For those of you who may not know, our homegroups meet in three large chunks of time throughout the year that we call “trimesters.” The beginning and the end of each trimester varies based on the annual calendar, but in general, the Spring trimester starts soon after the new year and goes until around Easter. The summer trimester takes place during May, June and July and the Fall trimester usually starts in late August or early September and goes until right before Christmas. In between each Trimester we usually take 2-4 weeks off. During this time we take a break from our normal weekly meetings and do other things.
Several people have asked recently “If home groups are supposed to be about living life together on a regular basis, why do we take trimester breaks? Doesn’t that pull people away from regularly meeting together the way they should?” This is a fair question, shows some really deep thinking and good arguments can be made for not taking breaks, but the truth is that we have found so many good reasons to operate in trimesters that its hard to put them all down in writing! Still, I hope to list a three good reasons over the next several paragraphs.
REASON ONE: SEASONS ARE GOOD
The first reason I want to mention is a bit theoretical but simply put, we have found that its incredibly helpful for our groups to operate in rhythms and seasons. Life isn’t constant. Sometimes is fast. Sometimes its slow. Sometimes you run hard and sometimes you slow down. We have found that it’s helpful to embrace this fact and use it to our advantage. In the life of our church and our home groups, there is time for people to rest, relax and take a few weeks off from their normal schedule, and there is a time for people to “go hard” and commit to a routine and normal meetings.
The Bible is chock full of farming metaphors; stories about planting, watering, crops and “the harvest” are everywhere. In 1 Corinthians the apostle Paul writes about the discipleship and growth of the people at the church in Corinth. He says that he “planted”, another apostle “watered” but God caused the “growth.” In lots of ways this farming metaphor describes what we are doing as a church. We do our best to “plant” and “water” the gospel in our lives knowing that God is the only one that can bring growth as disciples.
Now I don’t know much about farming but I do know that 1) there are different seasons of the year, 2) those seasons are all completely necessary and important and 3) there is almost nothing more important to a farmer than knowing what to do during those different seasons. Tilling the fields is obviously incredibly important but a farmer knows that can’t till all year long. They need time to plant and water and pray for rain. And then time to let the crops grow. And then time to harvest the crops. And then time to burn the fields and let them rest for a while. All of this happens in seasons. Those seasons are a good thing! Each one is valuable and necessary for yielding a successful harvest!
We have simply decided to embrace this farming metaphor in the life of our groups. Different seasons are a good thing and are helpful in our growth as disciples as we spend different seasons resting, planting, watering and praying that God would cause us to grow.
The next two reasons are a bit more practical….
REASON TWO: TIME TO REVIEW AND PREPARE
Leading home groups can be a little bit stressful. There is work involved. There are teachings schedules to make…. and keep. Loads of emails to send. Bible studies to prepare for. Meals to cook. Social nights to attend. Childcare rotations. Prayer requests. Worship nights….There is no shortage of things to do as group leaders attempt to steward the time and resources of the group in a way that brings about maximum discipleship in the people in their group. This is a good thing! God expects homegroup leaders to work hard and to “plant and water” intentionally and strategically and then pray that He would bring the growth as only He can!
Part of leading a group then, is needing time to review where the group has been, what they have been doing and how they have grown. Group leaders should ask questions like, “How is this whole thing going? Do we think what we are doing is working? Can we do it better? Does God want us to emphasize some other aspect of discipleship for a season?” These are really important questions that every servant team and every group leader needs to be asking on a regular basis. In addition, Group leaders need time to prepare for the future and consider what would be best for the group in the upcoming season.
One of the things that we have found is that unless we intentionally create time for leaders to review the past and plan for the future, then these times of review and planning happen infrequently, if at all.
For this reason, we encourage group leaders to get together during trimester breaks to review and plan. Trimester breaks provide the perfect time and space for group leaders to get together for these purposes. Trying to work it into an already busy schedule often leads to group leaders never getting together at all.
REASON THREE: TIME FOR PEOPLE TO GET PLUGGED IN
A third reason that our homegroups take trimester breaks relates to people who are not part of homegroups at all.
For a newcomer to Oak City or for somebody who is looking to get plugged into a group for the first time, walking into an already established group of people that know each other well and are in the middle of, say, a 10 week long teaching series can be really intimidating and can actually discourage people from checking out home groups at all. That’s a challenge that we have to face! Having newcomers to Oak City get plugged into a home group is one of our main goals! We should do everything that we can to make this an easy process for them!
We have found that by having three “starts” to our groups throughout the year, we are able to provide an easy and obvious time for newcomers to go check out a homegroup. All of the groups are just getting started with whatever they are doing for that trimester. There is no catch-up time, no trying to figure out what’s going on. Everyone is on the same page from the start. That’s a good thing and we have found that it makes it easier for new folks to get plugged in.
During this time we do our best to make sure that people who are a part of Oak City but not necessarily plugged into a group know that 1) the trimester is about to start and 2) the start of a trimester is the perfect time to go check out a new group.
TO HOMEGROUP LEADERS
I hope this serves as a good reminder of why we take trimester breaks. I would encourage you over the next few weeks to celebrate what God has done in your groups during this summer trimester. Encourage the members of your group by reminding them where you have been, what you have done, what you have learned and how God has worked in your group.
Let them know that you are taking a few weeks off from your normal schedule so that your servant team can review and plan for the upcoming trimester. Plan some cookouts. Have some fun. And tell people to get ready for the fall!
TO THOSE NOT PART OF AN OAK CITY HOMEGROUP
If you aren’t part of an Oak City homegroup please consider getting involved. We really believe that homegroups are where real church life happens. Not only are they the place to find community but they are the place to grow as a disciple of Christ.
Life in community can be tough, messy, frustrating and take some hard work but its so worth it. Living as an active, committed part of the body of Christ is incredibly fulfilling and life-giving. If you truly dive in, you will not regret it. If you would like more information about an OCC homegroup please email me, Patrick, at firstname.lastname@example.org.