Image: FreeImages.com/Valeria Moreiro
When you see the words “love” and “connections” together you may think of the old dating game show hosted by Chuck Woolery, Love Connection. To be clear, this article is not about making more dating relationships in your church. It is, however, about the deep need church members have to be loved and connected in community. Jesus clearly commanded us to love one another (John 13:34). We can’t truly love each other if we are not connected. One of the many negative effects of Covid-19 on the church has been not gathering as we used to, leaving many of our members feeling isolated. Church leaders will need to address this challenge in 2021. So, I would like to highlight this need and suggest one way for people to better experience Jesus’ command to love one another this year.
In the past, most of our efforts to connect people in fellowship was at the church facility. This was often before or after worship on Sunday morning. There’s nothing wrong with that as it often worked. In addition, many others organized weeknight programs like Wednesday night discipleship teaching and small groups, usually also at the church facility. But now, with restrictions on gatherings or people’s unwillingness to meet due to COVID concerns, what do we do? Fellowship isn’t optional. Waiting for all this to pass might have been feasible six months ago, but now waiting doesn’t seem wise.
Peoples’ need to be loved and connected is too important to simply hope for the end of this season. Though hope is a wonderful thing, it isn’t a strategy. Hebrews 10:24-25 does not stop being applicable because Covid-19 came along. It says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Whether you totally agree with social distancing and mask mandates, or you think they’re an overblown, politically motivated reaction, the reality on the ground is what it is. Whatever the reasons behind our situation, it still begs the question, “How can we adapt and discover new ways to connect in this season, even if it’s just for this season?”
We’re all familiar with small groups, but what about organizing your people into even smaller small groups, or micro-groups, of 3-5? They could meet weekly or bi-weekly in homes or even in different rooms throughout your church facility. I can hear you thinking, “Yeah, right, I could never get that many people to lead all these groups.” Fair enough. Raising up small group leaders in the best of times is hard. I get it. But what if you don’t raise up “leaders” but rather just “facilitators” which feels more doable for most people? All they’d be asked to do is host and facilitate a group made up of people they would probably get together with anyway.
Now I can hear you thinking, “Okay maybe, but figuring out what all these groups would do and study sounds like an administrative nightmare.” Again, fair enough. It could be. But what if you simply created two or three questions based on the previous Sunday’s sermon to have the facilitator ask each time? Since everyone in the church can hear the sermon either in person, live, or on a recording later, it would provide a unified theme everyone could connect to. Questions that simply take people deeper into the text and its application would be easy for a facilitator to ask. The preacher would have already provided the content. After sharing, the facilitator could then ask for prayer requests and have a time of prayer for one another, either informally or liturgically, depending on the preferences of the group. Nearly every member in your congregation could do that! Your folks would feel safe and provided for, and they would grow in knowledge, practice and, in some cases, new leaders would emerge. You could try this for the six weeks of Lent, or Easter season if you already have Lent planned out. If it works, great. If not, at least you tried something rather than having waited for things to go back to the way they were.
In my quiet time this week, I was finishing the book of Colossians. As I read through Paul’s final greetings in chapter four, verse 15 jumped out at me: “Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house”(Colossians 4:15 NIV). I’ve long known that the early church typically met in homes. We read about the first small groups in homes right after Pentecost in Acts 2:46: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” The church meeting in large gatherings for worship and smaller gatherings for fellowship is nothing new, but it reminded me how good and biblical it is for people to experience love for each other outside of Sunday morning worship. Thank God for those who, like Nympha, are willing to host smaller gatherings of the church!
As you work on navigating this season, please feel free to reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like someone to help you think creatively about your situation. I’d also love to hear your ideas about how to adapt what we do in 2021 so that I can pass them along! May God bless you as you lead your church in making more love connections in these challenging times.