There are roughly 384,000 evangelical churches in America today. Experts guesstimate there are only 100 of them that are doing some form of Online Discipleship. That's quite the disparity. Why are churches hesitant to launch Small Groups Online?
I recently spoke with a Pastor who was adamant that Biblical Community can't be created online. It had to be in person. After hearing from this Pastor I knew there was one person who could answer this question, and I've asked her to write about it. I'm excited about this guest blogger... my mother! Linda Reed is a retired (age redacted) business executive who is extending her ministry years by teaching an Online Small Group. Watch the video below to get a sense of what her Online Small Group looks like.
Thanks, Mom, for sharing with us your small group creates community online.
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"Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." - Galatians 6:2
I have been leading an Online Small Group for over 2 years and I am as involved, dedicated and committed to these ladies (maybe even a little more) as any other small group I have ever been a part of that met in a home, church or any physical location.
As an example, recently I had one of the ladies send out an urgent email to the group, saying her daughter-in-law was in the hospital having a difficult time giving birth. Our group began a prayer chain (connecting seven different locations across the continent) that went on for over ten hours. The outpour of concern and love for this family was priceless and as a result brought us together as a strong community that is centered on the love of Christ. This is just one example. There are many, many more.
During our time online we fellowship with stories and laughter, even a few tears as we share pictures of our families and pets. We read God’s Word together asking questions and share how God has moved in our lives through His word. As we close in prayer we always take time to allow everyone to share a personal prayer request, not only to have a request for our closing prayer but one to take with us for the week as we pray for each other.
“And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works.” – Hebrews 10:24
There are those in and out of church who want to be a part of a small group, but choosing to attend a traditional group will not work for them. It is our responsibility to reach out to everyone and invite them to be a part of a community of believers. Online is an easy way for people to connect.
The church in the digital world we live in today may be miscalculating the effectiveness of Online Small Groups for those that attend church for a weekend service, but have not connected themselves into a traditional small group. For the doubters out there that an Online Small Group cannot be as personal and as effective as a traditional small group I promise you if the leader is committed to the task, through the power of God, they will be successful.
Don't just take my word for it. Here are some testimonies from the people in my group about what the group means to them...
"To me, small group means community. I gain so much from the wisdom of the other ladies in the group; even more so, comfort, knowing that no matter what I may face, they will walk through it with me and guide me."
Melissa // Washington, D.C.
“I love the warmth, connection and friendship of these women. We learn about the Lord, support and enjoy fellowship. So rewarding, while having a ton of heartfelt fun!"
Brenda // Ontario, Canada
“I have found that being in an Online Small Group has increased my spiritual power, encouragement, wisdom, and it is helping equip me to continue the work God wants me to carry out! I have a strong love for each and every lady in our group! Each one helps multiply my insight and learning. It is also a time of laughter, new friendships, sometimes tears, but always encouragement and prayer. I marvel at how we can connect from so far away. They all bring a smile to my face at the when we meet.”
Debbie // Palmetto Bay, Florida
“The Online Small Group has been a great BLESSING in my life as a mom and wife. It’s flexible with my schedule. I love having friends from all walks of life.”
Mary // Doral, Florida
“I have to say that this bible study time means so much to me because often time I feel so alone in the physical realm. Through bible study not only do we fellowship with others just like Christ said he wanted us to do but we also get to walk this walk with other fellow Christians. We get to lift each other up when the chips are down. Thank you for your leadership. For someone like me who grew up without a mother.. your spirit is exactly what I need in my life.”
Agatha // Bronx, New York
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Thanks, mom, for sharing... and for caring for this group. It has been a blessing these past two years to see this group grow and expand across North America, but more than that it's important to realize this is just an example of how Biblical community can be created online.