By Allen White The season that starts with Thanksgiving and goes through New Year’s Day is pretty intense for most of us. (Or does the season start at Halloween now?) Office parties, family gatherings, school functions, church services, shopping, shopping, shopping, cooking, cooking, cooking – boy, the list goes on. With all of this activity going on, should your group take a break? Well, a lot depends on your group. Here are a few things to think about:
1. Ask your group. While some people feel that they can barely come up for air during the holidays, others might experience a great deal of loneliness. Even though it’s a busy time, most people are still working every day and going about their daily routine. Before you decide to cancel, see what your group wants to do. If there are three or four who would like to meet, then you might consider meeting. Please note, however, that if your schedule has gone berserk, then it might be good to take a break for your own sake. But, make sure that your group is taken care of. Will someone spend Thanksgiving alone? Maybe a group member could include them in a family gathering. 2. Have a party. There is a healthy ebb and flow to small groups. Most groups can complete a study or two during the months of August through November, then will start again in January. Your group is not “more spiritual” by persisting in an inductive Bible study through the holidays. But, there is more to group that study. Having just completed a study or two in the Fall, your group has something to celebrate. Throw a party. This might even be a good time to invite prospective members and neighbors to check out the group and possibly join for your next study. 3. Serve together as a group. The holiday season offers many opportunities to serve the underprivileged in the community. Homeless shelters, soup kitchens and children’s homes have a great deal of needs, especially during the holidays. While many groups and organizations will help during the Christmas season, the reality is that these groups have needs year-round. Christmas is a great time to introduce your group to serving together. If they are interested, then plan to serve on a regular basis. 4. Give your group the next step. Some groups continue to meet during the holidays. That’s perfectly okay. Some groups decide to take a break. Some groups will follow one of the suggestions above. Whatever your group chooses to do, you will want to announce to your group when you will start again in January. They need to know that there is a next step. Announce your start date and maybe even your new study.
Now that your group has spent a few weeks together in the Fall study, you probably have a sense of whether or not you actually like each other and want to continue as a group. Your first thought might be “Continue? What? I thought that this was a six-week commitment.” And, you’re absolutely right, this was only a six-week commitment. I want to thank you for honoring your commitment. This six weeks has been significant in the lives of your group members.
This is not bait and switch. Six weeks is six weeks, fair and square. If you aren’t planning to continue with your group, we do need to think about a couple of things:
1. Is there anyone in your group who has shown interest in continuing the group? If you group has passed around the leadership each week, you probably have a sense of who would be capable of moving the group forward. Who truly cares about the group? Who has attended the most faithfully? Who called when they couldn’t make it? These are the people who care the most about the group and very well could lead the group forward.
2. If there is no apparent leader, are there other groups that you can recommend to your group members? Check to see if there is another group like yours or if there is another group that meets nearby. Don’t just send your group to the wolves, I mean the web. Point them to a couple of specific choices.
If you want to continue with your group, now is the time to decide on your next study. This is the fourth week of the study. It usually works best for groups, especially new groups, to decide on their next study before the current study ends. There are so many choices for studies out there that a period of indecision, even just a couple of weeks, could easily cause your group to falter.
If your group would like to follow the next series at Brookwood Church, we will spend the eight weeks following The Me I Want to Be series looking at the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-13). There are a couple of options that I would like to recommend for your group:
1. Life's Healing Choices is an 8-week study from Saddleback Church. Rick Warren teaches on the DVD. There is also a hard cover book that you can read along with the study.
2. Living a Blessed Life by Lance Witt, a teaching pastor at Saddleback Church, is a 6-week study. This study is an enriching, verse-by-verse discussion of the Beatitudes. A teaching DVD is also available.
3. Message Discussion Guide. The discussion guide is written and posted every Sunday nearly year-round. The guide will help your group apply the teaching from Perry's messages to your daily life. It is available as a download at brookwoodchurch.org/discussionguide
Now if your group has been around for a while or if none of these studies interest you, you are welcome to study what your group is the most interested in. We have a wide variety of Small Group DVDs at the Brookwood Bookstore including studies by Andy Stanley, John Ortberg, Chip Ingram, and many others. You can check the DVD out of the Small Group Library, and then just order the books that you need for your group. When your order comes in, your group members can purchase the study guides from the bookstore.
The most important thing is to make a decision in the next week. If your group is new, you may find that they don’t have much of an opinion about the next study at this point. That’s okay. Just choose one of the options I mentioned for the Beatitudes study and go from there. If you have any questions, your coach will certainly help you.