Over the past week, it’s become clear COVID-19 will disrupt the rhythm of our routines for a season. Churches across America are having important discussions about how to handle this challenge and are taking appropriate precautions to protect the well-being of their communities. In almost all cases, small groups will stop meeting in person during this season of social distancing. But in times of fear and uncertainty, it’s important for us to be connected in the providing accountability, belonging and care.
More than ever, we need the support of each other. With a little creativity, there are ways to continue your small group even if you aren’t able to meet in person. As group leaders, we have a unique opportunity to minister to people in what will inevitably be a time of uncertainty. For some, it may be a time of crisis. So, what does it look like to minister to your small group during a time of social distancing? Here are some suggestions to help you consider ways you can be of help:
- Continue to focus on God and His Truth. Rather than canceling group, consider ways you can use technology to meet online. FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype are good options for continuing group discussions when you aren’t able to meet in person. If you are currently using a specific Bible study resource, encourage group members to keep up with their study. During a global pandemic, it will be tempting for group members to focus solely on the news, which will likely produce feelings of anxiety. As a group leader, you can redirect your group members back to the truths God has given us in the Bible. When people continue in study and prayer, challenging times can be seasons of significant spiritual growth.
- It’s more important than ever to continue your group. As of this writing, churches have cancelled all in person activities. As medical experts advise against large gatherings, and even gatherings of 10 or more, now is the time for small groups to stand in the gap and keep people connected. The good news is, online technology has made staying connected a viable option. Of course, meeting online will look differently than meeting in person, but the value of continuing your group meetings cannot be overstated. This season of social distancing won’t last forever and a time will soon come when your group can resume meeting in person. But until then, people desperately need biblical community, and small groups are the best option.
- Check-in frequently with group members. Remember, social distancing has the potential to cause feelings of isolation and loneliness among your group members. All people crave community. It’s important for those you serve to know they are a valued member of biblical community and are not overlooked or forgotten when the group isn’t meeting together. You may have some group members who have limited family connections or live alone. A call, text, or email will go a long way to communicate that you care. Also, encourage group members to be in touch with each other. An email thread is a good way for people to check-in and share prayer requests and is an easy way to stay connected.
- Be aware of needs. Medical experts have communicated that COVID-19 is a greater threat to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. It’s important to be mindful of those in your group who are the most vulnerable. Are there people in your group who need someone to make a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy? Does each group member have someone to check in on them in the event they become ill? Consider assigning a contact person for group members to be in touch within the event they need help from the church.