WHY ON LINE SMALL GROUPS CHURCH IS A GREAT OPTION

Nickey Gumbel, vicar (pastor) at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, recently recorded a podcast with Canadian Pastor and thought leader Carey Nieuwhof. Gumbel developed the world-famous Alpha Courses and has decades of experience with in-person small groups. Like so many, he never considered online groups as a viable option and only transitioned his church’s small groups to online when forced by the coronavirus pandemic. A few short months later, he is a true believer in online groups and their advantages. You can listen to the whole podcast here. (He starts talking about online groups around 29:55).

According to Gumbel, here are nine ways that online groups are actually better than in-person groups:

Zoom meeting with twelve people

1. Everyone is more relaxed. Think about it: instead of walking into a strange environment, everyone is sitting in their favorite chair at home, they’ve got their coffee or tea (or whatever) fixed just the way they want, and they’re in their comfortable clothes. All of this puts a person at ease, leading to better discussion.

2. Everyone is in their own home. For most, home is a place of solace, and it’s much more inviting to join a group while at home. Some actually have a reluctance to walk into a church building or someone else’s home, so this can be an incredible advantage.

3. Travel time is cut down. This isn’t as big of an issue in smaller towns where distances are reduced, but in larger urban environments, travel time can be a groups killer. For instance, the average commute time where I live (Northern Virginia) is about an hour each way. Adding another meeting with travel time on top of that can be a huge hindrance. Online groups eliminates the travel time.

4. The total meeting time is shortened and cost reduced. Because travel time is eliminated, the total meeting time is shortened, making it easier for people to commit to a group. Cost of Zoom for each group, max $20 a month.

5. Childcare becomes so much easier. Unless your small group meets on Sunday morning at church when children’s activities are going on, childcare for young families can be a deal breaker for in-person groups. Gumbel shared about a single mom that was able to join an online group precisely because it was online and she didn’t have to try and arrange childcare for her kids.

6. The conversation flows better because everyone knows each other’s names. Even in groups that have met for awhile, people aren’t confident that they know everyone’s names. This can lead to reduced interaction out of fear of getting someone’s name wrong. When you’re on an online group meeting like Zoom, everyone’s name appears by their screen. As simple as that sounds, this is actually a big deal. Everyone knows everyone’s name!

7. There’s an easier out if you don’t like the group. People like to have an exit strategy before they try something new (like a small group). Think about the hurdles facing someone debating whether or not to try out a small group for the first time: they’re walking into an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. If they don’t like the group, they’re stuck there at least for the rest of the meeting, longer if they feel a social obligation to continue. With online meetings, there’s an easier out: just get off the call. This easier out actually incentivizes people to try something new.

8. People tend to be more open online than in person. Call this the social media effect. Have you ever noticed how people tend to share more openly (even when they shouldn’t) online? It’s as if the screen gives them a sense of transparency where they can share how they really feel. This works for online small groups as well. Gumbel shared in his podcast interview that after leading in-person groups for decades, he was shocked at just how quickly his new online group shared and how quickly they went deep.

9. Group dropout rates are reduced. A final positive aspect that Gumbel noted was that in his short time leading online groups, the dropout rates seem to have reduced. In any in-person group you start, the number you start with is hardly ever the number you finish with. It’s too easy for people to talk themselves out of getting dressed up, getting back in their car after a long day’s work to go to small group. If you’re not feeling well, if you’re got a lot to do, if childcare falls through (or any number of other things), you miss the group. With an online group, people tend to stick longer, leading to reduced dropout rates.

Article by Josh Daffern in Patheos (www.patheos.com) 9 Reasons Why Online Groups May Actually Be Better than In-Person Small Groups.

God is in control of all events in His world. Covid 19 did not take Him by surprise so we need to ask what is God doing and how can we get in step with Him. We are meant to be overcomers and game changers. We know that in the last days, church will be as it was in the Book of Acts, all believers involved in the Great Commission. As Nickey Gumbel has found Zoom Home Group meetings work so let us learn from his experience.

