Student groups, keep strong during summer!

This post originally appeared on the Humanist Community Project at Harvard‘s blog.

Hello all!

Dave Muscato here again with more practical advice for running your humanist group.

Today’s article is intended mostly for student group leaders, but I hope that non-student humanist groups will also find useful advice here.

So your semester is over, and you’ve wrapped up all of your group’s official business for the year. Does that mean your group goes on hiatus until the fall? Most certainly not! Summer is an ideal time for your group members to get to know each other on a more personal level, and to do types of activities that you don’t have time for during the year. The best part is, these activities don’t necessarily require much expense nor planning.

It’s likely that, as a student group, your meeting attendance will contract over the summer. That’s fine; contract with it! Instead of reserving a lecture hall or classroom each week, try meeting in a coffee shop, or playing pool, or going on a group bike ride on a local trail, or seeing a movie together and then chatting about it over dinner afterwards. Have a game night at someone’s apartment. Go to the local zoo. Try that new vegan restaurant. GO TO CONFERENCES TOGETHER. Try some touristy activities in your town or on a field trip to nearby towns. Go to an art show, or the ballet, or a rock concert.

In our group, SASHA, one of our members & former officers, Jeremy Locke, has been doing an amazing job of this: If you, as a group leader, are planning to spend the afternoon at a coffeeshop reading, don’t do it alone! Make an event invitation via your Facebook group or web calendar, and invite group members to join you for conversation. Even if only 2 or 3 members show up, it helps keep your group on your members’ minds. Name these events something official-sounding, like “[Group Name] Summer Event #1: Coffee at Java Joe’s” so that your members know a series of these are forthcoming. And keep it up!

The key to summer success is consistency. Make sure you have lots of events going on throughout the week, every week. These need not be noteworthy affairs; in fact it can be preferable if they’re not. It’s more important to keep your group going by having something going every single week. In 3.5-year history of our group, we have yet to miss a weekly gathering, even if it was just a handful of us playing pool, or going out to a local bar, and this has worked very well for us. Of course, if you have 20 people RSVP to your Facebook event for hanging out at a coffee shop, it makes more sense to start planning larger get-togethers, but summer is a great time to play things by ear, feel out your group’s preferences for activities later in the semester, and really build genuine friendships with people you may not have had much opportunity to bond with during the semester.

Your group is a great resource for friendships, not just between officers and members, but between members, too. I have seen relationships spring from like-minded people meeting among our members, and it makes my heart happy. Make use of this opportunity. The people you meet with and bond with during your college years are going to be in your memory–if not your active correspondence–for a lifetime. Make sure your group has as many opportunities to socialize during this downtime as possible.

In my next article, I will talk about what you can be doing to help prepare for your fall semester during the summer months. Until next time!

– Dave Muscato

The contents and opinions of this article are my own and do not necessarily represent the position of the Secular Student Alliance.

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