Have you thought about the things you used to do that you might not do again?
For example, when will shaking hands, fist bumps, or high fives come back?
How about a hug when you see someone you've missed?
How about going to crowded venues to watch a concert or a game?
We've probably all had evolving thoughts on things like that. Evolving because as the pandemic has played out in front of all of us (all over the world), there's a good chance that our opinions and beliefs about "when things get back to normal" have probably changed over the last 8 to 16 weeks (depending on what part of the world you live in).
How about from a small group ministry perspective?
I've started to think about the small group ministry practices that served us well for a season and may not serve us well going forward.
Had any thoughts like that yet?
5 ways your small group ministry will probably change post COVID-19:
1. You will see greater openness to "meeting online."
In the same way the pandemic has produced a rapid adoption and acceptance of church online (and will likely become the preferred mode of "attendance" for many), groups that meet online (or frequently online) will become more appealing. Childcare is unnecessary. Travel time is a non-issue (and effectively redeems 30 to 60 minutes a meeting). Availability is expanded when the time to meet is less restricted.
2. Leadership training and development will be offered online first.
Where it used to be an option, a backup plan, for those who couldn't attend the centralized, on-campus leadership development program, the immediacy and convenience of providing leadership training and development online will quickly become the primary way we deliver it (and it will be recorded for on-demand viewing).
3. Smaller groups will become the norm.
We've seen a growing trend toward smaller groups anyway, but it's so much easier to find a good time to meet with two or three good friends than it is with 6 couples. In addition, there is greater flexibility and ability to adjust the meeting week to week to accommodate work and family schedules.
4. Just-in-time training will be an attractive first step for many potential leaders.
I've said for years that prerequisite training was an unnecessary barrier for new leaders (i.e., the required 4 week course that must be attended BEFORE being listed as a group leader or provided group members).
And I believe that will still be the case going forward.
However, I believe a well positioned, just-in-time training will actually enable a large number of smaller "do the study with a few friends" groups to happen. Timely, jumpstart training sessions will be quickly bolster the confidence of prospective leader/gatherers.
5. Video-driven studies will still be produced but will be used differently or less frequently.
I have been a proponent of video-driven studies as essential to starting the largest number of new groups and connecting the largest number of unconnected people for almost 20 years. Video-driven studies take out the need for a "teacher" to set up the right discussion.
Two of the most important outcomes of the pandemic might be the interest in connecting (at least digitally) and a greater awareness of the amount of time spent watching content on screens (think unlimited bing-watching and the search for a new program to watch).
It seems very likely that it will become less common for established groups to rely on and new groups to depend on the next video-driven study. In addition, as smaller groups gather online or in the community, it will be important to use a format that is portable and flexible.
What will be the substitute? A simpler format seems likely to become the popular choice. For example, we have been experimenting with discovery bible study, a simple format that can be used by anyone, leads to application, and is very portable. And in most cases the topic or theme can be linked to the current study or message series.