Everything has changed in the past several weeks. Suddenly homeschooling has become the norm, a trip to the grocery store has become an epic journey, and most of us in ministry are getting a crash course in on-line pastoring and leadership. As small group point people, we each have leaders that are looking for direction and support during this season of limited connection and communication. Here are four keys that I have found for leading well during quarantine:
Our leaders need to know that we are still working to support them and available to them. In a time of quarantine, we cannot afford to drop off the radar. Create avenues by which your leaders can reach you for care, support, and prayer. Even if it wasn’t your practice before, this is a season where every group leader needs a cell phone number to contact. This may be your number or that of a coach. Email is nice, but there is a sense of security when you know there is someone you can call. I have also set up a weekly 30-minute Zoom meeting for my leaders to log on and check in. Some have questions or success stories to share. Others just want to see a friendly face. Only a minority of my leaders take advantage of calling my cell or participating in the Zoom chat, but everyone knows that I have made myself available to them.
Steve Gladen recently wrote, “When you answer a call/text/social media, you are doing ‘ministry’. When you generate the connection, it’s leadership.” While it is essential to create avenues of availability, the next vital step is to initiate communication. Your leaders expect regular general communication about how ministry and small groups will move forward in this season. What most leaders need in this time, though, is genuine care. That comes from direct, individual communication. Make a plan to connect with each leader within 1-2 weeks. Delegate to coaches and other staff members if necessary. The aim of these calls is not to make sure their group is doing what you want them to do. It is simply to check in on them and their family and remind them that you are available.
Tools and Resources
Unless you have a dedicated IT team available, it is likely that you have become your small group ministry’s (and possibly your church’s) video-conferencing expert. Don’t be intimidated! I have found that patience and understanding are at all-time highs during this season. However, dedicate a portion of your day to becoming more familiar with the various conferencing platforms your groups are using so that when questions arise, you either have the answer or can quickly find it.
Also, become familiar with curriculum you can recommend to your groups that may be helpful for this season. In the first few weeks of quarantine, your groups were probably busy with catching up and caring for one another. However, if your small groups ministry is not sermon-based they will soon be looking for studies they can do together online. LifeWay and RightNow Media have each released quality curriculum specifically for this season.
Think Two Steps Ahead
A mentor once told me that followers think in the now, leaders think about what’s next, and leaders of leaders think two steps ahead. This quarantine and the effect it is having on ministry and society are not going away anytime soon. With that in mind, it is essential to be thinking beyond this week or next and consider what needs to happen in order for ministry to move forward during the remainder of the Spring season. Ask yourself “If we had to keep doing this model of online ministry for the next 6 months, what would need to happen for our small group ministry to thrive and grow?”. While everyone is hoping and expecting that this will pass before 6 months have passed, this question will force you to think beyond just maintaining ministry and force you to think creatively about new ways to connect people in the next weeks and months.