the shape of leadership

Small Groups in a Time of Crisis

Five ways to bring strength to small groups

Jodi Cuccurese on April 29, 2020

We could never have imagined the series of events we’ve experienced in our nation and our world over the past several months. As churches have temporarily transitioned from auditoriums to living rooms, it’s understandable things feel very different.

One of the most pressing concerns of pastors is how to keep people connected to one another and the local church when this virus is doing its best to keep us separated.

In this unique season, the ministry of small groups has never been more essential. The obvious need for social distancing does not mean we have to be distant relationally or spiritually. God designed us for relationship, and the blessing of technology makes it possible for us to stay connected.

At James River Church (Assemblies of God) in southwest Missouri, we are accomplishing this through our life groups ministry. We have strategically positioned our life groups to engage, connect with, and care for people at a greater level than ever before.

Here are five ways to bring strength to small groups during this time:

1. Make room for more. The first thing we did was ask our current life group leaders to open their groups for more people to join. Through the church website, people can browse open life groups and send a message to a life group leader. Leaders then respond with a warm welcome and details on when and how the group meets.

As we care for one another, life groups become a demonstration to the world that we are devoted followers of Jesus.

2. Start new groups. People want to jump in and help. With unexpected challenges, we have an unprecedented opportunity to recruit and train potential new leaders. It’s been amazing to watch so many people step up and help us launch hundreds of new groups. Online video platforms have made training new leaders easy and fun.

3. Attend services together virtually. There are several ways groups can watch the service together. Many groups host a Facebook Watch Party, which allows the group members to attend virtually while chatting with one another. Other groups engage through group text or watch together through platforms like FaceTime or Zoom.

4. Meet online during the week. Life groups are also meeting through video chats throughout the week to discuss the message and encourage and pray for one another. One of the most popular ways for groups to meet is through Zoom. It’s free, and groups can meet for up to 40 minutes.

5. Care for one another. One of the most wonderful aspects of our life groups is the care that takes place within each group. We encourage leaders to check in on group members weekly and even daily. We’ve created an online form where our leaders can communicate with the pastoral staff about the needs impacting the people in their groups. As a church, we can then find ways to meet those specific needs.

In John 13:35, Jesus said people will know we are His disciples by how we love one another. As we care for one another, life groups become a demonstration to the world that we are devoted followers of Jesus.

When we do begin meeting together in person again, we believe hundreds of people will walk through the doors of our church for the first time, thanks to the ministry of life groups.

This article is part of a special COVID-19 supplement appearing in the May/June 2020 edition of Influence magazine.

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