by Mary Frances, FaithX Senior Consultant
Online Small Groups
This post is part of a blog series on
“Keeping Congregations Connected in the Face of COVID-19”
Click here for the previous post
I was chatting with a good friend the other day. She’s a pastor; retired for about a year now after serving a very long pastorate. In her retirement, she has been trying to find her way in a new congregation…as a participant, as a member. Of course, she’d been at this new church for several months before the pandemic, but that is not even a drop in the bucket compared to the majority of members who have been there for decades—many, many decades. And now the congregation is not only holding worship online but also the highly-revered small group, “coffee hour.” Everyone comes to Zoom with their own home brew and pastry and the fellowship begins. Or does it?
If you have ever been a visitor at a church and wanted to bolt for the door during coffee hour, you may have an idea what I am talking about. Bad coffee, too much sugary food, and too many cliques—lots and lots of cliques. Often, the longer people have been at a church the more they feel entitled to tune out visitors and use Sunday morning to catch up with their friends, and now we have moved this online. Putting everyone in your church into one big Zoom call and letting the conversation rip is not going to feel inclusive, considerate, or welcoming. Even for the most experienced Zoom users, Zoom can lend a sense of awkwardness to a conversation. Only one person can speak at a time while everyone else watches. People often hesitate in response because they aren’t sure if it’s their turn, so the chance to chime in is lost if you are at all meek. If the group is large, then most people are watching just a few people have a conversation. What happens to the introverts? Will they even show up for this virtual fellowship? How will visitors navigate this? Is this an improvement on our in-person fellowship? I am afraid not.
So then what is an online congregation and an online small group to do? How do we help people engage in fellowship in this modern COVID-19 world? Do not lose hope, there are two things that can help:
Zoom rooms and online small groups.[Read more…]