Engaging Group Members During Summer Break

Small Group hiking together image

By Joanna R. Loucky-Ramsey

If the last several months have been challenging for your group, you’re not alone! Navigating relationships during a pandemic, with all the challenges of social distancing, lockdowns, and meeting each other on small screens, hasn’t been easy. Many groups have experienced losses and change. 

Whether or not you normally take a break over the summer months, consider how you might renew the bonds of the Spirit that connect us by spurring “one another to love and good deeds … encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Be intentional about creating opportunities for meaningful and joyous interactions to counteract feelings of loneliness and isolation, lift spirits, and deepen relationships. Consider alternative ways to connect and renew friendships (through social media, pairing up, prayer/praise chain, community service, etc.).

Ask group members for input on the type and frequency of gatherings they would enjoy during the weeks you plan to vary your normal routine. 

Some ideas to get you started:

Getting to Know You (Icebreakers):

  • Truth or Fiction? Taking turns, make three statements about yourself, two of which are true and one of which is false. Others try to guess which statement is untrue.
  • Identity. Your dream vacation? Your favorite subject in high school? What you like to do for fun? A skill you’d like to learn? Something you’re good at? The greatest challenge you’ve ever faced?
  • Commonalities. Pair up with another group member. Identify 10 things you have in common. Look for deeper connections beyond the obvious. 
  • Connection. Reveal something about yourself. Someone else in the group who shares that fact in common says, “Connection,” and adds a fact about themselves. Proceed in this way until everyone has made a connection with someone else. 
  • Differences. What makes you unique?
  • Sparkles. What sparked joy for you recently?
  • Preferences. Cats or dogs? Coffee or tea? etc.

Outings: athletic events (as participants and/or spectators), state or county fairs, picnic, hike, visit a park, beach, museum or amusement park, attend film screenings or outdoor concerts, overnight camping trip, scavenger hunt, letterboxing, geocaching. 

small group playing a game

Volunteering: lend a hand in a local, national, international or denominational service project, such as signing up for a charity walk or a fun activity (e.g., dunk tank, polar dip) to raise money for a good cause, adopt a neighborhood or section of highway to pick up litter, work at an animal shelter, a food bank or distribution center, thrift store, nature center.

Secret Pals: Sign up to be another group member’s secret pal during the group’s hiatus. Decide together what secret pals will do for each other. When regular meetings resume, see if you can guess who your secret pal was. 

How-to Class: Teach a 10-minute lesson about something you know (how to string a guitar, quilting, weatherizing a house, juggling, origami). 

Online Sharing: Periodically launch a new themed page on your group/church website or social media channel so participants can share documents, photos and videos of pets, recipes, collectibles, gardens, virtual home tours, brief biographies or testimonies, member brags. 

Back to the Future: Collect and post “Then” and “Now” pictures of participants (one baby photo and one recent photo); other members try to match them.

Storytelling

  • Cliffhangers. Tell a story about an event that happened in your life, without providing an ending. Others then try to guess what happened next.
  • Collective Creativity. One person starts to tell a story with one sentence. Others each add a sentence to the story, until everyone has had a chance to contribute.
  • Poetic License. Each member of the group draws the name of another participant and writes a positive poem about that person, to be shared privately with the individual or publicly in the group.
  • It’s Not a Box. Grab a random object and create an absurd one-minute story about it.  

Imagination Improvisation: Create a band using household objects, such as pots and pans, wooden spoons, and power tools. Or one person describes a hidden picture for other members to draw in three minutes. 

Some of these activities may appeal to members of your church and community who haven’t participated in your small-group Bible study before. Offering a variety of activities may give you added opportunities to minister to new people.

Whatever your choices, proceed with prayer, keep it simple, and have fun! And may God bless you with new connections with others!

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Joanna Loucky-Ramsey is an ordained minister who has served churches of various denominations from Alaska to New York. A poet, playwright and singer-songwriter, she has been a staff writer for The Wired Word since 2012. The founder of Doggerel for Dogs lives in Norfolk, New York, with her husband, Bill, and Keeshonden dogs, Havel and Sundance Kid. Her life focus is “looking unto Jesus,” and her life verses are Hebrews 12:1-2 and Micah 6:8.

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