4 Creative Ideas to Foster Connections this Summer

This is the course I wish I would have had 35 years ago when I started small group ministry.” – Steve Gladen

Presenting our new online training course – “Align!” Align will help you learn the small group ministry essentials. It features…

  • 8 HD video session taught by Steve Gladen 
  • A downloadable workbook
  • Lesson discussion questions
  • An official Small Group Network completion certificate
  • A special gift to help further your Small Group Ministry

Learn more by watching the free course introduction & enroll here!

Summer is here and it’s anything but ‘typical’ this year!  But that’s OK, because God is the master of making the most in the midst!!   Many churches and groups may still be meeting virtually; some may be meeting in small groups outside.  Personal connections in these time are more important than ever.  How can we help foster connections in the midst of restrictions and the limited ability to gather in-person?  What you can do will vary, depending on where you live, so be sure to include both in-person activities, as well as virtual options for those that might not be able to join in-person. Many small groups “kickoff” in the fall, so if you use the summer wisely, and foster connections, your fall groups will reap the benefits! Below are 4 creative ideas designed to help foster connections within your church family (and outside) this summer.

1. Ice Cream Connections & Group Connect, Ice Cream Edition

Who doesn’t like Ice Cream?!!  Why not encourage your church family to simply connect over ice cream at various local ice cream shops during the summer?  Pick a day, time, and locations (make it simple – keep the day/time consistent for the month).  Encourage people to make new connections, as well as to invite family, friends, and neighbors.

As you get closer to the Fall, tie the ice cream connections into your kickoff by holding a “Group Connect, Ice Cream Edition” event.   This can be held on your main church campus (if allowed) or someone’s backyard (if needed).  Anyone that is new or unconnected would be invited to attend this event to get the “inside scoop” on Small Groups and the Fall Series that your church will be running.  We all know there are many flavors of Small Groups – you have the vanilla (smooth & calm), chocolate (deep & rich), party cake (loud & crazy), the list could go on and on!  Set up a DIY-ice cream sundae bar, and encourage people to chat with various group leaders, and help get them connected into a group that is just right for them.  This is also a great opportunity to promote and encourage anyone to start a new “Friends” group (see the 3-friends campaign), so have a designated table/area for this, with some leaders some new leader boxes/bags ready to go.  

2. Host a “Burger Bash”

BBQ’s are a staple of summertime, so why not use a BBQ to help foster new connections and create new groups??   Offer a “Burger Bash” as church-wide event and ask for people to sign up to host. All the host has to do is open up their home.  They determine the # (size) of people that they can host at their home, some requirements that they’d like to have (masks optional, please bring a dish to share, BYO-chair, adults only, etc…) and they can also include a description of their Bash, such as “singles” or “young families” or “multi-generational married couples; “pool party or deck/backyard party.”  This helps to ensure a good fit for everyone!    Hosting a “Burger Bash” in various locations is also a great opportunity for outreach – invite your neighbors to come join the fun!

Hosts will receive a kit that includes everything they need, plus some goodies as a thank-you!   Items might include an apron, name tags, connection activities/games and supplies, connect cards (to follow up), a gift card to help with the food purchase, and a thank you card.  Be creative and do what you can!   During the “Burger Bash” be sure to remind hosts to snap a picture of all the fun – help highlight the fun and connections! 

If you have some NEW group leaders ready to take on NEW groups in the fall, this is a perfect opportunity to get people connected into these groups!  If possible, ask these leaders to be present at one “Burger Bash.”  Invite them to share about their group, ask them to help the host run the connection activity and games.  They can also pass out and collect the connect cards, for future follow up and invite attendees to join their group. 

3. Virtual Coffee & Connect

Many churches are still be meeting virtually in these times, and are just craving connection.  We all miss hanging around after a normal church service (in your cafe, if you have one) for fellowship and coffee! Why not host a virtual coffee & connect hour after your online service? You can promote and also “announce” in the online chat feature, and ask people to join in and connect over coffee (from the safety and comfort of their own home).  No need to plan anything big – a simple check-in with people goes a long way!   Get to know one another — find out hobbies, or unique facts…. You can also ask people their thoughts and insights into the sermon message, what was their take-away, and how they might apply that in the week ahead.  Encourage people to come back next week for more connection!  While this doesn’t start out as an “official” small group, it is the perfect opportunity to build one!

4. Virtual Meet Up Events

Whatever resources your church has, use them!  Plan a one-time “Meet Up” event for anyone to join in.  There’s so many topics you can choose from that will attract a variety of people.  Examples include:  a Revelation Wellness Meet Up (spiritual & physical well-being Bible study group); a Marriage Meet Up (hosted by someone trained in marriage counselling, or leads a marriage study group) to help married couples during this time; a “Mom’s Night Out” created to give weary moms a break in these days, or an “Organization-101” meet up for those interested in learning tips on getting more organized …. Get thinking outside the box – these “Meet Ups” can be anything!  The purpose is to create connections using similar lifestages, hobbies, anything you can think of!  While these meet ups start as a one-time event, they have the opportunity to lead to future small groups as well.  This is also an extra opportunity to include outsiders, inviting your family, friends, and neighbors – near and far, since they are offered virtually. 

Remember, we are always better together!  We were built for connections with one another.  In the midst of these trying times, connections are more important than ever!  Use the above ideas to help your church family get connected and feel encouraged, loved and supported.  Your small group ministry is sure to grow as a result! 


Have a question or an insight? Leave it below!

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Daniel Thomas

Connections Director



Daniel serves as Executive Pastor at Community Church of Mountain City, TN.  Daniel and his family are on a mission to establish roots within their community, fight for peace and serve well.  He serves as our Connections Director in laying the groundwork for Circles. He loves great coffee and traveling with his wife Tia and two children, Deklan and Aden



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