The heartbeat and primary connection point of many churches flows from the Sunday School or small group ministry. So often, the component that really enables individuals and families to stay connected to the church is their ability to find fellowship with other believers. In the midst of COVID-19, many churches pivoted their ministry and moved their group life online, fairly quickly. In many of these cases, churches were able to see a higher level of engagement initially from these groups. Over time though the novelty of this has worn off and the numbers have settled somewhat. However, what the pandemic has shown is that groups can develop alternative means to gathering. The future of group life and possibly even new group creation may not initiate in an embodied physical form.
The argument that the scattered church really is able to gather without being in the same place is gaining momentum in some circles. There is a generation of young believers who see digital communication as normative; however, meeting and interacting with people face-to-face can never truly be replaced with screens. However, these coming generations work from home, video chat with family regularly and even engage their doctor through an app. As we look to the future not know the full effect of COVID-19, groups must think outside their normal boxes more and more to reach and commune with new generations. The use of digital tools has opened the door for further and deeper weekly interaction for those who want to connect beyond their scheduled group time. It also may be that groups maintain some element of online components moving forward to enable those who, for one reason or another, are unable to attend any given week. Meeting without leaving home provides a huge plus for the family on the go. The foundation of group life remains the same, but the form may look very different in the years to come.