The world around us is changing every day. We are inundated with new studies, new reports, a barrage of information, and recommendations for social interaction (or the lack thereof). In fact, some days it may feel the world around us is changing every hour!
We’ve talked to many pastors and church attenders who agree that “doing church” in this season is unexplored territory that has never been experienced in our lifetime.
It’s no surprise that small group ministries have taken a hit, and many groups have been required to pause meeting together. Others have learned to innovate and are teaching fellow members how to use technology to stay connected. If we understand how people are feeling, we can use that as a place to begin as we create a proper response.
So far, here’s how we’ve seen this season affect small groups:
- Fear — With everyone afraid to meet, then how do we do small groups? Even though there is an element to fear that is healthy, it often paralyzes us from doing anything, including meeting virtually.
- A Leaning Towards Settling — Have you talked to people who have enjoyed the slower pace of life in this season? As life’s expectations have lessened, how much has this mindset creeped into our spiritual lives and connections with one another? While there are many healthy aspects to slowing down, perhaps some of that settling is distracting us from allowing God to work in and through us.
- Isolation — We know that we are not built to do life alone! During this time, numerous medical professionals have noted rises in depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other emotional struggles. Isolation from interaction with others doesn’t afford us the encouragement, peace, prayers, laughter, and joy of one another.
- Opportunity — The great news is that not all of the effects of this season are negative. Within every difficulty, God provides an opportunity to advance the Gospel and see people grow in their walks with Him. During this season, we can expand how we view community and connection with others, leveraging technology to interact even more, and being reminded not to take for granted the closeness we experience with our people.
So, how do churches navigate through the effects this season has had on their community?
As our ministries begin to meet in physical buildings again, how can we engage attenders and encourage them to pursue relationships within a small group setting? Here are a few ideas:
1. Share What Never Changes.
During seasons of change, we find relief in holding onto things in life that we know won’t change.
When it comes to community, we know the Truth of Scripture still holds true. We are still called to obey the “one another” statements of God’s Word. We’re still called to:
- Encourage one another
- Bear one another’s burdens
- Pray for one another
- Speak truth to one another
- Build up one another
- And so much more!
The calling to be an integral part of each other’s lives within the family of God never changes!
These are the types of Truths we can share with small group leaders to help remind them that their calling remains the same in this season. How we live out this calling may just look a little bit different!
2. Lead With Vision.
Sharing with people how to connect with small groups is always important, but leading with why we should is a necessity. What is your church’s vision for why small groups are important? What do you want people’s lives to look like after being in a small group? How will their families be different because of community? How will your church be stronger because of a healthy small group ministry? The answers to these questions will inspire attenders to make leading or joining a small group a priority in their lives.
3. Invest In Your Leaders.
In this season, we have more time to disciple and pastor our small group leaders than we may have had before. You may find that you have more opportunities for personal phone calls and texts to check in on them. Consider taking this up a notch and hosting an online event for leaders to help them grow in their leadership. Invite a couple leaders to virtual hangout, or read a book with some of your leaders. If you can go deeper with them now, they’ll go further in their leadership later!
Want to learn a few more tips on producing effective leaders? Click here to read more.
4. Leverage Technology
If we want our small group leaders to use technology to connect with their groups, sometimes we might have to teach them how to do it. Many leaders may not even be aware of all of their options to leverage technology in this season. We can let them know all of the ways available to continue meeting with their small groups, both in person and virtually, through different apps like the YouVersion Bible App, FaceTime, Zoom, GroupMe, Marco Polo, and so many more.
How can your small group leaders engage with their small groups in this season? Check out these great resources to learn even more:
4 Ways Small Groups Can Meet Together Digitally
Church Online Playbook: Leveraging Facebook Groups
5. Help Groups Focus Outward
There are many needs in our communities that small groups can rally together to meet. As a church leader or pastor, you have more information about local outreach opportunities than the average attender does. This is why we have to make an effort to know the needs in our community right now!
We can encourage small group leaders to coordinate with a local food bank to either gather food or serve there with their small groups. Groups may be able to serve the church by making phone calls to attenders to help them stay engaged. Or perhaps they could write notes to those in hospitals or nursing homes right now. Be creative! Even amidst the fear of this pandemic, many people are looking for and craving opportunities to serve the community and tangibly help the people around them!
Where do you start with local outreach? Check out this article to learn more.
Whatever happens in life, we know that community is incredibly valuable for our spiritual growth. Your small group ministry doesn’t have to be put on hold as we wait out this special time to pass. It can thrive even now, in new and creative ways, and we’re praying that it will!
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