Summer is here! The kids are almost 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 to respond one of two ways: either cling more tightly to your usual group routines and patterns, only to become more frustrated and burned-out; or, 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! Instead, leverage the summer months by doing things different!
Because attendance at group meetings may be sporadic and tend to drain group momentum, leverage the summer to encourage opportunities for relationship building outside of your group time. Here are some principles and ideas. Have fun with it as you plan to lead differently through the summer.
Change the Environment
Summer is the perfect opportunity to plan events or even group meetings in a different environment than normal. The change of pace and location 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 may 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:
- meet for breakfast on a Saturday morning
- take a picnic to the zoo
- cookout and outdoor movie night at someone’s house
- progressive dinner or desserts at various group member’s homes
- take a day trip…Weston, Rocheport, Atchison, etc.
- game night where everyone brings their favorite game
- group bike ride
- attend an art festival or museum
- play softball or go bowling
- volunteer together ( Groups That Serve Together Grow Together )
- visit a local KC attraction (Union Station, WW I Museum, Plaza, Truman Library)
- attend a dinner theater or theater in the park (often free!!)
- take dinner/dessert to a local fire station to show your appreciation
These are just a few suggestions to help build community outside of regular group meetings. Engage your collective imagination! 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.
Get Others Leading
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.
Because of the perception of “less pressure,” summertime is great for allowing a potential apprentice to facilitate your group meeting. 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 Up 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 your format is is different, 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?
Re-Order Your Meetings
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/end, and not just allow the study to run too long.)
We tend to make the study the largest portion of 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, instead of always starting with prayer requests, make that the exclusive focus for one of your meetings. 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 ideas to lead differently. Some may be great, others just okay. The key is to lead differently during this season! It will stretch you and your group a bit, but will definitely be worth it!