The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected all of us, and there is more to come. I went to the grocery store to shop for a friend and found that shelves were bare. I have friends who cannot find canned meat, beans, rice, milk, bread, and other basics. Churches have canceled weekend services, and now the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has recommended that groups larger than 50 not meet for the next 8 weeks. On my Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas to Nashville on Saturday night, there were 100 open seats (only 80 of us were on the flight…and yes, we spread out…way out).
If your church isn’t meeting, and if you want to stay connected to your Bible study group, you have some simple options that will be quite effective. In no particular order, here are some ways for group leaders to teach remotely while their church isn’t meeting.
- FaceBook Live – my church used FaceBook Live this past Sunday to broadcast the worship service. The only people in attendance at the church were the pastor and small worship team. I sat at home and participated via my iPhone. If you have FaceBook on your laptop or phone, you’ll see an option to go “Live.” My church did this using an iPad, and it worked like a charm. There is no reason that a group leader could not teach his or her class live via a computer, phone, or iPad device. It can be broadcast to their FaceBook feed, or to a FaceBook group they create (all the people in their group could sign up). There are plenty of handy “how-to” videos on YouTube that can get you up and running quickly if you aren’t familiar with Facebook Live. Click here for a list of tips for using Facebook Live.
- Zoom – Zoom is a popular video conferencing platform used by many businesses today, including my own (LifeWay). A free version is available (click here to go get it) and it allows up to 100 people to be in a video conference. If you want, there are versions that cost, and you get additional features and more seats. People can interact, speak, type questions in the chat feature, and the session can even be recorded by the host.
- E-Mail – Don’t laugh. This is a super-easy way for group leaders to engage their group members. Maybe the easiest. How would this work? Glad you asked.
- A group leader would send his or her group an e-mail at the beginning of the week. The teacher would remind the group to read and study their Personal Study Guide lesson (oh, I’m assuming that your church provides Bible study materials such as Explore the Bible, Gospel Project, Bible Studies for Life), or some inferior version from another Christian publisher besides LifeWay.
- During the week, a group leader would send several e-mails to the group members. A question or two would direct them to a particular quote or question in the curriculum. The teacher would encourage the group members to “reply all” and carry on conversations throughout the week until the lesson had been covered.
- In-home groups – Just because your group can’t get together on a Sunday doesn’t mean that you cannot break your group into smaller sub-groups! If your class averages 20 people, for instance, divide couples or individuals into groups of six or eight, just the right size to meet in someone’s living room. In this scenario, you’d need about 3 sub-groups of 8. Everyone would bring their Personal Study Guide and discuss what they learned throughout the week as they kept up with the study plan.
Now for some good news from your friends at LifeWay. We are working quickly to respond and help churches as we all deal with the effects of COVID-19. Here are some things we’re doing to help:
- My team is going to provide free studies from Explore the Bible, Gospel Project, and Bible studies for Life. These will be digital and available to anyone who needs studies while they are sequestered. Later this week the materials will be live and online, along with many other resources for free. When that happens, I’ll send you another post with the link.
- My team is going to provide social media/email messages for group leaders to send to their classes. If your group uses Bible Studies for Life, Explore the Bible or Gospel Project, we provide weekly email messages and text messages in the Leader Pack. These can be copied and pasted into text messages to the group, or into an encouraging email to the group. Normally these are only found in our leader packs which cost about $28, but we will post these later this week, too, for free. This will help teachers have something to say and send to their groups to encourage them to study and stay up with their weekly studies.
- LifeWay is recording training videos early this week that we will post for free – to train you how to use communication tools like Facebook Live, Zoom, and more. You can also find help on YouTube, but we’re shooting our own videos. Again, when these are ready later this week, I’ll send another blog post with the links to these free videos.
- LifeWay Kids has created free at-home supplements for families impacted by COVID-19. Click here to jump to the page where you can download these materials for free.
- We provide free podcasts each week for Bible Studies for Life, Explore the Bible, and Gospel Project. They relate to the study taking place that week, and the links can be shared with teachers and group members. Click one of the following links depending upon which curriculum line your group uses: Gospel Project, Bible Studies for Life (scroll to the bottom of the page), Explore the Bible (click on an individual session and scroll down for the podcast).
If you have other solutions for groups to meet and engage remotely, please leave a comment so that we can all learn what each other is doing during these difficult days.
Watch for my post later this week with links to the free helps we’re working on!
Finally, please know that we at LifeWay are praying for your safety and for your churches and your members as we all navigate uncharted waters.
Ken Braddy is the Director of Sunday School for LifeWay Christian Resources.