Should my group take summer off?
When I talk to other churches about their groups ministry, a question I often get is, “Do y’all take summers off?” No shade on churches that do, but at Vintage we have a different strategy for summers that I describe as both relaxed and intentional.
Instead of prescribing a plan for summers for all groups, we allow for flexibility in determining what will best serve your group. Most importantly, we want to use summer to enter into a relaxed season together. Maybe your group will host a cookout once a month, replace every other Bible discussion with a night for yard games, or meet out at a park instead of in a living room. Maybe you’ll reduce your gatherings to once every other week or once a month; maybe you’ll take the whole month of July off. Summer is a great excuse to change things up and have fun together, while giving yourself permission to rest from the every-week rhythm of gathering for discussion.
But here’s why I don’t outright recommend taking the whole summer off. In community groups we want to live in the community that God has given us; we don’t have to create it, since it’s created by Jesus (Eph 2:19), but we do need to actively flesh out the ramifications of this reality. For example, with your parents and siblings you might formally constitute a family, but if you never spend any time together, talk on the phone, or act out of your love for each other then you aren’t operating according to that reality. So, as we manifest this given-yet-lived-in community, we should assess how this affects our lives holistically, from how we behave and live out our faith to how we think about things like leisure time. In the United States, summer is leisure season, which is why kids get some time away from the toil of school and parents plan vacations to get a break from work. So, if we take summer off from our community group, what does that say about what we think about community? What does it say about the role community plays in leisure, and vice versa? Is community something like school and work that we vacation from?
I’m not arguing against time for taking care of yourself, silence and solitude, focused time with your family or closest friends, or being an introvert. What I am arguing against is the very American notion that leisure time equals me time, from which you might conclude that properly enjoying a leisure season like summer warrants taking a break from your community group. Instead, I think living in the given community of God’s people warrants rethinking our American notions of leisure time. That’s why at Vintage we want to use summers intentionally, being thoughtful about the decisions we make regarding our time and, specifically, what we do with our community groups. In short, taking summer off from all CG functions makes community sound a lot more like school or work than the family of God.
So is taking the whole-summer off forbidden? Definitely not. If you know the relationships in your group will be maintained over summer through things like informal hangouts, discipleship relationships, or other means, then taking the whole summer off from your weekly Bible-study gathering could provide a season of refreshment while still manifesting the community of God’s people. Use summer to take time to relax in your group, while making intentional decisions that communicate to your people how to best live in God’s gift of community.
And let’s enjoy summer in our groups whole-heartedly. Let’s relax, laugh, and have fun; let’s eat good food, go on adventures together, and let go of the legalistic notion that if we aren’t studying the Bible together then the time is wasted. But let’s also be intentional with the time we’ve been given and let go of the notion that leisure and community life are incompatible, that community is primarily a thing that drains rather than a thing that fills or a thing we make and do rather than something we be and become.