During the months of July and August, Covenant did something that we have never done before: we took a break from meeting in our regular weekly community groups, and we encouraged one another to use the two hours we would normally spend in our community groups with others in the church we don’t normally get regular time with and with friends, neighbors and co-workers who don’t know Jesus.
It made for a wild and crazy summer. Out of the community group routine (along with out of the school year routine for my bivocational school teacher-pastor husband), for us the weeks seemed to fly by completely unmarked. We definitely had many lazy days, and yet there were just as many day filled to the brim with activity, as we went all over the place visiting different people for different meals, play dates and occasions, as well as opening our home for service and hospitality.
Throughout the summer, we were thankful for the opportunity to get to know people who are part of our church family but who we do not get to hang out with on a regular basis. In addition, we were encouraged with stories of people in our church and community group who were hanging out with neighbors and helping others by watching kids or mowing lawns. The Covenant baby arrivals did NOT take a summer break, and our church was presented again and again with the opportunity to love and serve those in our midst in new-baby season through meals and childcare.
In August, we also had a community group leader training. Before the start of the new community group season, our pastors wanted the current leaders to be trained on an outreach and discipleship technique that a local missionary is using in his ministry. It is called storying. It basically involves telling different Bible stories and then discussing what the story reveals about God and ourselves. It sounds super simple – and it is! – but it is NOT simplistic. It is really about getting familiar with listening to and telling the stories of the Bible and letting those stories- the very words of God- speak for themselves. To be perfectly honest, it was such a switch from the way community group discussion had been led in the past that I was a little nervous about how it would go. But I trusted that our pastors were leading us in a good direction, and I enjoyed and learned alot from the training. It made me excited for the community group season to start again.
And start it did. Community groups kicked off again with the start of the school year in late August. We had a celebratory meal to commemorate the re-start of community group, complete with BBQ lunch and a bouncy house (indoors! very important in Houston in August! one of the benefits of meeting in a giant warehouse-turned-dance-studio!). The summer was a refreshing break and a stretching period, challenging us to push our idea of community outside of a few hours one night a week. And yet it felt good to get back to the “normal” routine. We still didn’t know what to expect with the new format and layout of community group (and the fact that almost every group re-started with more people than before the break!), but it was nice to be getting into the groove again.