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How to be a Small Group Leader When Church is Cancelled

Gina Abbas
Gina Abbas Thursday March 26, 2020
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Remember the good old days when you could grab a bag of Doritos (cool-ranch fans, anyone?) and pass the open bag around your small group to munch on? Living dangerously and diving in with unwashed hands and all.

Now we find ourselves living in a new reality of social distancing where you can’t share a high five or a table at a restaurant. You might not have the weekly gathering in a building like you used to, but you still have a small group of students who need encouragement and connection when everything about their world has changed.

Here are five ways to (still) be a small group leader amid Covid-19.

1. Daily Devotionals

Check out Bible.com to pick a devo plan to do together. The app makes it super easy to send an invite link to your small group. You can stay connected while diving into scripture together.

With Easter just around the corner, check out Undefeated (for middle schoolers) and Happy Easter (for high schoolers).

2. High/Low/Buffalo

One of my small group leaders does hi/low/buffalo every week with her small group, and it’s my new favorite thing.

  • High is what’s good (or happy).
  • Low is what’s not so good (or crappy if your mama approves of that kind of language).
  • Buffalo is something random.

Whether you connect over Marco Polo, Snapchat, or send a quick text, the Hi/Low/Buffalo is the way to go!

3.You agreed to be a small group leader, not an online media mogul

I don’t know who needs to hear this. But let’s pretend the internet died for a minute. I’m the mom of a teenage boy. So it would be tragic.

Do you know what made my son’s list of good things that happened today? “My teacher called me to see how I was doing.” He didn’t say Xbox.

Hold the phone. Actually, hold it. Dial it. And check-in. It will mean more to your students (and their mamas who will adore you for it) than you can imagine.

4. Host a virtual small group if you want to

Whether it’s a Zoom call, Google Hangout, or showing up for a “virtual” night of student programming hosted by your student ministry, there are tons of ways to pull off an online small group.

And if you have no idea how to host an online group, chances are your students do! Because it’s not new technology for them. They’ve figured it out. When they were five.

5. Remember the big deal days

Students might be feeling forgotten, sad, or overlooked when the whole world is shut down on their special day. The big deal events they had written on their calendars.

Ask, listen, and look for ways to acknowledge birthdays, AP Exam test days, Prom, field trips, those braces that were going to get removed, sports banquets, performances, recitals, college visits, spring break plans, and whatever else may have been cancelled or changed from what it was before.

You don’t need to plan a party for one, but a simple text or card in the mail or door dash pizza delivery could be just the pick me up they need.

Social distancing might have altered the weekly rhythm you had with your small group, but it hasn’t changed the important role you have in their life. Students need you to be there for them, now maybe even more than ever. Look for ways to step in and step closer even when it’s from a distance.

Gina Abbas, has been hanging out with middle schoolers since the year Mulan hit the movie theaters. She is the author of the book, A Woman in Youth Ministry. Gina does student ministry at Harbor Churches, a multi-site church in the greater Grand Rapids area.