This season has been exhausting for many reasons. Many of us in the ministry world are not only working remotely, but also teaching our kids while in a seemingly endless cycle of cleaning a constantly occupied home. As discussed in a recent Group Talk podcast, virtual meetings also drain our energy and focus. What seems to be most tiresome in this season, though, is COVID-19 itself. It is being discussed at every news hour, on every social media platform, and in most of our personal conversations as well.
As I’ve spoken with small group leaders in my church family as well as small group point people in my huddle, it is becoming apparent that people have grown weary of conversations solely focused on the coronavirus. But how can we get our heads above the COVID-19 fog in our small group discussions when its effects are all around us?
Address the Season
There is no way to ignore what is going on around us. People in our churches are losing jobs and loved ones while also under the stress of social isolation. There needs to be space to specifically address these difficult circumstances. Begin or end your time together by asking everyone for an update. My small group is ending each meeting by answering two questions: “What was hard this week?” and “What are you praising God for this week?” Creating this dedicated space in our meetings has allowed us to have fun and discuss other things, while still giving valuable and focused time to our current circumstances.
Focus on Stories
The time we have together with our small groups is incredibly valuable as we build relationships and grow together. This is especially true with the limitations of video conferencing. Rather than spending time discussing the latest headlines, focus on what is going on in each other’s lives. Even if it is still directly related to COVID-19, keeping your time personal and story-based prevents your discussions from becoming a debate or a gossip session and gives everyone a broader perspective of this season.
Many pastors have focused their preaching on the current season. In a difficult season like this, it is wise to address people’s hurts, questions, and losses. However, as the season progresses, this can make sermon-based discussions repetitive. Some groups need to continue to focus on the current season. Others are overwhelmed by COVID-19 discussions throughout the week and are looking to focus on something else. Consider finding a topical curriculum that is helpful for this season and also allows your group to discuss other things in your time together.
Do you know what makes your group smile? Is it games, funny videos, or jokes? Try to incorporate something fun in your meetings just for the sake of joy. Laughter can go a long way to minister to our souls during a season of social distancing and isolation. Also, don’t overlook mid-week interaction. My group has started sending goofy selfies with a “We missed you!” message to those that missed our weekly video chat. I’ve also seen leaders engage with their groups via Facebook throughout the week with meme contests and fun polls. With all the avenues of communication available to us, it is important to give our groups a smile or a laugh throughout the week and remind them they’re not alone.
Your small group has the potential to be a refuge in the midst of a storm. This doesn’t mean that you need to ignore the storm. It does, however, require space to minister to one another, discuss other things, and laugh together.