Summer can be a challenging time for Life Lessons groups, as vacations and the pleasantness of eating lunch outdoors take a toll on group participation. But with a little forethought, you can actually turn this seasonal lull to your advantage and potentially increase your group’s influence down the road. Here are:
Four Ways to Leverage Summer to Your Group’s Benefit
Shifting your focus for the summer—for the sake of reaching a group of people you’ve been missing—can give you a wider base from which to draw once you’re back in season. You can tailor your DVD selection and market toward a specific stage of life, such as parents or singles. Or you could target management and management-hopefuls by temporarily switching gears from sermon-based content to leadership-based titles, like those in North Point Resources’ Leader Essentials series.
Suggestions: Parental Guidance Required; The New Rules of Love, Sex & Dating; L.E.: Trust vs. Suspicion; L.E.: Becoming a Great Staff
A great time to try it: When you’re having a difficult time reaching certain groups within your target audience.
Not a great time to try it: When the “this-group-is-for-everybody” promised is a key part of your arrangement with H.R.
TAKE A STRATEGIC BREAK
Sometimes we’re hesitant to take breaks because we’re afraid we’ll lose momentum. But cratering attendance loses momentum anyway, and you can actually build momentum by purposefully taking a break and giving your audience a chance to miss you. It also gives you a chance to build your lunch funds back up and re-charge your leadership batteries.
Suggestions: (1) Tell people in advance that you’re taking a break. This allows you to cast vision for why the break is a good thing, and plant the seeds for a momentum boost when your group returns. (2) Let people know that—and when—your group will be coming back. (3) Pick a series with a good “hook” for the return in the fall. Avoid titles that sound like downers.
A great time to try it: When the past couple summers’ experience tells you you’re headed for a trough in your participation.
Not a great time to try it: When your group is new (started in 2013) or has recently come off an extended break.
CAST VISION TO THE “INSIDERS”
When attendance flags, it’s often the core group of Christians who keep the group afloat. They’re also the ones who sometimes push back against the idea of taking a break. Have your cake and eat it too by taking the summer off from your normal Life Lessons group, but use that time to focus on the “insiders.” Specifically, use a Christian-oriented message series to remind people why you’re doing Life Lessons in the first place—to reach out to the unchurched/non-Christians in your sphere of influence—and inspire them to look outward.
Suggestions: Go Fish, On Location, Big Church, Christian: It’s Not What You Think (these last two may require meeting weekly to finish them before summer ends).
A great time to try it: When there haven’t been any new faces in a while, or when your group members have lost sight of the importance of reaching out.
Not a great time to try it: When your group is actively drawing new people (especially the unchurched/non-Christians) on a regular basis.
GREATEST HITS MARATHON
Some leadership teams don’t want to take the summer off, but also don’t want to “waste” a new series on a time when a lot of people won’t be there to see it. Their solution: summer re-runs! This allows people who missed a series to catch up, and can re-kindle interest by bringing back some titles that drew big interest in the past. You can also cherry-pick the best individual messages from different series to create a strong slate, while giving newcomers a chance to see what they missed.
Suggestions: Stick with titles you haven’t shown in at least a year.
A great time to try it: When your group has been around a while, but has experienced an influx of new people over the past several months.
Not a great time to try it: When your group is new and has little history from which to draw.