During this pandemic, many pastors and small group leaders are feeling very much out of their comfort zones. These past months have been very different from what many of us have been doing in the past. There are certainly those amongst us who are looking towards getting back to what we had before. Our whole way of doing church was built on gathering in person in small and large groups.
What no longer works?
During this time there has been a few things we can’t do, such as large in-person meetings. For us, our in-person meetings were more of a gathering and so it was more natural to transition to a zoom meeting, where participants could still interact. For others who perhaps ran these more like an event with all the associated production, the transition may have moved them to recording and having a YouTube people could attend.
We are certainly missing our times of shared in-person meals.
For us however, smaller 2-and-3 person discipleship has continued, and even added to in number.
We are certainly feeling the detriment of no chit chat. No casual conversation.
What are we doing now?
There have been lots of new things that we are doing now, and some of these I am sure we will continue even when we get back to in-person gatherings and events. Some of these are:
Providing Teaching via podcasts and videos which also create a sense of connection even though we are not in person.
Some have provided weekly conversational discussions online – a chat group per say. These may unpack sermons after the service or provide some topical discussion.
Certainly, during a larger zoom gathering, having zoom breakout groups gives people opportunity to share their feelings. This is a bit like after church discussions.
Informal small gatherings in local parks of 2s and 3s to keep people connected. Even over the fence conversations, or connecting while walking around the block with the dog.
We have certainly learned that we need NO more zoom for kids. Children of all ages (and I think the immature among us as well), need the in-person connection to receive the invitation. Some groups have come up with other ideas such as dropping off a bag of crafts or books, these can work for a while with parent support. I know our children connect well with online YouTube entertainers, our youngest is inspired by many of the science-based YouTube channels. Our children certainly love to play in park, go camping, kayaking, walking, riding the scooter or bike, explore the beach. We can easily see our children need some sort of real connection with a person and then an invitation to explore their world. There are lots of opportunities near and far for all our children to explore their world and connect within our village.
We have also noted the importance of being kind to each other, especially during these times. Our emotions are messy because of all the changes and stress during this time, and a little grace and kindness goes a long way.
Many of us are exhausted, we need to recover our chit chat, and find ways to do that. We can see we also need to grow in our resiliency and endurance. This is an opportunity for the leaders in our villages engage and prime this maturation.
The most important observation from this time!
We are very polarized in our responses to the littlest of issues. I am just thinking now about the division over masks – to wear or not to wear? There is the distancing debate, the vaccinee debate and not even to mention the tensions over rational injustice or political debates.
This whole experience during this season has made us realise what we used to allow to be status quo, were our weakness. They are stopping us from being the village that we really need. For many of us, these issues have really shaken our foundation. Hopefully we see now we really need to address these things somehow, in some way!
In moving forward, some leaders are engaging the elephant in the room, and this is often exhausting. My wife and I certainly experienced the beginning stages as very difficult. It is hard to find that creativity, those ways to engage and innovate, thinking through “how do we have those conversations?” You want someone to write out here’s what to do. Here’s how to fix all of that.