In the game of chess, the queen is the most powerful piece. Lose your queen, and you likely lose the game—unless you can unleash the pawns effectively. In the game of ministry, Sunday gathered worship has been our queen. COVID-19 has changed things considerably. While many visitors might check out our streamed worship, few of them will actually engage for the long haul without a plan. That plan depends in large part on how we release our pawns!
Micro-communities that target acute, felt needs are perhaps the best “pawn engagement” strategy for this COVID era. More and more people are comfortable with video conferencing as a meet-up option. Pair that with a possible community partnership and Facebook promotion, and you have a smart recipe for engaging and potentially keeping new people.
So here are some of the most common felt needs conducive for launching a micro-community online:
1. Employment transitions: Get a copy of Richard Bolles’ classic career change book “What Color is Your Parachute?” and use it to guide a group discussion. Ideally, partner with a career development specialist and promote through his or her networks.
2. Homeschooling support: Some parents are doing much better at this than others, and the group could be a huge support for those navigating this difficult new task. Partner with someone in the field of education to up the insights.
3. Marriage strengthening: Many are observing that couples are struggling and seeking counseling as conflict in the home is on the rise. Teaching couples communication and conflict resolution skills is a hot topic. Partner with a marriage counselor to add value.
4. Recovery support: The profound social isolation that we are experiencing poses challenges for people who are vulnerable to addictions. This is an excellent time to consider starting a 12-step group. Check with local recovery leaders for a resource person.
5. Meet-up fun: People living on their own and otherwise isolated are on our minds these days. The good news is that there are many fun ways to sponsor “online” groups: games, happy hours, and dance parties are just a few ways to help people meet-up and connect.
6. Grief and loss: This is a common thread that runs through so much of our human experience: lost job, lost business, lost relationship, lost graduation. Partner with a grief counselor to start a group that delves into this important topic.
Sound like too much? Imagine the deployment of your church’s laity in starting these micro-communities. Keep sessions under an hour and at least weekly, and have participants invite their friends. Now is the best time to engage new people in areas of great need!
Rev. Ben Ingebretson is director of new church development for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church