I inherited a church small-group ministry that insisted small groups break for the summer. But I am a huge fan of small groups meeting throughout the summer. Our policy now is that small groups can take a break anytime they want—for the entire summer, or even just a couple of weeks—but they're never forced to. Here are 10 reasons why I think groups should meet over the summer.
1. The days are longer, and the kids are out of school. This eases the stress of the clock. It's not necessarily that groups should meet longer, but that there's more opportunity to hang around after the meeting and enjoy each other.
2. Most often the kids can play outdoors during the warmer months, which keeps the kids entertained.
3. There are many fun social events to do over the summer: go out for ice cream, go to the park, plan a cook out, or attend an outdoor concert or play. Use these fun events in addition to regular meetings to strengthen the bonds in your group.
4. The devil never takes a vacation! Long breaks mean that many will lose the ongoing connection and accountability they need.
5. New people are coming to church and need an opportunity to connect with a small group. If someone comes to the church in June and you tell them, "Hey, just wait until after Labor Day and we'll help you connect," they probably won't be around in September.
6. Warm weather and longer days provide opportunities to serve as a group. Yard work and other outdoor service opportunities are great ways for small groups to serve the elderly or single mothers. You can also hold barbecues for your neighborhood or serve together in a church event, like vacation Bible school.
7. During the summer most people are more open to both going outside and getting together. Take advantage of this natural tendency.
8. There are three holidays you can celebrate together—Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. Think of the fun possibilities!
9. Meeting in the summer continues the rhythm of life in community. Community is fragile. People start to lose their "group enthusiasm" if they miss just a week or two. Long breaks allow us to start mistakenly believing we have what it takes to successfully live out our faith without the help of others.
10. Busy schedules can mean less people. And yes, I really do think that is an advantage! Don't cancel simply because several people can't make it. Often, those weeks are some of the best meetings—you get to know each other better, and the quieter people have an opportunity to share more.
I hope you'll consider meeting throughout the summer. After all, if you're friends, why would you want a break from each other? Take advantage of the warmer weather and longer days, and see how God deepens your relationships.
—Jay Firebaugh is the Director of Small Groups at New Life Church in Gahanna, Ohio. You can check out practical tools for pastors and small-group leaders on his All About Small Groups Facebook page. Used with permission from the author.