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.
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.