If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that we don’t know what’s next. So, your plans and preparations need to be like buildings made for an earthquake.
The 2009 L’Aquila earthquake in Italy was devastating. It damaged thousands of buildings, both new and ancient, leaving 65,000 people homeless. The main reason for the extent of damage was not the earthquake itself, but poor construction standards that did not allow the buildings to “move” with the earthquake. One official from Italy’s Civil Protection Agency said, “In California, an earthquake like this one would not have killed a single person(1).” When the earthquake hit, these “stiff” buildings could not move, so they snapped and collapsed.
While we have not gone through a physical earthquake, the ground beneath our feet certainly has shaken when it comes to small group gatherings. Just when we thought we’re getting our arms around what to do, what not to do, a new surge appears, a new set of instructions come out. Just when the trends were moving in the right direction, there is a spike, causing concern and raising levels of fear and anxiety.
We’ve gone through outright cancellations. Then the rush to Zoom. As worship reopened, face-to-face small groups reemerged. As we carefully got together, did we shake hands? Bump fists or elbows? Hug? And as the pandemic seemed to be passing, so did our alertness to precaution and prevention.
Then came Omicron. And we’re back into isolation as it tears through every part of society. With all the sickness, many are struggling to fill leadership positions. And many leaders who have gone through these unprecedented times are worn out to the point of exhaustion.
And while Omicron looks like it is spiking, or soon will be, rumors of new variants are on the horizon. There are currently five variants moving through the world, with another two waiting in the wings. There are another five mutations that have been identified (2). So, no matter your feelings or theories, this thing could be with us for a while.
Therefore, we cannot build our small group plans like the “solid wall” plans of yesteryear. Plans that were built on predictable, solid data, availability of people and facilities. What we need is to build plans that have flexibility built right in. They need to be able to “sway” like earthquake buildings, instead of snapping.
Here are three insights into building your plans for small groups.
First -they are YOUR PLANS.
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3 NIV
Yes, you need to plan. You cannot just throw up your hands in frustration, or abandon planning with “God will lead us.” While you should learn from others and their planning, you need to MAKE your own plans. You cannot mindlessly “cut and paste” their plan into your location, your circumstances, where you live. You need to make them your plans, people should see your fingerprints all over your plans. And because they are your plans, you have to OWN your plans. You will certainly take the best advice available, seeking wisdom from many, in the creation of your plan. But at the end of the day, the plan is yours and yours alone. You need to take responsibility for it.
Second – they are YOUR PEOPLE.
“Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, which lives by itself in a forest, in fertile pasturelands.” Micah 7:14 – NIV
The people you lead, and the people that follow in your small groups are unique. They belong to you. In a real sense, you are their shepherd, and they are your sheep. You have a responsibility to care for them, lead them, guide them. So, when change happens, and it will happen, there is no need to hide. You need to be in front: in front of the change as best you can, and in front of your people, communicating directly and personally with them. Yes, you should delegate, train, and disciple new leaders. But when it comes to communicating change, that heavy mantle falls on you and you alone.
Third – they are YOUR PRAYERS.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.“Jeremiah 29:12 NIV
Perhaps there has never been a time that requires more prayer than today. The pressures are enormous, and so are the stakes. The future of our neighborhoods, cities, states, and nation may well hang in the balance. The best strategy for impacting our world does not lie in big events or programs, it’s not found in technology or social media. The absolutely best, most efficient, God-ordained way to reach the world for Jesus Christ rests in small groups. Period. You could not be in a more strategic position. So, pray like it is.
When it comes to your small groups, you and you alone are in a most special position.
“And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14b
God deeply desires to use people just like you and me, just where we are. Be a faithful small group leader, leaning on him and him alone. Through you, he can and will do great things.
- Franco Barberi
- Tracking Omicron and Other Coronavirus Variants, NY Times, January 11, 2022
Chet Gladkowski is the Founder of GLAD Associates, Inc. (a) and author of “Have Yourself a Merry COVID-Christmas”(b). He has also launched National Day of Hope(c). His latest books, Hope is Like Steamed Crabs (d) and Hope is Like Barbeque Ribs (e) are available through Amazon.