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The Covid-19 virus has vastly changed the landscape of the church. In response to the stay-at-home mandates that are being issued, churches across the world have quickly been adapting and transitioning into online ministry. With the decrease of in-person interaction comes the incredible opportunity for a church’s small group ministry to thrive by using technology to help fill the gap. During these unprecedented times, the community looks to the response of the church and its lay leaders to assist in processing the events of national crises. Indeed, this is an incredible time for small groups to shine and help foster a sense of community that ministers to the spiritual needs of the community (even if through digital means!). Let us visit 6 different ways a group leader can reach out to their group members during this season of social distancing.
Online Meeting (Using Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout, etc.)
Since face-to-face is not an available choice for small groups to make at this time, the next best option for an online church is to have groups meet through video call. Programs like Skype and Google Hangout have the great benefit of being free to use. However, since each attendee is required to create their own account and since each person would need to be on the friends list before the meeting begins, this may be a less-than-ideal option for inviting guests and/or individuals in the group that are not as tech-savvy. Instead, programs like Zoom have recently been identified as a more user friendly option where individuals do not need to have an account created beforehand. To attend, all they need to have is a link that is shared by the meeting organizer. From there, the meeting is able to be run from the browser (on a desktop computer) or through a free, easily downloadable app (on a mobile device). To help cut down on costs, some churches have taken on the role of scheduling meetings for their group leaders from a centralized account (The free version only allows meetings to last up to 40 minutes). Click here for more information on how to schedule a Zoom meeting for you and your group.
An oldie but a goodie, this method has once again become highly relevant in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Through Facebook Groups, watch parties can be set up to encourage the group to watch their church’s online service together and be able to chat with one another throughout the length of the service. While the group reads a devotional through the week, members can post their comments on the Facebook Group page to keep the conversation going until the group’s next meeting.
While Snapchat has certainly maintained a respectable amount of influence in the world of video messaging, its inability to retain a chat history makes the app less likely of a choice for small group members to use when communicating with one another. Recently, an app called Marco Polo has arrived on the scene and it allows groups to not only send video messages to one another, but also to retain the chat history. This app can be a great way for the group to send encouraging video messages to one another, or to share funny moments from within the home during this quarantine season.
The most effective method for immediate communication, group text remains ideal to help spread the word on important news. In addition to the urgent “group is starting late” or “watch party is starting now on Facebook!” messages, group text can be an effective method to send a brief uplifting Bible verse, a prayer request, or a quick word of encouragement to the group.
In the wake of today’s need to connect through online meetings and other social media portals, the method of emailing the group may temporarily take a backseat to the other methods mentioned. While typically utilized for conveying important information that would be too large for a text message, email is also a great way to connect at an individual level with members of the group. A wellness check can be the perfect personal touch for group members to know that their group leader cares about them on a personal basis, and the format of an email can provide a group member the time and space they may need in order to talk through the spiritual needs that they and their family may have at this time.
While the previously mentioned methods assist greatly in effectively communicating with the entire group, none of these methods say “I care about you” more than the simple act of picking up the phone to call and ask how someone is doing. Calling someone on the phone helps convey that they are important to you, and that you want to take time out of your day just to spend time with them. Not only is this an impactful way to connect with members on a personal level, it may be the only way to connect with some members of the older generations who are not experienced in using technology to meet online.