Help with Virtual Small Groups

Galilee Small Group Leaders:

In these uncertain times, please know that all of our Galilee staff and Pastors are praying for you and your families. I want to keep you up to date on where we stand concerning the meeting of Galilee Small Groups.
Earlier this month Bishop Sharma Lewis issued the following guidance to Virginia UMC Congregations:
•  In-person worship services are canceled
•  Churches that remain open as necessary to attend to business have no groups over 10 meeting
•  Preschools closed 
As such, small groups will NOT be meeting in person at Galilee Church during this time period. Please note that this time period may be extended and we will keep you posted as we are informed.
However, that does not mean that your small groups needs to stop meeting together. At Galilee, we’re encouraging small group leaders to consider continuing your group in a virtual format. 
There are many resources available and the Arlington/Alexandria Bi-District Office has published a great “Digital Resources Guide” for churches that you can access by clicking here
I’ll highlight two that I’ve used with success:
  • Facebook:  If you and your group members are Facebook users, this can be an excellent way to connect.  I piloted an online small group study in the fall of 2019 with 12 women. We formed a private Facebook group, watched a video (provided through a link) weekly and read the study guide.  Each Thursday, I would post questions to the group and solicit responses.  It was amazing to see the interaction — especially from those who I don’t think would have spoken up during an in-person meeting, but were more comfortable in front of a screen. 
  • Zoom: Zoom is an online video conferencing software and for me, is one of the most user friendly ones out there. Creating an account is free and you invite members via email.  They can log on via phone or video.  Zoom has recently relaxed their policies and now allow larger groups (more than 3 people) to meet beyond the 40 minute timeframe that was previously the restriction. This can be a great way to get people connected (this is how my children are currently “visiting” with their grandparents).
Some hints:
  • Don’t underestimate your tech capabilities or the the tech capabilities of your group members.  Following the livestream service last Sunday, I received a call from an 82 year old member of our congregation who watched the service and specifically asked me if we could livestream through our YouTube channel because he was having difficulty seeing the service on the screen of his iPhone. In all of our planning for Sunday, it never occurred to us to investigate this possibility and I’m happy to report that through the efforts of our excellent Tech Team, we’ll additionally live stream through YouTube on March 22. This pandemic has caused all of us to use technology in ways we never really expected, but the resources are tremendous.
  • Show yourself grace. You don’t have to be perfect and you certainly don’t have to like being on camera to make this work.  Our mission here is to connect with others – our friends and family – at a time they need us most. Are you going to have to do this forever? No. Is it what you may need to do now to bring hope to others?  It might just be. 
  • If the current format for your small group doesn’t work in a virtual format, that is ok. Find another one – there are multiple resources available for you to consider.  If you’re having trouble, please reach out to me, Pastor Jason, or Pastor Geitra – we’re happy to help. Or consider that maybe your virtual time together doesn’t involve study for the moment and is instead a time for your group to come together to pray and “see” each other. That human and prayer connection may do more for all of us than we think. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. This is new territory for many of us. If you want to try to make this work, please don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for assistance — we are more than happy to walk you through the steps for what works best for you and your group.  And if that fails miserably?  Well, we’ll try something new next time.  Grace, grace, God’s grace. 
  • Don’t ignore the fact that this might just be a great time to grow your group.  I know it seems weird, right? However – many people are confined to their homes and craving interaction and support from others. You might just find that you could have new members join your group who are looking for that interaction and will continue after we can all be together again.
If you do decide to convert your in-person small group to a virtual format AND you are willing to accept more members – please let us know.  We would love to highlight your group through our communication channels to let others know what you are doing and how to join. 
Thank you for all you do for your small group members at Galilee.  We’re praying for you and are ready to assist.
—Rebecca Makowski @ Galilee