Ah, summer. There’s just something about summer that makes our hearts and minds swell with its endless possibilities. Both school and the sun are out – and calendars seem to beg for adventure and change of pace. But between vacations, family reunions, travel athletic teams for kids and other summertime activities, many small groups can lose their momentum and sense of community.
Because for many, summer is all about taking a break. But summer can be a unique time of growth for small groups, so don't be too quick to go cold turkey for three months.
"...identify the areas that will keep your small groups healthy and engaged."
If a church wants to solve its summer small-groups slump, leaders must think creatively about how they are going to keep the momentum of the previous nine months going.
Just as preventative maintenance helps your car run longer, you must first identify the areas that will keep your small groups healthy and engaged. Because when it comes to keeping your congregants engaged when the lure of summer comes calling, thinking creatively and strategically about how you can maintain a thriving small groups ministry is critical.
So what can you do?
Instead of going on hiatus, for example, your small groups could consider a different schedule for the summer, maybe meeting every other week or once a month for a social activity. Some groups meet once a month for a study and sharing, and meet another time each month for an outreach activity. It doesn't have to be all-or-nothing.
Additionally, in the world of digital technology, churches now have a simple and effective way to stay connected with givers beyond Sundays and to avoid the ups and downs of irregular small group attendance. Church leaders can leverage technology to become more intentional about staying connected during the summer months as the most effective antidote to such ‘slumps.
But your summer small-groups slump approach isn’t limited to scheduling and technology. So to help you maintain a thriving small-group ministry during the summer, here are nine more – yes, NINE – ideas to help you keep your momentum and connections going:
1. Capture email addresses and make sure they're up to date.
Overcoming the summer small-groups slump depends on you being able to communicate with church members when they’re not physically present. Email is still the primary – and most effective – way to accomplish that.
2. Create a social media plan to help stay connected.
People might miss church for an entire month, but they don’t stop checking social media. If people aren’t physically present during the summer months, social media may be one of the only ways they stay connected to your church. Take some time to create a calendar that shares regular updates reminding people that ministry still happens even if they are not there.
3. Mix up your studies to focus on something where people don’t feel left out if they miss a week.
If your church does a video study, consider using small groups as a time to recap the service from the past weekend. If you do a traditional study, consider picking a book of the Bible and having each person come prepared with at least one question to answer.
4. Plan an overnight retreat.
Summertime offers a great opportunity for your small groups to bond over a weekend retreat. Whether it’s a trip to the mountains or a nearby city, getting your groups to spend time together on a ‘mini-vacation’ can make their bond and sense of community stronger.
5. Consider utilizing video messaging services to share updates and to continue to share stories of life change and Kingdom work throughout the summer.
Changing the way you share updates with your small group members is a way to increase engagement and connection points.
6. Try something different.
Encourage your members to create spontaneous opportunities Download the small group leader app and stay connected. to hang out outside the confines of a standard agenda to keep your small groups thriving during the summer. You can plan fun barbecues, movie nights, potluck dinners, sporting events, and more – outside. It's also a great time to involve the kids in your meetings or activities. Try doing a craft together, make a chalk mural on the sidewalk, or spend time at the park.
8. Form new small groups from existing groups based on summer activities and interests.
A number of churches create groups around sports, hobbies, or other shared interests. The rationale is that summer interests and activities easily lend themselves to the formation of new groups, and the more people have in common with each other, the better chance the group will bond. Offering a short-term commitment centered around activities people enjoy could provide a great introduction to group life.
9. Leverage technology to keep everyone connected from the pal of their hands.
With the new ‘Needs’ feature in our Small Group app, making sure you and your congregation are informed and connected to one another has never been easier. A lot can happen in someone’s life in three short months – babies, illness, outreach. The app conveniently puts the power of connection at your fingertips to enable you to lead your group at anytime from anywhere.
But whatever you do, don’t wait around until September to reconnect and recommit to your small groups. A little planning and creativity could go a long way to helping you get intentional about your summer small-groups strategy, making this summer the summer your church actually accelerates its ministries and positions itself for exciting new opportunities come fall.
There's always a next step:
Download the "Small Group Leader App" and help your small groups stay connected this summer.
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