We’ve all heard the reports – COVID-19 has not peaked, and the President and the CDC predict it may not dissipate until mid to late summer. That’s just a guess for now, but it is changing our churches and our Bible study groups.
Many of us are working from home, avoiding contact with people, reducing travel, and making the washing of hands a top priority. Churches are canceling live Easter services in favor of online-only experiences. Groups are not meeting. Everyone is trying to go online.
The effects of isolation are going to grow as time goes by. People will become nervous, and worry and fear will increase. Feelings of isolation and disconnectedness will cause severe anxiety for some people. This is a time for our church’s Bible study leaders to step up. Big time.
A few years ago, David Francis and I co-authored a book we titled 3 Roles for Guiding Groups. The book presented three roles that group leaders have: Teacher, Shepherd, and Leader. Today is the day that all three roles are vitally needed in the church.
Because many groups are not meeting at their churches for the foreseeable future, staying connected relationally for the next 8 weeks or more is going to be vital to group health, and to the well-being of group members. This is no time for group leaders to take a break, but instead it is time for all of us who lead a group to double our efforts as teachers, shepherds, and leaders. Here are three key things group leaders can do, based on the three roles I’ve mentioned:
- TEACHER – Group leaders, it’s time to go online. Don’t let the technology intimidate you into doing nothing. Your people need to continue reading and studying God’s Word now more than ever. If your church is a smaller one, then one teacher could teach all adults simply by using FaceBook Live. For a more interactive experience, Zoom or Google Hangouts might be a better option. If you aren’t comfortable with this, ask for help. Don’t leave your people without a teacher! They need to hear and study God’s Word, and you can create that experience for them online. You can also teach via email – see my blog post from yesterday for some helpful ideas about how to use email to lead your group to study.
- SHEPHERD – Because members of your group will face anxieties, fears, feelings of isolation, and uncertainty about the future, this is your time to shine as a shepherd-teacher. Check in with your group via email or text…maybe even call some of the higher-risk people in the group whom you know will struggle during these days when the COVID-19 virus is accelerating in scope. Pray with members of your group over the phone, lead them to share prayer requests via email and encourage them to “reply all” so that the group can pray for its members. Offer to help any who are struggling or in need of basic necessities.
- LEADER – Group leader, by doing the two things above, you’re leading. Lead your group to stay connected during COVID-19. Lead your group to study God’s Word. Lead your group to interact online and to pray for one another. Not doing anything isn’t allowed – so please lead. Your people are counting on you. This may turn out to be one of the highest growth times for your groups in ways other than size. But do lead your group members to be on the alert for other adults who are not connected to a Bible study group, and lead them to invite others to become a part of your online community of believers.
I believe that the church is going to emerge on the other side of the COVID-19 outbreak in a stronger relationship with the Lord and people will emerge stronger relationally – if we act. There will be groups who don’t have group leaders that step up to teach, shepherd, and lead them – don’t let yours be one of them.
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