A Summer Series Can Stunt Your Fall Launch

A Summer Series Can Stunt Your Fall Launch

When it comes to discipleship and small groups, there is a tension between series, seasons, and semesters. On the one hand, you don’t want to fight against the community calendar. But, on the other side of things, you can’t have only 8-12 weeks for discipleship in a year. What’s the balance?

Don’t Fight the Losing Battle of the Calendar

Most people have been conditioned by the academic calendar, even if they are no longer in school. You’re hard at it from Labor Day to Thanksgiving, and then from the New Year up to Memorial Day, but between those holidays there are breaks. People are conditioned to this. There are a few exceptions, but even communities with year-round school still see an ebb in attendance and participation in the Summer.

Where I live in South Carolina, everyone goes on vacation either in the week before or after the Fourth of July. Back in the days of the textile industry, the mills closed for the weeks on either side of Independence Day. Now, all of the textile mills are long gone, but the pattern remains.

Your community also has seasonal rhythms like this. But, do you give up on discipleship during the Summer. Think of alternatives like a Summer devotional that people can take to the beach or the lake (or on their phone). Discipleship doesn’t need to stop, but the form might need to adjust for the Summer months.

Don’t Win the Battle and Lose the War.

I’ve seen churches do semesters or even church-wide campaigns during the Summer months. As you might expect, participation was a third or less from either a Fall series or a New Year’s series, but there were some folks who benefited. The problem was the Summer launch reduced the momentum for the Fall launch when everyone is back in church and available. They saw less participation and fewer new leaders than in previous Fall launches because the Summer study took the steam out of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I led a group for four years that met for all 52 weeks of the year for Bible study. It is possible, but is it practical or necessary? You have to decide for your church.

How Do You Use the Summer?

The effort to make well-rounded disciples requires more than group meetings and Bible studies. Relationships and group life play a big part in offering the encouragement and accountability that each member needs to grow. While there is a place to learn what Jesus commanded, His command to us was to “teach them to obey what I’ve commanded” (Matthew 28:20). You have to know the commands to obey them, but you have to obey them to become the kind of disciple Jesus had in mind.

Summer provides the opportunity to grow by other means. Groups could serve together. Is there a Summer youth event or camp where they could help? How about a missions trip? Does a neighbor have a neglected yard? Maybe the group could pitch in to help? But, it doesn’t need to be all work.

I’ve seen groups go on vacation together, go camping together, or go exploring on a day trip. One group in our church went on a cruise together. They met another couple from our town on the cruise, who ended up being part of their group when they returned.

Groups need to work hard together, but they also need to play hard together. Often you catch a better glimpse of someone outside of a meeting. Meetings are important, but group life is equally as important.

Concluding Thoughts

Make Summer your ally, not your enemy. Don’t fight the calendar. But, remember, chances are people will be more faithful to their group over the Summer than they will to weekend services. Don’t stop your groups, but maybe make an adjustment.

What will your groups do this Summer? Leave your comments below.

Allen White helps Take the Guesswork Out of Groups. We offer books, online courses, coaching groups, and consulting.

Beyond Church-wide Campaigns

Beyond Church-wide Campaigns

It’s time for your church to move beyond church-wide campaigns. The first widely publicized church-wide campaign, the 40 Days of Purpose by Rick Warren was launched in 2002. By far, it has been the most popular campaign to date. I am grateful for every person who ever “hosted” or joined a group for that season.

At this point, some of you may be confused. I wrote a book called Exponential Groups: Unleashing Your Church’s Potential (Hendrickson 2017), which is all about church-wide campaigns or alignment series. You might ask, “Now you’re telling us that campaigns don’t work.” That’s not what I’m telling you.

Church-wide campaigns used to work. But, there was a time and a season for campaigns. Here are the reasons for those seasons.

When to Stop Using Campaigns

There are two measures for when campaigns are no longer effective. Your church will hit these marks, and then campaigns will no longer be helpful.

First, if a high percentage of your members are in groups, you no longer need to use campaigns. For most churches, there is a 1-3 year window when campaigns are highly effective to recruit leaders and connect people into groups. Beyond that three year window, your church will experience “campaign fatigue.” It’s a strange phenomenon.

Every week, your people will hear a message in the weekend service. Every week, your people will meet in their group and probably study something. But, the idea of continually aligning the weekend service with the group study gets exhausting for people. This seems strange since there is a sermon and a study every week. But, it’s a reality with a few exceptions.

Some churches use sermon-based groups, which I believe is genius from a Christian education point of view. The normal course of sermon-based groups is steady. You don’t face all of the ups and downs of church-wide campaigns. While there’s a push to join groups every semester, it’s not the bandwagon effect over and over and over again. The bandwagon is fatiguing, which leads to the second point.

If your church has used campaigns for more than 3 years, you will experience a diminishing return. For about 8 years now, I’ve told the story of a church who had dramatic success in connecting all of their people into groups within a 9-month 3-campaign push. The pastor was engaged. They were naturals at creating their own curriculum. They launched multiple campaigns year after year. They began facing a steady skid downward. When I caught up with them about a year ago, groups were at an all-time low. Did the campaigns fail?

Their campaigns succeeded for the first year or two. But, by year 3 campaign fatigue had set in. They were excellent at the sprint of the campaign, but suffered when the sprint became a marathon. Your church will suffer this too.

Once the majority of your congregation is connected into groups and you’ve run campaigns for two or three years, it’s time for a change. If you don’t make the switch, your groups will decline, except for two scenarios…Click Here for Part 2.

Join Allen White for a Free Webinar: Beyond Church-wide Campaigns on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 3pm EST or Wednesday, Nov 14 at 12:30pm EST. CLICK HERE for more information

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