Thursday, July 16, 2020

Easing Churchgoers Back Into Small Groups

“Where do we go from here?”...”Is this the new normal?”…”What should we do for our fall groups?” With less than two months away until fall groups launch, these questions are circulating on the small group ministry forums as churches begin to prepare for their seasonal small group push in September. Yet let us not forget the more subtle needs of churchgoers as we discuss reentry for our fall small groups.

Be Kind to Your Introverts
For some who are more introverted, the desire to socialize may not come back as quickly for them as for those who are more extroverted. It’s not that they are anti-social, it’s just that those who are located more towards the introverted side of the socialization scale will more likely find themselves staying in for the night instead of going out. To some degree, introverts have to be encouraged and guided back into the fold of small groups. For the extroverted small group ministry point person who is promoting small groups this fall, be gentle with your introverts. In other words, don’t be shocked if they say that they’re not ready to join a group just yet. While being away from fellowship for 6 months may not have been a big deal for them, it’s also possible that their socialization “muscles” may have atrophied a bit. After all, a person who hasn’t exercised in 6 months doesn’t jump off of the couch and run a marathon the next day. Similarly, some of our congregants will need to be eased back into the lifestyle of personally connecting with others.

Hybrid Groups Are Okay
Even as cases of Covid-19 decline, concerns will remain for the virus (especially among those who are considered high-risk). It is because of this that our upcoming small groups will need to be flexible. To help with this, one option may be to allow hybrid attendance where some members can attend the group remotely. While it may not be ideal, it accomplishes two things: first, it helps the aforementioned introverts begin to socially recalibrate; second, it provides fellowship for those who are at high risk. Jay Kranda, pastor of online groups at Saddleback Church, explains in a training video from November 2019 that online groups are a great stepping stone for individuals to transition into in-person groups. Although his teaching may have been more prophetic than he realized, it is a nugget of wisdom that we must keep at the forefront of our minds as we begin the reentry process. Rather than insisting that all groups meet only in person, we must be okay with individuals wanting to connect remotely until they feel more comfortable. To further assist with this approach, perhaps offering a few online-only groups may help cater to this strategy.

Vision Casting for Those Who Aren’t Ready
Previously we discussed that when a church experiences trauma, healing will likely become a part of the church’s vision. Because of this reality, we refrain from holding onto the dangerous presumption that all church members will heal and reenter at the same time. To assist individuals within their journey back to small groups, taking a moment during one of your upcoming Sunday sermons can be an effective way to convey the elements of healing that congregants can find when attending a small group. To entice the highest number of individuals to join a group, sermon discussion groups may in fact be one of the best options to offer, as this provides a prepackaged small group experience where any individual can host and/or contribute, whether online, hybrid, or in-person. Healing and transformation happens within the context of relationships. Let us use this key fact to help fuel our strategy in reconnecting our congregants this fall.

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