Each year around this time, community group leaders begin to ask, “What should we do this summer?”
Many groups choose to take a break from regular gatherings; other groups press on with their regular rhythms all summer; still others find some reduced meeting schedule to work best for them. What is ideal for your group?
My first response, as always, is: There is freedom!
Remember, your group is not a weekly gathering; it’s a community centered on Christ—it’s a people, not an event. So however you meet, whether regularly or irregularly, you’re still a community group. No, you don’t have to meet every week—especially as you’ll have members and families traveling and managing sport schedules.
But as a community of friends and fellow Sojourners, I’ve always believed that the summer months are the best opportunities to build relationships with one another and share life with our neighbors. It would be a shame to “take off” all summer!
Second, I recommend new rhythms of relationships and renewal.
In Louisville, the summer is a time of reduced responsibilities and increased family and recreation time. Even individuals and families without children seem to operate on a school year calendar. Over the nine years my wife and I have led groups, we have loved the summer months as a time to gather out back, do dinner together, gather at Cherokee park or take a Saturday trip to Red River Gorge.
We typically spend far less time in the living room and much more time outdoors. It’s just a great time to do “life together.” Does one of your families have a busy sports schedule? The whole group could join them at a baseball game, cheering on their kids from the stands. (Their kids will LOVE this!) Remember too, you can celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and basically anything: Find an excuse to bake a cake and hang out, and make it happen.
Third, join your neighbors on their turf.
Our neighbors in the city use their summers going to farmer’s markets, spending extra time in their gardens, and staying up late hanging out on front and back porches. We Sojourners have the opportunity to meet them on their turf. Consider taking your group out to one of the common spaces in your community: a park, play-ground, or forest. Louisville is a great place to connect around natural beauty: Waterfront Park, and amazing parks like Cherokee, Seneca, Iroquois, Jefferson Memorial, Tom Sawyer, and Bernheim. There are also a number of art fairs, barbecue contests, and outdoor concerts—as well as team recreational sports and community clean up events you can participate in together.
Fourth, study, practice, and enjoy the life of the Spirit!
Since the resurrection and ascension of Christ, the Church has observed a traditional calendar year to practice the Good News. At Advent, we long for Christ’s appearance; at Christmas, we celebrate his birth and life; at Epiphany (January), we feast and live in Christ’s power; at Lent, we practice repentance and lament; at Easter, we celebrate New Life; and after Pentecost (post Easter), we experience the Holy Spirit and practice “Ordinary Time.”
Ordinary Time begins with the celebration of Pentecost Sunday, when the Spirit descended with power on the early church and moved its members to worship and mission (Acts 2:1-13). In response to the Good News about Christ (Acts 2:14-40), these Christians re-oriented their lives around one another—to the study of God’s Word in community, to eating and drinking together, to providing for one another, to regular worship, and to sharing Christ with their neighbors together (Acts 2:41-47).
In Ordinary Time, approximately mid-May through mid-November, we especially remember three biblical themes: (1) God’s saving action in history, through our Sunday worship and the study of his Word in community; (2) The renewing experience of the Holy Spirit through our prayer, fellowship and evangelism; and (3) The anticipation of a new heavens and earth, where everything sad comes untrue and his praise never ends.¹
Summer—part of the historical season of Ordinary Time—is our best opportunity to re-orient ourselves around the truth of God’s Word, the fellowship of God’s People, and the glories of God’s World.
Take some time this week in your groups to discuss how you might make the most of this summer. What new rhythms could you cultivate? How can you celebrate? Which community spaces can you enjoy together? How can you let the Holy Spirit unite your hearts together and work through you to invite your neighbors into fellowship with Christ?
Have fun this summer!
Pastor Jeremy Linneman
¹ See Robert E. Webber’s Ancient-Future Time; Forming Spirituality through the Church Year (especially chapter eight on Ordinary Time) and the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer for more on the seasons of the church year and helpful readings and prayers to practice the biblical themes.