Find a way to connect:

Community is hard to come by these days. We feel isolated and separated, but now, more than ever, we need to be able to connect and share. As a small group, no matter the format you normally meet in, with it is necessary to maintain those connections through this time. It is easy to consider your worship service as the main point of connection right now but the glue of the church is the Small Group Ministry. Therefore, you must build community and engage people in manageable groups.

Ways to connect:

  • Phone call – if there is no capability for video or funds it is possible to just call people and create a group chat on the phone.
  • Video connection – Zoom, FaceTime and Google Hangouts all provide paths for groups to meet – it is possible through these tools to gather even with no cost to your group.
    • Zoom – allows for a free call with up to 100 people on the call as long as it stays under 40 minutes.
    • Google Hangouts – up to 25 can meet for free – cheap option for calling beyond that number (details could change over time)
    • Apple FaceTime – up to 32 can meet – all must be on an Apple device.

What can and should Sunday School/Small Group leaders be doing in this season of social distancing?

  1. Pray With and for Your People

    • Put them on a list and pray for them daily or regularly. Ask for prayer requests and follow-up with the needs they are having. In this difficult time the fact that you care and that they are not isolated may be the best ministry you provide. People are hurting and need care and connection. They need more than just an online worship service.
  2. Call Your People – Regularly

    • If the group is large then break it down into smaller groups with leaders calling. This is a great way to develop new leaders in the ministry and provide care groups as a part of the small groups, if you do not already have that developed.
    • If the group is too large to effectively meet on a call than this may be a great time to multiply. New classes are the lifeblood of growth in the church and provides the perfect opportunity to develop new groups. If there is no teacher, consider pre-recording the teaching portion of the group and allow someone in the group to facilitate discussion.
  3. Go Back to the Basics

    1. Traditionally in our group times we are diving deep into the Word of God, working through those Old Testament prophets. I am not implying there is necessarily a need to change what you are studying. However, it is important to understand that people are hurting and need care and community. If the content of your study is something more abstract, make sure that you are having real world conversations are a part of the study.
    2. How to study the Bible is a great focus that most groups would benefit from in this time. They are home now so helping them understand how to comprehend and use the Scriptures is not too rudimentary but really what many people need to focus on.
  4. Develop New Leaders

    • As already mentioned, this is the perfect time to give new leaders the opportunity to lead. Groups that are too large for people to really interact may allow each class to develop sub-groups that can meet online for prayer, encouragement and accountability.
    • There are several ways to accomplish this:
      • Pre-record the lesson for the class – tell them to watch it before their group time and then let a facilitator walk through some prepared questions for the group – this is the best scenario when it is necessary to keep the teaching consistent and there are not other teachers that can rise to the occasion quickly.
      • Zoom webinar breakout rooms – if you have a paid zoom account there is a feature that allows groups to come together for a corporate time and then to break into prearranged sections for the remainder of the call. This allows everyone to see each other for consistent content to be communicated and yet for them to go interacted in a smaller closed group.
      • Let people lead – it may be that there are some budding teachers/leaders that have just been looking for the right opportunity to step-up. This is a great time to let them test the waters, so to speak. There is no expectation of expertise right now, but there is a great need for further community and connection.
  5. Initiate smaller accountability groups (gender based)

    • Once you develop your digital groups there is still the need for people to have accountability. In truth, it is very hard for most individuals to be vulnerable with anyone and even more so when they are staring into a screen. People are home all the time, the expectation is that during this time pornography, domestic abuse, child abuse and even divorce will become more problematic. The home is the hallmark of the family, but for many home is a place they keep in smaller doses because of personal and family issues. When it’s all people have, the worst can come out even with believers. Thus, there must be accountability where men can talk with other men about their struggles and women can do the same with each other this provides health and healing.
    • These groups can be sub groups of the already created digital small group – in other words, this allows a group of the men and a group of the women to engage and connect to talk about deeper things.
    • They can also be a text or message encouragement and help throughout the week to keep them connected and engaged – these groups need to be closed in order to provide safety for the struggles that will be communicated.
    • In our current climate, people are stuck in isolation. Many people are alone struggling with hope in this day and time. Often that makes many turn to private sins to find comfort in their time of difficulty. Sadly, the church is often the last place people find help for these struggles. Everyone is afraid to be vulnerable and real and thus many continue to struggle and fall deeper and deeper in the ditches of life. In this time, press into peoples struggles and provide hope for them. They must have a forum to find accountability and small group life offers the best opportunity to help people in their darkest hours.
  6. Application

    • Often times people struggle to see the relevance of church in their lives. Sometimes we do not help people connect the timeless truths of the Bible with the world that is happening outside today. This is one of those times where it becomes essential for people to turn to the Scriptures for
      hope, faith, help and courage. This is the best time as people are alone with their thoughts more and more, considering how prayer and time with the Lord are relevant and not just one more thing to add to a busy day. This is the cornerstone of what it means to be a believer in Jesus.
    • As a group leader, focus more time on how these truths can be played out in the lives of your people today. No, not everything has a direct application or action, but every passage has a truth, tells us more about the nature of our God and has relevance for our own lives. There is something we need to be doing, thinking, believing or even avoiding in our lives each and every day.

The Future – Post COVID-19

  • Developing new leaders for groups for when the pandemic is over is a huge success.
  • Look for ways that you might consider using digital technology once we begin meeting together again – meet physically every other week and digitally on the opposite weeks.
  • The new groups that develop during this time can be launched into new classes when people return to the building.
  • Develop new digital entry online classes – people may not come to the physical church at first, but they might join an online class.
  • Consider moving closed groups online – New Members class, University study classes, business meetings, Committee Meetings, and even Deacon meetings as well
  • Try new ideas now – change the curriculum to create use this as a lab for trying out an idea and unified or new content.
  • Consider sermon based small groups – allowing churches the opportunity to focus on the main pastoral message for the week.
  • Allow Small groups to meet at times that work best for them if they are doing some on campus and some off campus group times.