Sunday School and small groups are based on the premise of doing three things:
- Develop Caring Relationships
- Teaching of God’s Word
- Reaching new people for Jesus
Some have asked me how the groups are going during COVID-19 separation. The answer I get from churches is great. Because the groups are founded on developing relationships, members are naturally drawn to each other. So while being unable to meet together, vast numbers of them have used Zoom to meet together to study God’s Word. Some have brought their lawn chairs and formed safe circles in the church parking lot. Because they have developed strong relationships they do this on their own. It is like if a family could not get together for Thanksgiving or Christmas; they would find a way. For years we have witnessed Christmas greetings from our soldiers overseas giving a video greeting to their family. The reports I get from churches are that most of their groups are running a higher attendance virtually. Teachers have had to learn to adapt using shared screens, making sure to ask discussion questions, or keeping their lessons a little shorter.
One thing that has come from this experience is that many members want to keep a form of their virtual group even though they will soon be able to meet again in the church building. I believe that churches and teachers will have to come up with ways to allow both in-person meetings and virtual meetings simultaneously. It may require having a person monitor the Zoom meeting and relay questions to the in-person group. Hundreds of people who had never experienced Zoom meetings are now becoming professionals in using them. Even our oldest adults have adapted to the virtual group meetings.
The one downside is that groups have a harder time of reaching new people, although some churches have taken advantage of this approach and started new groups through the use of specialized topics. This in an effort to get new people involved. I even heard of a church that is using it for prospective new members. I believe it is a new tool that churches will have to learn to use to its fullest potential.
I think that adult care group leaders are going to find this tool to be advantageous in caring for and ministering to the members of the Sunday School/small group. This could lead to a care group really sharing prayer requests and ministering to one another at a whole new level.
Some churches have used virtual meetings to train and communicate with their teachers and leaders. This has led to better attendance as some people may be out of town, but can still attend virtually. I see teacher and leader training becoming a new avenue for using virtual technology.