How are your office walls feeling around you right now?
Like they’re closing in, Episode-4-trash-compactor style? (Congrats if you’re on the same page as me there)
We’re only about 14 days removed from the entire Western world starting to shut down, having to look to work-at-home methods for many people in an attempt to curb the effects of COVID-19. It’s caused fear, anguish, strife, panic, struggle, and any other negative emotion you can think of.
People are isolating themselves in droves. Here in the Tampa area, where I live, we’re looking at a mandatory “shelter in place” rule coming down in the coming days.
The recommended mandated isolation time went from, “This is going to be a 14 day thing,” to, “Well, looks like August to September of 2020” in just a matter of days.
Cue the Ron Burgandy well-that-escalated-quickly meme.
This is all happening incredibly quickly, and it’s opened up a variety of problems.
For many churches, the move to online-only gatherings has been a scramble to get online streams off the ground. **SIDENOTE: if this was your first or second time broadcasting a service, CONGRATULATIONS! Seriously. It’s incredible.**
But isolation has left a community-sized hole in the heart of the body of Christ. Churches live and breathe community (at least, they SHOULD). And yet, they’re being told not to gather in physical groups.
This move may have left you in a sort of triage mode, as you assess, look at what you’ve got, and where you need to go QUICKLY. Almost like a combat medic.
I want to put forth a recommendation: your next move should be toward online small groups.
In a previous post, I talked about the need for online small groups to be part of your mission, and that still holds true, even more so now.
And if you listen to the Church Digital podcast, you’d have heard Mark Brandt, Rey DeArmas, and I talk about the absolute NECESSITY of taking your church past just streaming services into its next step: groups.
A daunting step, but a VITAL one to the health of your people, especially in the face of such trouble.
You need to move QUICKLY.
But FEAR NOT.
It’s easier than you think.
A DISCLAIMER: If you’ve been doing online groups and already have a fully developed structure, then good on you. You’re dismissed. Go walk the halls.
However, if this is your first shot at online church, or if you’re just beginning to see the value of online groups, read on!
Remember how I used the term triage earlier? You’re in triage mode right now. Bringing the crash cart in. Prepping the paddles. All of that other Grey’s Anatomy stuff. Doing things at breakneck speed for the good of the whole
We as church leaders need to realize that our people need us to act swiftly and efficiently, ESPECIALLY when it comes to groups. We need them FAST.
So, with an appreciative nod to all those that have gone before us (Jay Kranda, I’m looking at you), here's a couple of pro-tips to starting online groups swiftly and efficiently:
- Find a leader...or two...or seven. You’re a leader. You should know how to make the “ask” of people in your sphere of influence. Go do it! People are going to be willing in this time of trial. Trust me.
- Start small. It’s okay to just have one or two groups. It’s okay to just meet 1-2 times a week. Start small, see what you’ve got, expand as necessary.
- Find a meeting platform. Ideally a platform with video built in (not just text chatting). I’ve found that Zoom is easiest for us, but there’s a little bit of training on your part to get your leaders on board (and it has a cost associated). Free apps include Hangouts Meet, Skype, Marco Polo, and even Slack.
- Let your people know what you’re doing. COMMUNICATE! It’s as easy as a blog post, a Facebook update, or a mass email to get them interested in groups. Make an easy graphic in Canva and post it!
- My biggest tip: STOP WORRYING ABOUT CONTENT! This is the biggest thing for us right now in our online church space in triage mode. As a pastor who’s been doing church groups for over 10 years, I fall into the trap of, “Well, let’s do study of Luke, and then a group that does a parenting study, and one for singles,” and on and on. But people don’t need more content right now. They want CONTACT. I’ve actually just started opening a Zoom channel 3 times a week for an hour just to PRAY with whoever is there. It’s been crazy to see the response. HUMAN CONTACT, even virtually!
Remember: your people want to know that you’re there, that you care about them, and that you are in this with them. What better way than to have a group with them?
There’s a ton of different ways to do online groups, and these are just my recommended steps, but in the comments below, let us know: what are your tips?
Stay safe out there.