Digital Small Groups: From Novelty to Necessity
It’s no secret that church culture has drastically changed in the last two years. From what started out as a novelty, online services, gatherings, and meetings have become a necessity in the church world and beyond.
At the beginning of 2020, church leaders everywhere had to quickly shift from in-person to virtual services with no warning, no training, nothing. It was miraculous to see how many churches all over the world were able to quickly adapt and keep their community afloat.
Now, in 2022, virtual services and other forms of online communities like small groups are the new normal. The real questions are, is this new-normal, online/hybrid format sustainable? And how has the philosophy of small groups evolved? Recently, Andy Mage, Altar Live’s community manager chatted with author, pastor, and small group consultant, Allen White, to discuss small groups, theology, and how Altar Live goes beyond just streaming.
Over the past 16 years, Allen White has mastered the art of small group strategy. He has written four books, offers online courses, writes and produces a video-based curriculum, runs a successful blog, and has aided 1,500 churches to grow their small groups exponentially.
You can watch the whole interview here, but here are some highlights.
Small-Group Philosophy in 2022
As we move forward in 2022, the need for small groups is still extremely high. As Andy Mage, Altar Live’s community manager noted, there is this unique yearning in the culture today for community. Whether it’s in-person or an online community, the need for connection is great.
But how has this affected the small group ministry?
The entire small group culture has changed “it’s like we’ve advanced ten years in the last two years.” says White. Whether we like it or not, the pandemic really propelled the church world into the future and people’s mindsets have shifted. While it may be tempting to keep your small group approach the same, we urge you to “adapt to where the culture is.”
According to White, small group leaders should recognize the few, key traits group members are looking for in small groups in 2022: specificity, flexibility, and intentionality.
According to White, it seems that people have grown “choosier” when it comes to their small group. People do not want to be thrown together in a small group with random people. Whether in-person or online, people want to be in a group with people they know and with whom they're compatible. While this may seem odd and even defeats the purpose of a small group, there is also some validity to it.
For the past two years, it has been the norm to be around a limited number of people. Our social circles decreased and we were more intentional with the relationships that really mattered. Now, this phenomenon is true with small groups. People want to grow deeper in the relationships they already have instead of trying to form a bond with an entirely new group of people.
Everyone has a life, a busy schedule, and may not be able to go to a specific location for a small group. This year, we can add flexibility to our list of priorities when thinking about starting small groups. What we mean by flexibility, is even if your church is in-person, always offer an online option.
This will not only widen your demographics but show your community that you want their presence. Those who cannot attend in person like parents needing to put their kids to bed or other homebound community members will still be able to make meaningful connections.
Today, we need meaningful connections and community more than ever. Holding small groups are a big part of the solution. As you’re planning your small group curriculum this year, start planning intentionally to help promote spiritual growth and share the love of Christ.
Intentionality can be seen in the theme and topic of your small group. There are endless amounts of small groups with a myriad of topics, why not pick a topic that is prevalent in your community?
Think about what topic would best serve your community. Perhaps it’s a bible study focusing on mental health or a prayer group for young mothers. Whatever the topic is, recognize it and be intentional about bringing the community together so they can grow together.
2022 has so much to offer when it comes to small groups. Whether you are in an online space, hybrid, or in person, don’t be scared to reevaluate your priorities and mindset when building a community. The church world is changing and there are so many more opportunities and spaces to make meaningful connections. the possibilities for online groups are endless!
Want to learn more? Watch the full interview with Allen White and be sure to check out his website to learn more about his ministry and read his thought-provoking blog.
Who We Are
Altar Live is an online church platform designed for faith communities to stream and host interactive and engaging events and services. Our simple, intuitive platform gathers your people together online where they can worship together in watch parties, freely socialize at virtual tables together, and find private places to pray with each other.
With a church platform like Altar Live, anyone can easily create an engaging online church service that has the ability to bring people together regardless of location. The Altar Live team is honored to be able to provide video conferencing software, consulting & training for churches, reach every person on the other side of the screen, and create a community online.