Many small groups take a break during the warmest months of the year. But, your need for gospel-centered community certainly doesn’t take the summer off. With travel and a new summer “normal,” it can be a challenge to intentionally prioritize those encouraging, life-giving friendships. We’ve come up with a few ideas to help you keep the fellowship fresh with your closest faith community even when you’re poolside and up to your ears in popsicles.
- Make a small group bucket list. Ask each person in the group to add one or two of their favorite summertime activities (or an activity they’ve been wanting to try) to the list and coordinate a meet up every so often.
- Set up a way to communicate with the group consistently. Try group text or a private Facebook group to chat about summer vacation, share prayer requests, and offer what God has been teaching you in your devotional time. Ask thoughtful questions. Depending on the needs and size of your group, it might be a good idea to pair off to meet in person to check in on areas of struggle or potential growth.
- Do online Bible study together! We just opened sign ups for We Saved You a Seat by Lisa-Jo Baker. Or you can still sign up for Beth Moore’s Entrusted or Lauren Chandler’s Steadfast Love (videos will be up until August 15). We’re glad to do the heavy lifting as we provide the video teaching sessions and the study questions. (The format is super flexible too, so it works really well for summer travel schedules.) Take the opportunity to talk through each week’s study with your small group—email back and forth about what you’re learning or coordinate a time to meet up and discuss the study face-to-face.
- Become connoisseurs of a certain food item in your town. (I prefer ice cream parlors. But your group may be into burger or juice joints—you do you.) Make a plan to visit 4 or 5 of the best [insert chosen food type] spots in your town, and then rank your favorites at the end of the summer. Not into food? Tailor this idea for any number of things—best putt-putt golf course, bookstore, park, rocking climbing wall, or museum. Let creativity be your guide.
- Did someone say, book club?! Take this time to select a fun summer read that you can all enjoy. Select something fluffier or a book that will continue your spiritual growth but doesn’t require a slew of biblical commentaries to understand. Meet twice—once at the beginning and again at the end (give everyone at least a month to read the book). At the first meeting, talk about what interests you about the book and what you hope the pages hold. At the end, talk through what you enjoyed (or didn’t!) and share your favorite quotes.
- Memorize Scripture together. I don’t know about you, but Scripture memory is an area of spiritual discipline that I most certainly have not mastered. It always helps to have another friend or two (or small group full of friends) to memorize the passage along with me. Put your heads together and select a portion of Scripture to memorize. You could always choose a passage from a book of the Bible that you’ve just studied or you’re planning to study in the fall. Break the passage into pieces, memorize one piece per week, and gradually add more the following week. Repeat this process until you’ve memorized the whole passage! Discuss the point of the passage (when you understand the meaning of what you’re memorizing, it’s SO much easier to hide it in your heart), and keep each other accountable as you commit it to memory. If you want a little jumpstart, feel free to join us in memorizing Psalm 107 by signing up here.
- Host a themed dinner/food challenge. Take this opportunity to pick a fun food theme, perhaps food native to a specific country, breakfast for dinner,a “take me out to the ballgame” theme, or a certain celebrity’s favorite foods—I’m looking at you, Elvis, with your fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Or, you could host a food challenge throw down. Have each small group member or family represented bring their own version of a specific item. You could coordinate a salsa showdown, guac-off, or a pie bake-off. If you’re not the competitive type, ask several folks to bring their favorite flavor of homemade ice cream (or some other lovely dessert/dish) to share—then, everyone wins.
OK and because we just can’t stop, here are two alternates!
- Serve together. Pick a local charity (or ask your church staff if there’s a need you can fill) and commit to serving once a month during the summer. (Who knows—this may be something that your group decides to continue even into the fall.) Schedule a debrief time after you serve so that you can catch up with one another.
- Get outside. Plan a group outing to a local farmers’ market or farm. As you take in the sights and sounds, chat with one another about your latest life happenings. You could even make a plan to cook a meal together later that day using your produce purchases from the market.
This list is certainly not exhaustive. Our goal is simply to make sure to spend quality time with our small group communities. Yes, we want to have a blast and enjoy each other. But, we also want to make sure to check in on the deeper life and spiritual happenings that we may have missed. We want to share the celebrations and tough days together because that’s where real life happens and that’s how we love each other as God loves us.
Sarah Doss is a Production Editor with Lifeway. She loves a quirky sitcom, baking as therapy, and travel (international or otherwise). As a recovering Lisa Frank enthusiast, she maintains a healthy affinity for school supplies and all things letterpress. Keep up with her on Twitter (she loves Twitter friends) @sarahdossy.