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5 Ways to Lead Well In A World of Virtual Gatherings

The dust has only begun to settle from the first months of this pandemic. Some churches have media teams that have excelled at creating online worship experiences. Others have but a few staff members who feel overwhelmed trying to minister to their community from a distance.

Due to government-ordered quarantines and social distancing, many ministry teams are now fluent in resources like Zoom, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams, and other video chatrooms. But maybe your head is spinning from researching or testing the best ways to encourage and equip your people during this time.

A friend recently reminded me of this truth: no one was prepared for this. As a result, we’re all doing the best we can with what we have.

Regardless of the resources or the unique ministry context, we are all working to fulfill two primary purposes: share the Gospel and stay connected with our people. As God’s children, we should champion grace, foster creativity, and not take this day for granted.

So, what can we do to lead well in a world of virtual gatherings? Here are five practical ways to excel in this brave new world.

1. Simplify content

Keep your messages and communication simple! Rather than bogging down inboxes, consider ways to build up leaders each week. Truth is needed now more than ever.

    • What is the strength of your church? Leverage your strengths to maximize your opportunities. Limit the time spent on your weaknesses. A pandemic isn’t likely the best time to fix issues your church has struggled with for years.
    • How can you streamline communication in your church? Work together to share what’s most important each week, considering both the quantity and quality of the message. Collaboration is a key component in streamlining content!

Possible Examples:

  • Consolidate emails whenever possible. Instead of sending ten emails from each ministry, combine your church’s most important content into one or two emails.
  • Trim the length of your online worship service. Don’t assume the attention spans of your families will remain the same while watching in their living room.
  • Stick to your worship team’s strengths. Your church is likely relying on a smaller crew to lead and produce quality worship opportunities for families in your church.

2. Emphasize connection

Prioritize your people while using your various platforms. Seek out the best ways to connect with individuals in your group. Leaders should listen and learn how those within his or her small group communicate most effectively.

What is the best method of communication for each individual? Some people are good with text only, while others prefer a phone call or FaceTime. While quarantined, many are longing for stronger connections rather than better content.

Discover what methods are most effective. You may be a social media mogul, but how do your people know you care about them?

    • Are virtual gatherings possible? Try to schedule a meeting that works for most in your group. For children and teens, be sure to communicate all details and safety measures to parents to maintain accountability and encourage participation.
    • Who is hurting? Encourage leaders to check on individual members. People are more likely to share a need or concern in one-on-one conversations rather than a group discussion. Has someone been absent or silent during the last few weeks? Don’t assume they are okay! Seek to provide some form of encouragement.

Possible Examples:

  • Whenever possible, be direct with your method of communication (e.g., make a phone call instead of merely texting).
  • Help your kids and teens experience face-to-face interaction via screens. Don’t neglect the opportunity to encourage parents, as well (e.g., Family Trivia Night, Parent-to-Parent chats).
  • Create a digital form for people to submit: (1) needs as they experience or learn of them, and (2) opportunities for individuals to serve others and meet needs in your community.

3. Champion creativity

Think outside the box (and the walls of your church building). Celebrate ways you’ve seen others making an impact in your community. Encourage leaders to explore ways to leverage their gifts, time, & ideas to impact others.

    • In what ways have you seen others share hope or light? Don’t underestimate how impactful small and simple loving acts of service can be. You don’t have to break your budget. Leverage the resources and skills you have on hand.    
    • Ask your people: How could we encourage you and your neighbors? Your church members may be learning their neighbors’ names and needs for the first time. What a ministry opportunity! What can you learn about your community during this quarantine?

Possible Examples:

4. Shrink the circle 

Don’t doubt the impact of your small group. If your virtual gathering is in the double digits, though, you might consider ways to meet in smaller groups.

    • How can your group meet in smaller groups? A recent chat I joined had 20 people in attendance. We quickly realized, as many of you have, that discussion doesn’t flow as naturally via screens as it does in person. Personal conversation are more likely to happen with fewer than five people on a call.
    • What new groups should be created during this time? Large group gatherings are beneficial, and many groups are reaching new people during this pandemic. It’s also important, though, to meet in smaller groups for more personal communication and to allow guests to connect, as well.

Possible examples:

  • For Co-Ed groups, try hosting a separate gathering just for guys/girls.
  • In larger cities, consider gathering families by communities and inviting unchurched neighbors to connect virtually. 
  • For ministry teams, consider how you can connect to encourage each other. Leadership can feel lonely at times. Make sure your leaders don’t feel like they’re serving on an island while in quarantine.    

5. Point to Christ

Remind your leaders and members why we can rejoice even while we endure hardship. In Jesus, we have the perfect example to run our race with excellence.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1b-3, NIV).

    • How has God spoken to and inspired you? Encourage your church family by reminding them that you’re in the same battle as they are, fully reliant upon God to meet your every need. Don’t hesitate to share your struggles, and how the Lord is both teaching you and providing for you.
    • How can you share the Word of God clearly and boldly? People are searching for hope and begging for answers. May we cling to His Word and faithfully proclaim all the promises found in Scripture.

I love the prayer in Psalm 73, which says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26, NIV).

Possible Examples:

  • Show it – email Scripture to your group on how to defeat worry by recalling all of God’s promises. Post a verse on your social media timeline or driveway. One teen in Alabama has used sidewalk chalk to draw Disney characters every week with Bible verses written beneath each one. 
  • Say it – call those in your group and share a verse you are praying for them. Write a letter and send it to someone in your group. Don’t underestimate the power of spoken and written words to encourage those in your ministry.
  • Live it – A leader once reminded me that we live every day what we genuinely believe. Everything else is just religious talk. While we live in difficult times, may our lives demonstrate a genuine faith and a Christ-like love.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion,  “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7, NIV) What has worked well for your church and small group ministry? We’d love to hear from you! We exist to encourage and equip leaders all across the globe.

We’re praying for you and asking the Lord to remind you just how precious you are to Him. What you do makes a difference. Thank you for loving and leading families well during this pandemic!


Nick Mobley has served in student ministry for 20 years and currently serves as Family Pastor at Northside Baptist in middle TN. His passion is helping families show and share their faith from house to house. He and his wife Courtney have 3 children, Samuel, Sophia, & Asa. They love ice cream, the outdoors, and think that Dauphin Island, Alabama, is one of the coolest places to spend a vacation.

For more on leading well:

Why Should Small Group Leaders Care About Parents?

 Top Three Mistakes Small Group Leaders Make

Why Leaders, Directors, and Ministers Need To Be Organized

How to Care for Your Wounds and Hurts in Ministry

Need more on training and volunteers? 

The Ministry Volunteer Kit is a build-your-own kit that includes all the files you need to produce four safety documents for your ministry professionally: Safety Guidelines for Volunteers, Student Ministry Expectations, Ministry Volunteer Application, and Background Check Application. Use the extra time you might have now to get all the administrative stuff done that you’ve been putting off. Everything is “done for you”, saving you countless hours of time.

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