We are in the midst of the summer here in NYC, as evidenced by the inescapable heat. Summer starts a little later in NYC than other areas of the country due to a school end date in late June. Similarly, our city has a summer rhythm of life that slows down just a little and enjoys the season immensely.
Churches in the summertime typically mirror this summer rhythm of slowing down, enjoying summer fun, and being less programmed as many people in the church take vacations. While missional communities are not a church program, each church must consider how they encourage and lead their communities or small groups to approach the summer.
How should missional communities function in the summer?
Finding Rest through More Fun & Less Formal Activity
I’ve known many churches who take a break from small groups during the summer, but that communicates that community and mission are seasonal activities and goes against the grain of scriptures description of Christian community. The break has good intentions to provide rest, but it does not help the community develop ongoing healthy rhythms of rest that can be woven into their community during the summer season.
Summer provides time to be less formal in our interaction and participate in the relaxed activities that function naturally as community creators and opportunities for extending the gospel of Jesus Christ. Encouraging communities to view this summer with the intent of finding rest while not sacrificing gospel activity will help them become a community on mission in the everyday.
Approaching the summer with the hope of extending the gospel can also be a way to experience rest. Throughout the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, the Sabbath (day of rest) often plays a predominant role in Jesus’ healing and teaching activities. On the day of rest, Jesus found rest through extending the peace of His love and establishing rest for others.
We encourage our community group leaders to invite others to plan fun activities and social events from their communities so they can take a break from being the initiators of their community. This becomes an invitation to shared leadership amongst the community, inviting all to be contributors to the health of the community.
Summer is a time for more fun and this can teach us that missional communities were intended to also be fun communities.
Finding Mission in Natural Ways
I mentioned this above, that the summer provides some natural activities that can be infused with the mission of extending the grace and love of Christ. Our communities need to approach their summer fun with an eye toward including neighbors, family, and co-workers, instead of just fellow Christians, to learn that mission can happen on the beach, at the pool, and around the grill just as much as on a short-term mission trip.
Here in New York, I watch missionary teams come from all over the country with similarly colored t-shirts and a catchy bible verse on the back to hang out tracks, host camps, and do other “missionary” activity. While these could be good ways to make people aware of Jesus, they are not natural. It’s not natural to spend hundreds of dollars, look awkward, and do abnormal things in a city that is not your home.
When the gospel of Jesus Christ shapes the way we approach life, it can be normal to talk about your regular life (now shaped by your faith) over a meal, at the pool, and while hosting a backyard BBQ. Missional communities can enter into the rhythm of their city during the summer, participate in the neighborhood’s activities and find themselves cultivating friendships where life and the worldview that shapes it can be discussed.
The hope for missional communities in the church is for the community of Christ followers to be living this way throughout the year and the summer provides an easy learning ground to teach us outside of a classroom.
Finding Vision for a Fall Re-Launch
The summer season also provides a time to celebrate what God has done in the community over the past year. I find these is so much to celebrate in all the community groups at our church over this past year and unfortunately it usually takes times of slowing down to reflect and recognize all that has happened. The summer is a season of celebration that can provide great excitement for future motivation.
As each Community Group pursues the gospel shaping their summer fun, they are inadvertently preparing their community for a fall re-launch. Cultivating a community that enjoys one another and has a view towards welcoming others into it.
The summer is meant for us to be refreshed by having fun, but it can teach us to make this type of fun activity a community rhythm even when the formal schedules of school, busy season at work, and a busier church calendar begin to vie for our time in the fall. Of course, you could also use it to take a break from doing anything and you may find rest, but you might also cultivate a lifestyle where rest means escaping and disengaging. I’m not suggesting that you never simply stop, there needs to be time where things merely lie dormant. At the same time, rest was intended to be implemented into a weekly rhythm and not just a yearly break.
Missional communities need to enjoy their summer and find rest, but rest does not always have to be absent from the family of God or the mission of God (not that they should be separated).
Enjoy your summer, it’s the only way to find rest.