When you think of possible groups that you could form with other church members, you probably think of something that gives back to the community. After all, the extent to which your church is faithful to its mission is often measured against how much help it provides to others. A book club may not be the first idea you come up with, but it's a good one. There are several benefits of having a book club for interested members of your congregation, and it doesn't take a lot of effort to start one.
Because the church tends to be so focused on what it can give, its members may not always think about what they need from the community itself. Socializing gets put on the back burner and with it often goes the sense of belonging and the relationships that form. A book club is a fun way to address this gap in member care. Having a built-in subject to talk about gets conversation started easily, and it leads to the discovery of mutual interests among those who attend. Even if you only meet once a month, you are likely to find that book club members forge new bonds of true friendships they nurture outside the official meetings.
A book club gives members a chance to get to know people they may never have had contact with otherwise. Young parents can meet some of the older members of the church. College students can break out of their cocoon of campus activities. Retired members can connect with people from other demographics over their favorite genre. A book club allows people to break out of their age-sanctioned cliques and thus makes the community stronger as a whole.
It's Low Maintenance
Many people shirk away from the idea of leading any group at church because they think it will be more work than they have time to handle responsibly. They expect that it will overwhelm their schedules and thus potentially lead to resentment about all the effort they are making. However, a book club is really easy to start, and it pretty much takes care of itself. To begin, you need four essential elements:
- A book to read
- A time to meet
- A place to gather
- A discussion leader
Once you have your first selection chosen, plan a meeting at least four weeks in advance and send invitations to people who have expressed interest or to those who may be interested. If you are not sure about whom to invite, it doesn't hurt to announce the plan to the whole church. That way, all the people who want to attend know that they're welcome.
You may choose a theme for the books you read in your new group, or you may merely make selections based on the recommendations of the enthusiastic readers who join. The beauty of reading is that it hardly ever stops on the page. Reading books about social justice can inspire new ideas about the ways the specific people in your club can make a difference. Even having conversations about stories that have touched all of your lives can remind the group about the importance of literacy. In a group of people who are already service-minded, this can motivate them to create a literacy project. Maybe it's as simple as collecting books for a local elementary school or library. Your group may decide to volunteer as readers at schools or nursing homes. Reading is both a reward and a challenge, and starting a book club often puts other projects in motion.
Every group at church doesn't have to be a based on community service, but it can still motivate people to serve. A book club is an easy way to satisfy the social needs of members while inspiring them to look beyond themselves.