Early summer mornings in my backyard vegetable garden have been one of my favorite spots to talk with God. I’m an early-bird and I relish the solitude I find at dawn that allows my spiritual hearing to be less distracted and my thoughts to go deeper. As I water, harvest, weed and sow, I worship our creator and draw spiritual strength. Physically nurturing creation also cultivates in me clearness of thought, creativity and organization for planning my ministry. It allows my heart to become ripe in God’s Spirit and lead my refreshed mind.
It was in the garden in 2006 that I prayed for guidance for the Community Bible Study small group program that I directed. I heard God’s voice calling down a new road to lead my team and our local churches to start a small group bible study program at Edna Mahon Women’s Correctional Facility. That ministry was one of the most impactful of my life. I saw God orchestrate the development of resources, create a multicultural team to minister to hundreds of women and expand the program to Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility. I also formed life-changing relationships in that prison that changed my worldview significantly.
Since becoming clergy in the UMC and adding a third child to our family, my early morning gardening time has become restricted. But it was to the garden I returned this past week to discern these tips about summertime planning for small group ministries:
- Pray Now’s a good time to give thanks for all God has done with your church’s small group ministry and for what is to come. Pray for guidance, strength, your leaders, those God is calling to experience small group ministry, and needed resources. Pray privately and with your ministry team.
- Evaluate Use the summer to assess your small group ministry. Think about your program vision, structure, leaders and each small group’s effectiveness and participation. What’s working? What isn’t? What needs special attention?
- Cultivate During this slower season tend to the weak spots in your ministry and prepare for a strong fall. Check out these articles on smallgroups.com about five of the most common issues small group ministries face:
- Creating and communicating a clear vision
- Recruiting and training enough leaders
- Coaching leaders and staying in touch throughout the year
- Effectively connecting people into small groups
- Leading meaningful groups that develop disciples
- Explore What new direction might God be showing you? Use the time to learn the latest trends and find out about best practices that you can adapt to your context. If you’ve missed any of my blogs this year, now’s a good time to read them. Also check out the book: Small Groups for the Rest of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes by Chris Surratt.
Whether for you it happens best early in the morning in the vegetable garden or not, make the most of what summertime can offer for your ministry planning and you will indeed reap a great harvest. I cherish what it has done over the years for mine.
I also want to know: Where and how do you plan for ministry in the summer? Write me back!