I recently asked a question on the Small Group Network Facebook group, “Would anyone say your groups are THRIVING during this time? What is your secret sauce?”
Answer: yes, some groups are not only surviving the crisis, they are thriving. Rick Warren shared recently that as of the January 1 of this year, Saddleback had about 6,000 groups. During COVID-19 crisis, they have started 3,000 new groups—a 50% increase. (Watch for an article on that next week.)
Secret Sauce: Leadership.
Big surprise. Everything rises and falls on leadership. — John Maxwell
THRIVING during this difficult time might seem unrealistic. On the other hand, it might be easier to get someone to click on a link to join an online group than it is to get them to get in their car and drive across town. And, some might be bored staying cooped up at home and would welcome some human interaction outside their immediate family. People tend to turn to God in times of pain. As Lewis said it, “God shouts in our pain.” People turned to God in the aftermath of 9/11 and we can expect that they will be turning to God now.
Leaders see opportunity where others see only obstacles. Non-leaders think, “Well, this will shut us down.” Leaders think, “What is the opportunity here?” There is an old story about two shoe salesman who went to Africa to sell shoes. One cabled back saying, “Situation is hopeless; they don’t wear shoes here.” Seeing the same situation, the other said, “Endless possibilities, no one here has shoes.” Same situation; one struggled; the other thrived.
Here are seven ideas to help lead your online group to thrive during COVID-19.
1. If you want people to be interested in you and your group, be interested in them.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking of Social Media as a broadcast platform. Think of it as a way of connecting. Read and comment on other’s posts. Join groups with your common interests. If you are interested in photography, join a local photography group. If you enjoy hiking, join a hiking group. Show an interest in their life.
2. Be interesting and multi-faceted.
We want to tell people about God and the gospel and our small groups, but we don’t want that to be the only thing we talk about. If you are interested in tennis, talk about tennis. If find a great TV show to watch, talk about that. Try to “…make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” Titus 2:10 (NIV)
3. Be positive and optimistic.
These are difficult times. Don’t add to the difficulty by being a Debbie-Downer. Christians ought to be the most positive, optimistic, hope-filled people on social-media. We’ll get through this. God is on the throne. Romans 8.28 is still in the Book.
I watched the coverage of COVID-19 on two networks the other day. One was like, “We are through the worst; the number of new cases has plateaued; there are a number of promising treatments on the horizon; better days are ahead.” The other network was, “It was a dark day in America today…”
4. Encourage everyone to invite people to check out your group.
We can actually learn a lesson from the COVID-19 virus. Epidemiologist describe the contagiousness of a disease with the term R0 (pronounced R-naught). It has to do with how many people each person with the disease infects.
Let’s imagine I have the virus and 10% of the people I am in contact with will get the infection from me. If I am in contact with ten people, I will infect one. If I am in contact with one hundred people, I will infect ten. The more contact, the more the infection spreads. The more invitations, the greater the response. Personal phone calls are probably better than Facebook posts.
5. Invite people to join a group to discuss, “XYZ super effective title.” Don’t invite them to join a zoom group.
Look at Rick Warren’s sermon titles if you want some examples. Here are some examples:
- Winning with the Hand You’re Dealt.
- The Amazing Power of Forgiveness.
- How We’re Getting Through.
- The Skills of Leadership.
- When Your World Collapses.
- How Can I Know God’s Will?
Do: “We are having an online discussion on, ‘How We’re Getting Through.’ Private message me for login info.”
Don’t: “Join our zoom group this week.”
6. Use multiple invitations and multiple platforms, but don’t overdo it.
There is no formula for how many invitations, but you might take a cue from advertising. Advertisers know it takes multiple exposures to get through the clutter. It is curious that I have seen hundreds of invitations to watch streaming services but have not seen one invitation to join an online group. Invite. Invite. Invite.
On the other hand, there is such a thing as being obnoxious.
The situation is desperate; it calls for prayer. 😉