The State Of Small Groups During COVID-19

Recently we asked Small Group Leaders to fill out a survey of how their groups are going and the responses were very encouraging. While in many cases the struggles were predictable (tech issues, inconsistent communication, distractions, and multi-tasking), what shined through was the dedication, love, and community being expressed and strengthened even in these uncertain and changing times. 

Ways to develop relationships in this season: Groups were already using technology to stay connected before this season (emails, group texts, etc). So here are a few other ideas for connecting and developing relationships:

  • For those comfortable to do so, meet at a park for a meal to talk (ideal to keep this under 10 people and use social distancing guidelines)

  • Host an online game night

  • Send out personal cards in the mail to members/families

  • Making personal contact with anyone who misses a weekly meeting or ask a member to get in touch with someone (increase shared responsibility and relationship) 

The best part of virtual meetings has been: The ability to connect with group members, get personal updates, and still be growing in relationship with Christ and one another has been very uplifting. Interestingly, quite a few groups are seeing higher than average attendance in the virtual meetings compared to in person!  

The hardest part of virtual meetings has been: Our groups definitely prefer to be around each other living life together, as that was a shared lament about virtual meetings. Others said that at times it feels like a board meeting or like being in work calls. It is common to experience internet lag, as well as awkward silence with people wanting to give others a chance to talk… only to still end up accidentally interrupting one another.

If you are experiencing awkward silences take greater initiative to call people by name to respond or if it’s a couple on the call, give the chance for either or both to respond.  “Hey Joe, what did you think about…” or “Hey Smiths, do either of you have an example of…” In a normal context, calling on specific people can be a bit touchy depending on personalities, but in a video context, you could state you’ll be doing that at the beginning so folks know it’s coming. 

Something I didn’t expect was: For most of our Leaders, the most surprising aspect of virtual meetings has been the high level of attendance, participation, and transparency in sharing. Praise God!

Breakout times for men & women: It has been common not to do breakout times or to do them outside of the normal group meeting time instead. I want to make clear that this is acceptable, as I realize there can be challenges in coordinating more than the regular group meeting. For those who have tried breakouts, here are some summaries of how it’s being done:

  • Men meet for 30 minutes, group meets for 60 minutes, women meet for 30 minutes

  • Create private rooms/channels, one for men and one for women.  After corporate discussions and prayer, switch to those rooms for breakout, then resume at the end all together for personal updates.

  • Start with group discussion and prayer, then create a new call for men while women stay on the original call/meeting.

  • Meet all together on small group night and set up a separate day & time for breakout conversations and accountability.   

Though we all recognize this as less than ideal, I think that Bill and Lou Dobbs summarized how the virtual meetings are positively impacting many of our groups and I believe this resonates with many leaders:

"Our members seem to be really appreciating our ability to get together and being able to support one another. It seems to be bringing a bit of normalcy to their lives by connecting with people that know and care about them. It is a great opportunity to be able to bring a reality check to their lives that God is indeed in control and that He is working this for our good as this is moving forward."

Leaders, and SG members reading this, you are loved!  Keep up the good work and be faithful to meet together in every feasible way. Pray for one another, seek prayers from one another, make sure people know you love and miss them!  To God be the glory in all of our Small Groups for all He is doing to encourage and strengthen our people.