Today’s blog post comes from an email conversation I recently had with Eric Eggers. He is the Executive Pastor for Education Ministries at North Metro Baptist Church. He very wisely wants to encourage Care Groups and Care Group leaders to reach out and care for the people in those small sub-groups of his classes. Before we think of some practical ways that Care Groups should care for, connect with, and help keep people during COVID-19, let’s get on some common ground.
What are Care Groups?
Care Groups are small groups within a group. They are a place for group members to go deeper in their relationships and ministry to and with each other. Here is what Ken Hemphill says about Care Groups in his book Revitalizing the Sunday Morning Dinosaur: “A care group is simply a grouping of people for the expressed purpose of making regular contacts for prayer, communication, and the discovery and meeting of needs” (Revitalizing the Sunday Morning Dinosaur, page 123). That sums it up well!
What do Care Groups do?
Care Groups care. That’s it. It’s a way that some Bible study groups have chosen to make sure that every person (not just regular attenders) are cared for at all times. A Care Group leader encourages his or her smaller group to pray for one another, and to meet each other’s needs in practical ways.
How many people should be in a Care Group?
I believe the right size for a Care Group is 6 to 8 people. In some groups that would mean each group has 4 couples, or a mixture of couples and singles, depending upon the makeup of the group.
When do Care Groups meet?
Some Bible study groups allow time in each Bible study session for Care Groups to get together and pray, talk, and plan for ministry. Sometimes a Care Group will plan a monthly or quarterly fellowship time, and still others also plan for a time when this smaller sub-group does ministry in the community or for one another.
Who is best suited to be a Care Group leader?
Anyone who has a shepherd’s heart and a desire to see people cared for is a good fit. If the person is also organized, that’s a plus!
How frequently should a Care Group leader connect with his/her members?
Ideally, a Care Group leader meets with his/her people each week. That may be done in person, on the phone, or via Zoom or another online tool. Regularity is important.
How do you decide who is in a Care Group?
I believe it is best to set a size limit of 8 people per group. There should be a mixture of regular attenders, people that attend occasionally, and some people who are “AWOL.” Each group needs a balance so that a Care Group leader doesn’t have anyone to meet with, while the other Care Group leaders get all of the “regulars.”
Now that we have an understanding about the basics of Care Group leadership, let’s think about Eric Egger’s desire to see the Care Groups at his church excel in caring for people. What a great goal! Even though our groups, or many of our groups, are not meeting in person yet, here are some ways that Care Groups can “hold down the fort” while we wait with anticipation for our groups to begin meeting in person again:
- Contact every person, every week. This is the heart of the work of a Care Group leader. Every person in the Care Group should receive a phone call, an email, a text, or some combination of them. Do this for group members who were a part of the larger Bible study group meeting. And do this for every member who is absent.
- If you discover a need, meet it. This is also crucial in the life of a Care Group. As you discover needs among your people, mobilize the rest of the group to meet those needs. You may be surprised how excited and eager people will be to help their fellow Care Group members.
- Have dinner together via Zoom. Even though your Bible study group may not be meeting in person, there is no reason you couldn’t enjoy a meal together – via Zoom. Ask people to talk about what they chose to eat and why. Group members will enjoy the “people time” as much as they will enjoy eating a meal together. Just because you are physically apart doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Make Zoom work for you!
- Schedule a ministry project. It’s easier to mobilize a smaller group of adults into action, so watch for opportunities to meet each other’s needs, and the needs of others in the community. COVID-19 may have wreaked havoc, but it’s time to fight back. Working in a person’s yard, garage, flowerbed, or the front yard of a school will give your group a way to share Jesus’ love in a practical, tangible way. Your church may also have some projects that need to be accomplished before you reopen for worship or Bible study.
- Use Zoom breakout rooms more than you do. If you are a leader of a Bible study group and everyone calls you “teacher,” use the Zoom breakout rooms feature to your advantage. After you are through guiding the Bible study, assign people in your online meeting to a breakout room by Care Group! They can discuss the lesson, pray for one another, and plan their next fellowships and ministry projects.
- Provide a mid-week check-in each week. There’s no reason that you couldn’t or shouldn’t have a short check-in time during the week, especially if your Bible study group is meeting on Sunday. A time for sharing, praying, and relating is a welcome diversion from the routines of the week.
- Recognize special days and events. Care Group leaders should remember people’s special days – birthdays, anniversaries, and even difficult days such as the day a group member’s child or parent died. Care Group leaders also encourage group members when they celebrate something great that happened to a care group member, such as a job promotion or a recognition received in their workplace.
One final detail to consider in your Care Group ministry: will you have couples in groups, or will you arrange your group’s members by sex? There are advantages to arranging care groups by gender. One benefit is that you don’t put men in the awkward position of calling women, and vice versa.