Reaching the formerly reached in COVID-19

It’s almost October, and Bible study groups are beginning to meet again. This is good news for the church, but group leaders are finding that in some cases their groups are not returning at full strength. This is understandable because:

  1. Some people are choosing not to return just yet because either they or someone in their household are in a high-risk group for getting the COVID-19.
  2. Some people got out of the habit of meeting with their group during COVID-19, and they are going to have to re-learn the healthy habit of meeting weekly with their group.
  3. Some group’s meeting spaces do not allow for physical distancing and group members are reticent about being crowded together in a small space.

Group leaders and their groups are going to have to work a little harder to reach “the formerly reached” – the members of their groups who have not returned yet. How will we do this? Probably the old-fashioned way:

  • Group leaders will have to schedule time to visit absentee group members. I know it’s an old-fashioned notion to make a quick visit to someone at their house, but chronic absentees need an extra nudge and encouragement to rejoin their groups for Bible study. I recommend “porch visits” – simple, fast, and non-intrusive. Your goal isn’t to get into the home for an hour-long conversation. You can communicate with and pray for the person (and their family) in a short 2-3 minute catch-up on the front steps.
  • Group leaders will want to lead their group members to connect with the absent members among them. The group leader isn’t in this alone – it’s everyone’s responsibility to show concern toward absent group members. If you’re a group leader, don’t succumb to feelings that you’re in this alone – you’re not. Call on your group members to help you quickly reach out to your absent, yet-to-turn group members.
  • Groups should consider having a fellowship or “ministry moment.” My group has done this, and we had a great turnout. You can meet outside and practice physical distancing (’tis the season for cooler weather, cookouts, campouts, and firepits).
  • Groups leaders should continue to put Personal Study Guides into every group member’s hands. Mail them, deliver them, but get them into your absentee’s hands. Even though they may not meet with your group, the Personal Study Guide ensures that they can keep up with your group’s study plan even if they are not meeting with you.
  • Groups should consider using Zoom – again. Perhaps your group used Zoom before it returned to the church campus (and let’s be honest – some groups just tolerated it as a temporary fix!). As your group returns to the church campus, consider broadcasting your study on Zoom (2 groups at my church are doing this and have people joining them every week). Until those people feel comfortable coming back, Zoom can help you keep them connected.

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