“Are we still doing community group over the holidays?”
I get asked this question every year in mid-December, and it demonstrates two realities. First, obviously, my planning and communication rhythms are significantly behind! Second, we often feel stretched so thin around Christmas and New Year’s that gathering in community feels like a toss-up.
What should we do for the holidays? My first response is the same as it is in my Life-Giving Groups appendix “Summer in Group Life”: There is freedom!
Second, there are a few commitments of biblical community that can encourage you to gather in groups over the holidays. Third, after describing these principles, in judo small group fashion, I answer the original question with another question: What is ideal for your group? And lastly, I’ll give you some ideas for creative gatherings between now and mid-January. (It’s not too late!)
Commitment #1: We Don’t Go to Group; We are a Group
Hidden within the original question—Are we still doing group?—is the Freudian slip that a community group is a gathering and not a people. I rarely correct people in the moment, but it’s worth mentioning that we are still a community group whether we gather next Wednesday or not. Even if we only meet two or three times in a month, we are a still a community group.
Commitment #2: We Need One Another
We are relational beings. We were created from relationship and for relationship. We have been created in the image of a relational being, our triune God, who has eternally existed in the loving fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
As relational beings, we weren’t meant to do life alone, and yet loneliness has become the functional status for most church-going Christians. As I wrote in “How the Church Can Respond to the Loneliness Epidemic” (TGC) earlier this year, our society is more digitally connected than ever before, but social isolation is also at an all-time high. What we need most is life-on-life, face-to-face community.
This is perhaps most acutely felt during the holidays. Whether you are single or married, with kids or without, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s can form a sort of unholy trinity of loneliness. Many folks spend these holidays alone, assuming others are out enjoying sweet fellowship and dancing like it’s 1999. But don’t let the ads and Instagram posts fool you; pretty much everyone is sitting at home doing nothing.
Even during the holidays—in fact, especially during the holidays—we need one another.
Commitment #3: We Put One Another First
You may feel overwhelmed by your travel, work, and family plans during the holidays, but what about the other members of your group? Given that it is the loneliest time of the year for many, it’s important to consider the needs of everyone in your group.
It’s often overlooked that many community groups are led by a married couple with children, and we tend to think first in terms of our own situation. If I’m thinking only of myself, I may think, “Let’s take the whole month off!” My introvert self knows the holidays are high output, and I want to spend my remaining evenings on the couch watching college football.
But many of the single adults, married couples, and even families in our groups lack the same family and friend structure that others take for granted, and our community group plans should be made in consideration of those who might be most likely to suffer from loneliness during the winter months. And if I’m being honest, I need my community group members as much or more than anyone else.
What Is Ideal for Your Group?
Now, we get to the real question: Given your community group’s members, individual needs, and travel plans, what is ideal for your group?
Ask your single folks what their plans are for the holidays. Ask the DINK’s (dual income, no kid couples) when they’ll be traveling. Ask the families with young children what would be life-giving for them. Ask the teenagers and students what they’re up to. Together, you can set a few gathering times or rhythms that will help you do the season in relationship.
15 Ideas for Your Time
Lastly, here are fifteen things we have done, others have done, or that could work for your group between now and mid-January.
Host a family movie night
Hold a New Year’s neighborhood party
Make dinner together
Commit to a winter Bible reading plan together
Travel to see Christmas lights
Meet at a home other than the normal host’s
Gather at a kid’s gym or trampoline park
Serve at a local free kitchen
Go to a teenager’s winter sports game
Watch a football game together*
Offer a ladies’ brunch (or hiking trip)
Plan a guys’ hiking trip (or brunch)
Gather gifts and supplies for local refugees
Share your resolutions or Rule of Life with one another
Host a chili cookoff and board game night
Also, remember that the holidays can be lonely for our friends, neighbors, and coworkers outside the church. The winter months and irregular work weeks offer a great opportunity to invite someone into your community’s gatherings or to join a few of your church friends at dinner or the movie. I am continually surprised how many of our non-church-attending neighbors and acquaintances will join us for a low-key gathering with our church friends.
Of the ideas above, which can include non-church-goers? All of them!
Let the challenges of the holiday season spark your creativity. You can keep in touch by text and email, but don’t underestimate the power of a few simple gatherings during the holiday season—even if only half of your group shows up.
We weren’t meant to do life alone. We shouldn’t do the holidays alone either.
* Probably a Chiefs game featuring my favorite son, Patrick Mahomes.
Jeremy Linneman is lead pastor of Trinity Community Church, a church he planted in Columbia, Missouri. Prior to planting Trinity, he was a staff pastor of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, for seven years. He is author of Life-Giving Groups: “How-To” Grow Healthy, Multiplying Community Groups (Sojourn Network, 2017). Jeremy and his wife, Jessie, have three sons and spend most of their free time outdoors.