In the Good Ol' Summertime - Issue #196 (April 25, 2014)
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Mt. Zion United Methodist in Mechanicsville, Maryland, goes outside in the summertime. The congregation offers Backyard Bible Study for four to six weeks each summer. Laity host the study groups in their homes or in a meeting place in the community. Occasionally, the groups meet at the church. Members of these groups intentionally invite friends and neighbors who are not currently involved in the congregation to participate in these summer gatherings.
The groups generally meet for about two hours, and the meetings often include a meal or refreshments. Each group decides what the focus of the study will be, and participants share leadership of the meetings. If the group meets in the evening, childcare is provided. These small groups provide an informal, relaxed atmosphere for learning and for getting to know one another. Leadership is learned through modeling, observation, and practice.
After several years of this ministry, the congregation has learned the following valuable lessons:
- Neighborhood gatherings provide entry points for meeting and getting to know people in the community.
- Informal gatherings during the summer feed the congregation's system for intentional faith development. Participants in the summer small groups often continue to meet together or join a new small group, such as Disciple Bible Study, later in the year.
- Relationships within the congregation grow and deepen, moving beyond a once-a-week gathering on Sundays.
- New leadership emerges. People who have participated in the Backyard Bible Study serve as leaders of a small group at other times of the year.
Questions for Discussion
- Where could you hold a small-group gathering in your community to reach people not currently involved in your congregation?
- What entry points for new people does your congregation provide? How effective are they?
- How do you adapt ministry for various times of the year?
Carol F. Krau is the Director of Christian Formation and Discipling Ministries at the Discipleship Ministries. She can be reached at [email protected].
Romans 12 Newsletter. Issue #196. © 2014 Discipleship Ministries. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this newsletter for use in United Methodist congregations. This newsletter is provided as a service of the Discipleship Ministries and is funded through World Service apportionment giving by local United Methodist congregations.