple your group by telling stories and asking probing questions in order to think and process what may have been said in a recent sermon or past group study. Use conversations and dialog surrounding what you are learning as a group and as a church. This is a great chance to improve your skill at the Art of the Follow-up Question.
The summer is the perfect opportunity to plan events or even group meetings in a different environment than you may be used to. The change of pace and environment provide group members with a new outlet to share even more of their lives together. Topics that never seem to come up in a group meeting, people suddenly feel more comfortable talking about during a well-planned social gathering. Most importantly, everyone gets to see each other as “real people.” Do things that allow group members to see sides of one another that they may rarely see in the group meeting. For example:
- take a picnic to the zoo
- spend a Saturday at the lake
- cookout and outdoor movie night at someone’s house
- take a day trip…Weston, Rocheport, Atchison, etc.
- group bike ride
- attend an art festival or museum
- play softball or go bowling
- volunteer together (Groups That Serve Together Grow Together )
- meet for breakfast on a Saturday morning
- progressive dinner at various group member’s homes
- visit a local KC attraction (Union Station, WW I Museum, Plaza, Truman Library)
- attend a dinner theater or theater in the park (usually free)
- take dinner/dessert to a local firestation to show your appreciation
- do a game night and have everyone bring their favorite game
These are just a few suggestions to help build community outside of regular group meetings. Engage your collective imaginations! As the leader, encourage your group to spend time together, and help set the example for them. You will find the investment of time, along with the fun and laughter, lead to a deeper connection during your group meetings and momentum to help overcome the Summer Slump.
Incorporate Group Members in Planning and Preparation
This is a great time to delegate leadership and allow group members to help plan and lead a group activity. What are they passionate about? What skills/hobbies do they have that you may not necessarily share? Explore letting them plan a group activity accordingly and watch them infuse the activity and the group with a shot of energy and enthusiasm, not to mention that it may introduce new sides of people previously unseen.
Summer-time is also great for allowing a potential apprentice the opportunity to facilitate your group meetings, because of the perception of “less pressure.” Refresh yourself on the steps to intentional apprenticing and then give someone the opportunity to lead a group meeting or even a whole study. It’s an ideal chance for them to get their feet wet and at the same time give your group time some variety.
Change the Format/Structure of Your Group Meetings
Let’s face it, we’re creatures of habit! If you’re honest, you probably have a routine structure to your group meetings—open fellowship, opening prayer, study time, prayer requests. Maybe it’s a different order, but your meetings almost certainly have some sense of routine to them. That’s actually a good thing, especially early in the life of a group–it creates a sense of security that your group members can depend on. However, if your group’s been together for some time, it’s time to change it up a bit, so why not do so during the summer?
It may be as simple as changing the order in which you do things. Plan your open fellowship time for the end after your prayer time and see how the group interaction changes. (This will also require you be disciplined about when you start, and not just allowing the study to run too long.)
We tend to make the study the main component of our group time. While it’s essential to the transformation process, the study doesn’t always have to take center stage. Don’t be afraid to emphasize different aspects of your group time. For example, if you always start with prayer requests and find it consumes more time than you’d planned or gets lost in rabbit-trails, instead move that to a dedicated meeting time. Model for the group the significance of that part of your group by dedicating an entire meeting to praying for each other. Then one meeting each month do just that–but be creative about how you do it! Don’t just do the typical “prayer requests” time. Get some ideas from these creative expressions of prayer, then approach each of your group prayer meetings differently. (This is another great way to include group member(s) in the planning and execution.)
Plan a group retreat. Relationships are strengthened on retreats and it is a great chance to celebrate what God has done in your group member’s lives while also casting vision for where He’s taking you as a group. Check out these tips on planning and leading a group retreat ( Part 1 | Part 2 ).
Capitalize on sub-groups. Whether it’s during your group time or a separate meeting at another time, the use of sub-grouping will enhance relationships and allow group members to interact in a completely different environment. Consider doing a study on some aspect of relationships and divide the men and women into separate groups for the discussion time. Check out these essential tips for using sub-groups effectively.
Try a variety of these or ideas to lead differently. Some may be great, others just okay. The key though is to lead differently during this season! It will stretch you and your group a bit, but will definitely be worth it!
How do you plan to lead differently this summer? Share your ideas or past experiences. LEAVE A REPLY