In March 2020, the physical/social distancing caused by COVID-19 began. Churches moved online, as did groups.
When summer began, some churches reopened worship. Most did not reopen groups at that time. But August and back-to-school time demonstrated that church members valued being together in groups, so more and more began meeting in person as they did in pre-COVID days.
And then COVID began to spike. Sometimes it spiked nationally after a holiday like Labor Day. Sometimes it spiked locally after a family reunion, or after a large number of people attended a sporting event sponsored by a school. But it spiked.
Now as we head into mid-November and the Thanksgiving holidays, more spikes are predicted.
If your Bible study group is meeting again, there is one thing you need to do so your group thrives during COVID-19: be flexible! Like my favorite childhood claymation character, Gumby, who is known for his flexibility, groups also need to be flexible.
My church’s Bible study groups reopened on campus in August when kids went back to school. Until recently, we’ve been spared the effects of COVID-19 in our church. Until recently. This past weekend, two adult groups did not meet because members were exposed to a COVID-positive person in their midst. 10-11 teenagers in our student group may have been exposed to COVID through school activities. There are even a few more adults who have tested positive for COVID within our congregation. It’s time for us to be “Gumby-like.” Your church may face the same challenge if it hasn’t already.
To ensure that your Bible teaching ministry is as Gumby-like as possible, consider doing these things:
- Take things week-by-week and be flexible. Although it is counter-intuitive, long-term planning may be 2 weeks out. Be a Gumby.
- Talk in general terms when you announce a COVID exposure. It is my church’s policy not to disclose the names of people who have contracted COVID. Last weekend I sent email and text messages to two groups because one of their members had inadvertently exposed them to COVID the previous Sunday. I simply told them, “You may have been exposed…please quarantine yourself.” I did not say, “So-and-so exposed your group to COVID.” I gave the group members only the critical information they needed.
- Act quickly, but not with panic. Within 30 minutes of my discovering the two COVID exposures I had informed the pastor plus group leaders and their group members. They were informed via email and text messaging. Phone calls were also made.
- As a group leader, brush up on your Zoom skills. Just because your group may have returned to the campus and you ended your Zoom Bible studies, don’t hang up your gloves just yet. Be ready to pivot back to a Zoom online Bible study format if your group cannot meet because of an exposure to COVID. Discipleship shouldn’t take a week off! Keep your group meeting, just shift back to online for a short time.
I’d love to hear what your church has done/is doing with on-campus groups and exposures to COVID. Share your wisdom with the rest of us so we can all listen and learn in these unprecedented times.