HOW TO HELP CHURCH HOME GROUPS THRIVE

What to look for when evaluating church home groups. Here are six problems that have been observed with suggestions for correction.

1. Unclear purpose. Some groups are designed for outreach, with members inviting others to join. However, others are more closed, with members focused on their own problems with a Bible study tacked on. Many groups, though, do not know their primary purpose. Members struggle, not knowing if they should bare their soul to others, invite the unchurched or both.

Correction: The primary purpose must be about making disciples of Christ that want to share the Gospel with others. All other essential activities should have that primary purpose in mind, whether communion, praise, prayer, Bible study, and testimonies.

2. Bad leading and/or teaching. This is significant problem that must be addressed. I believe each member of the group must have a Biblical World View that they can share.

Correction: Enlist teachers that believe the Bible is inerrant. The following basic knowledge is essential.

Proof the Bible is inerrant are the many fulfilled prophecies. The many unfulfilled prophecies provide a road map for the rest of HIS STORY.

Genesis is a true account of the creation of the Cosmos, The Fall and Noah’s Flood. Understanding Noah’s Worldwide Flood provides an answer for the alleged billions of years of earth’s history is essential. http://www.creation.com

God established the nations at the Tower of Babel.

God established Israel to be His nation as a witness to other nations. Israel’s Messiah, Jesus, came to earth to provide the only way for sinners to come back into a right relationship with our Heavenly Father (“He became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinth. 5:21). Israel rejected Him and were scattered for a time.

Jesus established the church as His vehicle for believers to preach the Gospel to all the world. Prior to Jesus return, there will be a tribulation period when Jesus refines His church before taking His saints to heaven (dead in Christ first then those that are alive) in the Rapture and then pouring out His wrath on the earth (on unrepentant sinners).

Jesus returns to this earth with the resurrected saints, saves a regathered Israel and rules and reigns from Jerusalem for 1000 years. (Satan is bound in the abyss during most of this time but is released at the end and sadly is still able to raise an army to come against King Jesus). He is defeated and this earth is destroyed with fire prior to the second resurrection and the White Throne Judgement.

After the White Throne Judgement, sinners are cast into the Lake of Fire where Satan and His Demons are. For humans this is the second death. God creates a new earth and even a new heaven for His saints to live in, where they enjoy eternal life, creatively engaged, in a glorious new body.

3. Little or no Scripture. Too often attended hour-long Bible studies that included no more than 15-20 minutes of actual Bible study.

Correction: Enlist the best teachers, and make sure they know the expectations. They are responsible for making sure the Bible is taught. Leaders who cannot lead a group to maintain this standard should not be leading.

4. Unfriendly members. A lot of groups say they’re friendly, but are not welcoming of new members. Typically, groups that see themselves as friendly are friendly only to people they know.

Correction: Train members to reach out to people they don’t know. You might even enlist one sociable group member who is first responsible for greeting guests.

5. Not expecting guests. The intent of the group must be outwardly focused. Here are some signs this is not the case: No available seats. No extra curriculum materials. No one ready to get contact information. No one providing or wearing name tags. No one helping guests know where to go after the class. Simply put: A guest who feels like an intrusion will not return.

Correction: Make sure the leader is outwardly focused. Remind the group weekly of their responsibility to invite others. Schedule other activities to which the unchurched might come. Get everything ready for guests who might attend the regular small group meeting. Expect God to bless your preparations.

6. Gossip sessions. All members must be encouraged to be actively engaged in each meeting whether conducting communion, praise, worship, prayer or giving a testimony. Avoid this scenario, in the name, of “prayer requests,” somebody shares information that should likely be kept in smaller circles. The request then becomes a launching pad for talking about somebody else’s problems.

Correction: Enlist a group prayer leader who gently controls the prayer request times. Provide other opportunities to share concerns without gossiping about others.