No, I don’t recommend that you take the summer off from your discipleship group. The reason is because discipleship is not just about meeting in a group; it’s about taking on and sharing the responsibility of forming another person, which is not a nine-month commitment. I think the best approach to the summer months is to accept that discipleship will just look different than it does during the school year. Summer makes things a bit more difficult, but it also offers opportunities for things that are not as easily done during the school year.
Here are 7 realities that will hit when summer kicks in full force.
Meetings Will Be Inconsistent
During the summer, group members will be gone on vacations or to summer camps, and it will be less likely that you will find and be able to commit to a regular weekly time to meet. Be careful not to try forcing consistency. When you do and it’s not working out, it becomes frustrating for everyone involved.
People Are Typically More Relaxed
You should be able to let up on some of the expectations for your group and be comfortable letting things happen more naturally in the summer. Youth will be more eager to simply hang out, and parents will be more relaxed and disposed to just let their child be with others.
Youth Are More Available At Unique Times
This opens up opportunities that you don’t have during the school year, especially during the daytime. If you’re able, consider getting together for coffee during the mid-morning, working on a house project together, or volunteering at an organization that you normally wouldn’t be able to.
It’s Prime Time For Outdoor Fun
Summer offers many opportunities to just enjoy life, especially through nature. Be sure to take time simply experiencing the beauty of summer with your group, and have fun with them outdoors.
There WIll Be Unique Opportunities For Growth
It can be very difficult for youth to adjust to the challenges that summer brings. Maintaining friendships can be difficult, staying committed to prayer is a struggle, and handling many of the pressures that come when youth have so much free time creates opportunities for you as a discipleship leader to encourage them and help their summer be one of greater growth in maturity.
Summer Events = Time as a Group
The one thing that summer brings for most groups is more time to just be together. To find a full day or even a few hours during the school year can be difficult. Take advantage of the times where you can have a bonfire, go on walks, hold a movie night, etc.
Scheduling Is Still Important
While you may be tempted to just see how things play out, the reality is that in a very short while, the summer will already be gone. Make some commitments as a group beforehand, and establish a few key times throughout the summer when you know you will get together (daily Mass, summer camp, family picnic/potluck, etc.). Regular contact with one another will foster everyone’s excitement to gather in between those times. Scheduling is also important because it helps parents to be able to plan ahead and be more supportive of what your group is doing.
Please do look forward to summer and taking a break. But while it may be tempting to take a complete break because of the sacrifices you have made during the year to plan for and keep a group going, the investment you make in the summers will multiply your efforts throughout the rest of the year. It will give you opportunities to build upon real human relationships that, in reality, will likely change you more than it will them.