Small groups have been an important part of Christian discipleship since the beginning of the Church, as a way to encourage each other, hold each other accountable, and help each other grow in their walk with Christ. During the prolonged isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have come to appreciate community more than ever before, but how can you join or form a small group while social distancing?
That was one of the topics discussed during the newest episode of Indigitous PULSE. For those who are regular attenders of a church, the answer is pretty simple. If you want to join a new group, check the church’s website. They may have listings of groups and you may be able to find one you want to join there. If not, reach out to the church. Send an email saying you would like to connect in a small group and don’t know how to get started.
But not everyone who wants to connect in Christ-centered community has a church home. Some are lapsed Christians who walked away from the church but now feel God calling them back. Some were more casual about church attendance and never really had a church home, but are now feeling a need for community. Some are new believers who have just come to Christ and don’t even know of a good church to attend. For any of those situations, the isolation of the pandemic creates new challenges for connecting in community, so I spoke with Cheryl Boyd, Senior Digital Strategist at Cru, and she offered some tips.
1. You’re not alone
“A felt need that everyone has is for connection,” Cheryl says. “Some people do have it and are experiencing it, but I guarantee you that there are people in your world who are not and are longing for it.”
Cheryl recommends taking the initiative to start your own group discussions. Reach out to some friends or people in your social circle and ask if they would be willing to start a group with you. It doesn’t need to be a formal group. You could start with short-term discussions on a single topic.
2. Invite for topical discussion
A friend of Cheryl’s recently posted on social media that she wants to read a book on social justice due to the current discussions and protests going on in the United States, so she offered an open invitation for people to join her to read and discuss the book together on a Zoom call. “I think you can be creative,” Cheryl says. “It can be on heavy topics that we’re all wrestling with right now that everyone’s paying attention to, but it can also be some lighter topics.” If you’re not sure what topics you’d like to discuss, brainstorm some potential connection ideas and pray to God for insight.
3. Use open invitations on social media
Once you have a topic that you want to discuss, simply put open invitations on social media to see who is interested in joining you. “If there are things that you’re interested in that you’re missing relational connection with, it’s a pretty low risk to put that out on social media or among some of your friends,” Cheryl says.
4. Use social listening
You are not the only one who is feeling a need for connection. Even before the pandemic, there have always been people around you who are lonely, depressed, frustrated, anxious, and stuck in their spiritual life. The pandemic and its resulting isolation has only worsened those conditions.
“When you’re connecting with friends or are on social media, you might see people who communicate a need. It’s a great opportunity to do social media listening,” Cheryl says. “Listen to what people are asking for, the questions they’re asking, the needs they might have, the hurts they might have.”