By Tess Schoonhoven
“Breaks can kill you,” says Brandon Hiltibidal of Lifeway’s Groups Ministry Team on a recent episode of the Lifeway Leadership Network “Group Answers” podcast.
In a four-part series on things that can cripple small group effectiveness, number two on the list was holiday seasons and with it, the hiatus from group meetings.
“An exhale can become a permanent hiatus,” Hiltibidal says. “Anytime you get out of the rhythm of meeting on a regular basis, it’s hard to get it going again.”
Brain Daniel, Chris Surratt and Hiltibidal gave three primary ways to ensure a group doesn’t die off during a break.
1. Communicate clearly.
Be intentional about when the last meeting of the current season will be and when the group will pick back up again.
Daniel says it is important to make sure the starting points and ending points are well defined.
The end of the current season must be strong to be able to launch back up again after the break on a high note.
“Have a plan, communicate the plan, stick to the plan,” Surratt says.
Being proactive and getting ahead in scheduling gatherings as holiday seasons get closer is vital to ensure group health.
“Clarity is crucial,” Surratt says. “Let people know what the holiday plan is so they can prepare.”
2. Create a culture where group members are eager to be with one another.
Approach small group members as family and friends, not just group attendees, so that during those break seasons it will be more natural to find time to spend together.
Although official meetings aren’t taking place there’s still a lot of room to bond with each other, Daniel says.
Serve together. Do something missional focused.
And again, Daniel says, get it on the calendar ahead of time.
3. Be okay with taking a break.
Taking a break is necessary for rest and recuperation, especially as the host and leader of a small group, Surratt says.
“Don’t feel guilty about it,” Surratt says. “Take a breather, it’s okay.”
Understand that breaks, if managed and set up well, can be beneficial in many ways.
Surratt also recommended suggesting a devotional book to group members during the holiday season as a way to remind them that while the group may take a break, discipleship doesn’t.
By maintaining clear communication about start and end points, intentionally planning other spaces to bond with the group outside of a regular meeting, and making use of real rest during the break, the holiday season can strengthen, not dissolve, small groups.
TESS SCHOONHOVEN (@TessSchoonhoven) is a former intern with Facts & Trends and a recent graduate of California Baptist University.