Life Groups and Social Distancing

Life Groups and Social Distancing – a note from Mike Fisk
As Tim mentioned yesterday with his letter to the congregation, we want to try and figure out a way for us to still meet together as Life Groups. COVID-19 isolation has made small groups more important than ever. Small groups are vital for spiritual growth and making progress toward our vision. They work to get us connected, build community, and together become like Jesus. COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we do life and thus changes the way we do small groups. Here is a guide for a thriving Life Group ministry for this season of social distancing.

How do we meet?

The first question is how do we meet? That’s tricky, and there isn’t a perfect solution. Nothing can replace actually getting together and meeting, but we have come up with a few online conference call options that will help. You can research and figure out what system or program works best for you and your small group, but here are a few great resources that I would recommend.
Google Hangouts – Google Hangouts is simple and free. It allows for groups up to 25 people (for those whose “small groups” aren’t very small), you can set up a meeting in your google calendar, and it’s great for video conferencing and messaging. I’ve used Google Hangouts for all sorts of meetings over the years and I love it.
Facetime – If the members of your group all happen to have Apple devices, Facetime is a fairly easy way to video connect.
Zoom – We now use Zoom for our staff and consistory meetings, and Beth and Brian are using it to connect with the kids/students. It’s fairly easy to use and instructions can be found at their website. There is a downside in that the free subscription limits meetings to 40 minutes. The Pro subscription that allows for meetings more than 40 minutes costs $14.99 per month and can be a good option for those who may already have this account/subscription.
None of these options are perfect. There can be moments when your internet connection is poor and things get choppy, making it hard to carry on a discussion. The apps can crash, and it might seem awkward at first trying to meet over your phone or laptop. These are weird times and we all need to make adjustments in this new environment for sake of discipling each other. We can do this!

What to study?

What we study is a vital part of our times together. It is all too easy for small groups to become social clubs. When we gather merely to hang out, have fun, and socialize, we can miss out on God’s will for us to become more and more like Christ. Many of you have been doing a study and discussion in follow-up to the sermons. We are still providing sermon study guides and that would continue to work well. Our website provides essential Life Group info with a list of recommended resources. And then below as well are some great resources (many are free) to study individually or together as a group. Ligonier, The Gospel Coalition, and ThirdMill also offer quality free phone apps.
Ligonier – The first resource is Ligonier. If you follow the link to their teaching series, it will give you pages upon pages of great, free resources. You will find series on Reformed Theology, the Providence of God, the Basics of the Christian Life, the Beatitudes, and many more. Personally, I love Ligonier, and have found their resources to be extremely beneficial in my walk with Christ. I would strongly encourage taking a look at Ligonier’s resources.
The Gospel Coalition – The second resource I want to share with you is The Gospel Coalition (TGC), especially their free online courses page. This page gives you links to courses on Christian Foundations, Biblical Theology, studies on the Books of the Bible, Biblical Doctrines, Practical Theology, and tons more. TGC is an excellent resource that pools together great pastors and teachers from around the world such as Tim Keller, Kevin DeYoung, John Piper, David Platt, Matt Chandler, and more, all in one place to ensure that everything from their website is theologically sound and trustworthy.
Other sites that provide quality, gospel-centered resources for your individual and group study include:
Normally, this might be a season where your Life Group would be thinking about winding down as we move into spring. But our current circumstances make this a season in which we have more need to connect and more time to meaningfully study. So let’s seize this opportunity that God is providing! While most Life Groups had been meeting every other week, perhaps weekly would be best for this season. If you aren’t currently involved in a small group, feel free to email myself, Laura, or Tim and we will try our best to get you connected with some others looking for a group. I also want to encourage those with older kids living at home to join in on these small group discussions. This is a great way for parents to show their kids how to be involved in discipleship! Grow with your kids, let them see your passion for God, his Word, and the pursuit of becoming more like Christ.

What is our structure?

As we move forward with these virtual small groups, intentional focus is essential and so use the three elements below as a guide for your gatherings:
Fellowship and Care for One Another – COVID-19 makes our fellowship, getting to know one another, and caring for one another more important than ever. There are burdens, anxieties, fears, stories, struggles, and celebrations of God’s grace that we need to share. And so you are encouraged to take time to report in and ask each other how you are REALLY doing. How are you seeing God at work through this time? What have been your greatest challenges or fears?
Study and Discussion – Take the time to discuss the topic/materials with personal application. The serious investment of preparation, reading (or previewing the video), and study throughout the week yields a harvest for your time and growth together.
Prayer – Budget a significant time for prayer that has real depth and meaning. Share praises, struggles, confess sin, and write down other’s prayer concerns. Some helpful questions could include…
  • How are you doing in your love for Jesus?
      • What are you studying in Scripture?
      • How’s your prayer life?
      • What books/devotionals are you reading?
  • How are you loving your spouse?
  • How are you loving your kids?
  • How can we pray for you?
All of this certainly requires adjustments and a commitment. But we know that God is in control of all of this and through our obedience, he will do a good work in and through us – for his glory. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Mike Fisk

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