Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced most of the population into isolation, the time spent between small group meetings has been a challenge. Though an important part of Christian growth and discipleship, most small groups only meet once per week, leaving a week in between meetings.
If the group is meant for people to encourage each other, hold each other accountable, and help each other grow in their walk with Christ, it’s not something that should be done only once per week. You’re losing out on a whole lot of opportunities to encourage each other, lift each other, pray for each other, and more. The pandemic has only increased the challenge of connecting between meetings, because to this day, many small groups are still not able to meet in person, but it has also made that connection even more important. So how can you connect well during these times? During the most recent episode of Indigitous PULSE, we got some best practices to help.
1. Use messaging apps
2. Do fun things together
A good social connection is an integral part of a small group. It shouldn’t be about Bible study 100% of the time. The group needs fun time to bond together. During the pandemic, you might not be able to get together for a game night at your house, but there are ways to do this digitally. “You might use a tool like Houseparty, where it’s an option to play together, where you can do games with one another,” Patrick says. He suggests even watching a video or movie together with something like a Facebook Watch Party or Netflix Party.
3. Call them
“Nothing beats the good old phone call,” Patrick says. Though younger generations are more used to texting and using social media to communicate, phone calls are more intimate and allow for greater conversation. You can still use your phone as a phone and when you’re isolated and want to connect, there are few tools as useful.
4. Engage on social media
Jonah Jala, a missionary in the Indigitous Manila community, encourages engaging on social media throughout the week. Jonah makes sure she watches the Instagram Stories of those in her small group and takes the time to like and comment on them. Be sure to ask questions, because questions invite people into greater discussions. If you wait until next time you meet in the group, “they won’t recall what they posted on their IG stories,” she says, so it’s best to ask at the time that they’re posted.
5. Be intentional about personal time
Jonah recommends setting aside an extra hour during the week to catch up with someone, to see what they’ve been learning, what’s going on in their lives, and how you can pray for them. “Just do small talk during that hour. Nothing deeper,” Jonah says.
6. Affirm people
It’s important to affirm people who have done something well, overcome an obstacle, shown growth, or dealt with a major challenge, suggests Cheryl Boyd, Senior Digital Strategist with Cru. This comes easier when you’re face to face, but can be done if you’re intentional even while isolated.
7. Make relational deposits
One of the most important things is to be intentional in your communication. “When you’re at a distance, those relational connections take more intentionality than when you were able to see somebody or shake their hand or give them a hug,” Cheryl says. Look for ways to make relational deposits, to make it clear that you’re thinking about someone and are there for them.
8. Share "thought candy"
Jonah recommends sharing what she calls “thought candy,” something found on the Internet that reminds you of someone, applies to their situation, or is just something they would enjoy. “Tag them in something that led you to think about them,” she suggests. That can serve as a good reminder of something you have discussed or just show that they’re in your thoughts, which can be an encouragement in and of itself.
Previous articles have covered how to improve small group meetings during isolation and how to find a small group during isolation. For more tips, best practices, and inspiration about digital missions, be sure to join our email list.
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