March 29th is a huge day in my family. On this day, the first of 162 baseball games will be played.
Opening day for Major League Baseball is arguably one of its best days. What’s not to love about baseball, the true American sport? There’s the smell of fresh-cut grass, the pleasure of watching the water dampen the infield, the eating of junk food while you start your summer tan, and of course there’s the hopes and aspirations you have for your team. You want them to win, of course, but even if they lose, you still have hope and leave the game with joy.
I have always found it fascinating that other “opening days” in my life do not correspond with springtime like baseball. The start of school, for example, takes place in the fall. Just as everything around us is starting to die, families are trying to come back to life. The same is true for small group ministry in many churches. When everything around us is coming to life in the spring, groups are thinking more about winding down and ending in time for summer.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Consider a few ideas for putting a little “opening day” spirit into your small group, even if you are on the home stretch for the year.
- First, take it outside. For months now, your group has been grateful for smaller quarters, heat pumps, fireplaces, and hot beverages. But now that spring is in the air, the inviting living room cannot compare to the park or playground in your community. Breathe some fresh life into your group experience, taking advantage of the play space and the extra daylight at the end of the day to soak in the bigness of God in creation.
- Second, emphasize the fact that faith is a team sport. We like to think that we are truly part of a faith community, but often we live under the illusion of that community. We are with others in coffee shops, but usually with headphones on. Our homes are close together, but still with privacy fences. Says Jared Wilson in his book The Imperfect Disciple, “All of this environmental insulation, in the midst of close proximity to others we basically ignore while we rub shoulders with them, creates a dysfunction in us about the idea of community and the gospel.” Don’t live in this dysfunction. Look at your small group the same way a baseball team begins the season, with the rookies and veterans learning to trust one another. There may be hesitancy to trust, but we all know deep down that only trust will lead to victory in your group.
- Third, find some fun activities for your small group members to enjoy together. Take your small group out to do something fun, like watch a baseball game.
Oh, and go Red Sox.
Rob Tims has been married to Holly for 17 years. They have four children: Trey, Jonathan, Abby, and Luke. He has served in the local church for 20 years as a children’s pastor, student pastor, and senior pastor. He currently serves on a team at LifeWay Christian Resources that develops customized Bible studies for groups and teaches two classes for Liberty University School of Divinity Online. He is the author of the book Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt.