Note: This article has been excerpted from the SmallGroups.com training tool called Staying Connected Through the Summer.
I have not always been a fan of small groups taking vacations at specific times during the year. However, the longer I am in ministry with groups, the more I relax and understand the benefit of these short or extended breaks. And the more I understand the benefits, the more I am willing to even encourage groups to take a break—under specific situations.
When Group Members Can't Attend
Your group may need a vacation during seasons of the year when group members have difficulty attending multiple small-group meetings. Such hiatuses are most common during the summer months and the month of December.
Taking a break during the month of December takes much of the pressure off the holiday season—a time filled with many other demands and activities that take place in our churches and communities. During the summer, many families take vacations, need to spend extra time doing yard work, or want more time for recreation activities that can only happen when it's warm. As a result, many groups see attendance become sporadic, at best. Rather than making people feel guilty for not showing up, a vacation may be the best option.
When There's a Shift in Focus
Small groups may also need a vacation to provide a distinct break in the purpose or function of a group. Whether we notice or not, any small group can lose sight of its original focus and purpose. Or, the purpose of a group (as determined by the group leader or larger authority within the church) can change—even when group members don't want it to. So taking a break can assist in giving the old purpose some closure and providing space between the memory of the old and the potential of the new.
When the Group Becomes Stale
Small groups may also need a vacation to keep things fresh. It's easy for groups to get in a rut, and one of the best ways to get out of those ruts is to change things up a little bit—even if only for a short time. That doesn't mean group members need to take a break from ever seeing or contacting each other; it may just mean a break from the normal meeting time and agenda.
For example, groups may consider meeting once or twice a month for fun and fellowship, instead of always focusing on a study of Scripture. The idea is just to provide something different than the norm as a kind of "refresh" button. Go camping, go to a sporting event, gather in someone's home for games, share a meal together, do an outreach project, and so on. The ideas for fun and fellowship are endless.
Not for Everyone
Not every group needs to take a vacation. If group attendance is strong and growing, and has momentum behind it, then a vacation may be counter-productive. To make the best decision, group leaders simply need to be sensitive to the collective attitude of the group—especially the level of commitment when it comes to attendance.
Mark Ingmire; copyright © 2001 by Christianity Today. Originally appeared on Smallgroups.com.
- When was the last time I was refreshed by a summer vacation? What did I do, or where did I go, that made the time so invigorating?
- When was the last time our small group took a break from regular meetings? What were the positive and negative consequences?
- Does our small group currently match any of the criteria above? If so, what should we do about it?