5 Tips for Launching Summertime Short-Term Groups

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A few years ago my church encouraged small group leaders to take summers off. But I believed God wanted me to lead a couple of groups that summer.

A year before, I purchased a 6-week video-based study. The topic of the study was anxiety, stress and overwhelm. I was sure God wanted me to lead the study, but I never felt at peace about doing it until that summer.

I received permission and led two short-term small groups.

Three Months Without Community Is a Long Time

I advertised the first session in multiple ways and many people expressed an interest. But almost no one signed up. It was starting in less than a week.

After some reflection, I realized I was working hard to recruit but I wasn’t asking God what I should do. We had a long conversation and His answer was as clear as if you and I were talking face-to-face. He said He would add 8 people to the group and it would happen without any action on my part.

The next day I received an email from a small group leader. She said her group wanted to participate in this study over the summer. They didn’t want to be off the entire summer. I had 10 people in that first summer group!

Twelve weeks or more without fellowship, Bible study, etc. as a group is a long time. This group recognized that and took advantage of being together for six weeks of the summer months. This still gave several weeks of downtime for everyone.

Recruiting Tool for Small Groups

The second summer group was completely different. God was definitely teaching me some lessons while He changed lives of the members at the same time.

God provided another great roster of members and I quickly learned that almost all of them had never attended a small group before. They believed signing up for a small group was a long-term commitment they weren’t willing to make. However, they were willing to sign up for a 6-week small group that was studying a topic of interest.

Most of them signed up in a small group by the end of our short-term study.

5 Tips for Short-Term Groups

Several lives were changed and several lasting friendships were built that summer in these two small groups. But God taught me some benefits of short-term small groups that I didn’t fully appreciate until then.

Here are 5 tips to ensure you receive those short-term small group benefits:

  1. Select Bible study topics that would get the interest of those who are not attending small groups.
  2. Keep the length of the small group to about 6-8 weeks. This allows enough time to do some of the Bible studies available, but still leaves a few weeks for downtime for the leader and active members.
  3. If there are members who are not in a “long-term” small group, make sure they know the benefits and how to sign up for one. (Note: I invited a couple of small group leaders to one of our meetings to do a question-and-answer session with my group members.)
  4. Consider advertising short-term small groups to those not attending church, if the topic might interest them. It could be another method of outreach.
  5. Use these short-term small groups as a starting point for your new group leaders. Like some of my members, they may be nervous about committing for a significant period of time without knowing if they enjoy it. This gives them that experience without the longer commitment.

Bonus tip: Make sure God is leading your actions. I learned the hard way (again) that God is in control, not me.

If you currently don’t have small groups meeting in the summer, consider setting up a few short-term groups as a start.

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