"I miss school" my daughter told me with a sigh this morning. She's totally enjoying her summer with it's requisite BBQ gatherings, swimming and other relaxing, fun times. But I think she's feeling a little out of sorts at not having her regular routine and the regular relational connection that comes with it. She misses her teacher and all of the students that she appreciates but doesn't know well enough to initiate a playdate with.
I think that the same can be true for our small group communities. In our church, most of our small groups take a break or meet less regularly. It's nice to downshift or take a rest from our regular meeting schedule (especially for the leaders and the hosts) but after a few weeks, I find that people can start feeling lonely and disconnected. We miss each other.
How can we stay connected with our smaller "tribes" within our church when you are not meeting as regularly?
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Initiate some short email connections. Ask people if they would email out any quick prayer requests for this month or any encouraging things that have been going on. You might want to kick it off by sharing a prayer request or a testimony yourself.
2. Make something spontaneous happen. We encourage our group members to just let people know if they are going out to ice cream or to a movie and invite whoever is available to come along. Not everyone will be able to go but it's nice to have the opportunity. Lunch after church is a great idea since people are there already anyhow. You just have to let people know a restaurant and a time.
3. Let people know now when things are going to start back up in the fall. I find that it helps people to know that, even if they are less connected now, that regular routine of meeting will come back soon. People can put it into their calendar and look forward to an actual date to begin a more intensive time of community.
4. Be thoughtful. Take some time to think about what your small group members are doing or going through this summer. What did people share about before you took a break for the summer? Is someone going on an exciting vacation? Is someone going through a difficult time at work? Is someone's health an ongoing issue? Ask people when you see them (or by other means of communication) about specific things in their lives. It is a great blessing for people to know that you are thinking of them and remembering what they have shared about their summers. This will help them (and you) to feel less disconnected.
5. Finally, a little hunger for community can be a good thing. It's great to say, "I miss seeing you" to a fellow small group member and to look forward to more regular connection together.
Do you have any other specific ideas about how to stay connected. Please feel free to add your ideas and comments below.