Let me guess. You are wondering how your church should respond to the Coronavirus outbreak. It’s the question every church leader is asking. Let me start by saying that this post is not written by an expert, but someone just like you who is trying to figure it out. Seminary prepared me for a lot of things, but how to create a group strategy during a global pandemic is not one of those. What does Small Groups during Coronavirus look like?

Over the last week, our church’s (Long Hollow) strategy has changed nearly daily as we follow the CDC suggestions. Now that the recommendation is no social gatherings of ten or more, we have asked all of our small groups to cease meeting in-person but to still gather digitally on a weekly basis. They still will gather at the time of their normal group, just now they will do so via Google Hangouts, Facebook Live watch parties, Zoom, and other video platforms.

Though we are tweaking our strategy constantly in response to the outbreak, our staff has identified three steady guidelines that are shaping our strategy.

Our groups are bigger than their physical gatherings

We want our group leaders to understand that they are not leading meetings, but they are leading people. In a time where many of their group members feel overwhelmed, anxious, and confused, our leaders have greater opportunities than normal to care for their group.

It’s important to create a distinction between engagement and attendance. We want our groups to stay engaged with one another even when they can’t physically attend group meetings. This may be through group messaging, video conferences, and more. Though we are temporarily suspending in-person gatherings, we should not suspend doing our best to live out the “one anothers” of the faith with our current community.

Our small groups during Coronavirus will function differently under their new format

By changing the format of our small groups during Coronavirus (physical to digital), it will impact how the group functions. If the group leader isn’t ready for this, he or she can be frustrated at how ineffective the new format is. We are encouraging our leaders to not let the limitations of digital community prevent them from prioritizing group gatherings. We are equipping them to consider how they can repurpose their time to best accomplish their group’s purpose under the new format.

For example, the group may change from heavy group discussion to having an extended time of prayer or shorten their gathering time significantly. Whatever the group leader decides, it’s important that they keep a regular touchpoint with their group. Consistency is the key to fostering community.

Our groups need increased communication during this time

In the last week, everything that our group leaders knew about leading groups changed. They are wondering what the new expectation is and most likely feel ill-equipped to lead their group during this season of social distancing. Much of the training that we have given them over the years at best needs to be contextualized and at worst has become obsolete during this season.

As our staff has less touchpoints in-person with our leaders and the group dynamics have become more difficult, it’s imperative that we increase our communication with our leaders. We are increasing communication through pre-existing channels and creating new communication channels so that we can communicate our new strategy and equip our leaders on how to lead in the new (temporary) normal.

Wrap Up on Small Groups During Coronavirus

Currently, one of the most effective ways we are communicating and equipping our leaders is through our Long Hollow Group Leader Podcast. In a previous post, we discussed the purpose behind this resource.

Because of this unique season, we are posting a new episode every day this week to help people navigate how they can foster biblical community and make disciples without gathering in-person. In future days, we will tackle topics like “How to lead a digital small group” and “How to host a watch party.”We can’t promise that we have all the answers, but if you want a helpful resource to gain ideas as you lead your church or if you want to share this resource with your group leaders, subscribe here. Do you have questions about small groups during Coronavirus? Email us.

 

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