Deciding whether or not to cancel group meetings in the summer is a hard call to make. Some members will be concerned if you do; others will be concerned if you don’t. When making this decision, it may help to consider your setting, demographic, location, and/or church type as your church and your group makes this determination.
Setting: If you are in a very small town where people have little to do and are not involved in long commutes to and from work, breaking may not be necessary. But if your members have long days due to commutes (or other factors) on an ongoing basis, a break may be welcomed.
Demographic: If your church is made up mostly of young families with children involved in summer sports, a summer break will be important. The problem here is that a group will often find itself with less than half of its participants in attendance. This is a definite momentum crusher for both the leader and the group members. It may be better to not meet rather than to have meetings that suck the life out of a group.
Location: If you are located way up north where it is too cold nine or so months of the year to do outside stuff, a break will almost be a necessity, as the people in your church will most likely want to be outside with family for the few weeks this is possible. They cherish their summers and need the outside time to build memories with friends, children, and grandchildren.
Church with Small Groups: If your church is a church with many, many programs and small groups are just another option, I would definitely give groups the opportunity to break. Those who are deeply involved in church life are probably involved in church ministries at least two nights plus Sundays each week. A break from small group meetings will reinvigorate them, allowing them to continue in the ministries they are currently involved in, and will make them thankful that the small group ministry realizes their lifestyle and is sensitive to their busy schedules.
Keep this in mind: it is not a sin to set aside group meetings for a season. But if you do, encourage your group members to be at worship weekly, spend time with God alone daily, and be certain their families are involving themselves in spiritual growth expressions (as they should be year round). I would also suggest that the group use this time to get to know unbelievers not yet involved in group life. Have a couple of cookouts and invite those who are not yet followers of Christ into the circle of relationship. Go to a drive-in movie together, pop your own popcorn, park your cars next to one another, put your lawn chairs out together, and invite someone who doesn’t yet have a relationship with Jesus. You get the idea. A break from group life may be the key to reinvigorating a tired group and become the opportunity the group has been looking for to meet and influence pre-Christians.
Rick Howerton is the Small Groups and Discipleship Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. He has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought-after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual as well as A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. He is also the co-author of Disciples Path: A Practical Guide to Disciple Making and Countdown: Launching and Leading Transformational Groups. But Rick’s deepest passion and his goal in life is to see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.”