I’ve been a small group participant or leader since I first gave my life to Christ nearly 12 years ago. It’s second nature to me to cling to others to unpack the Bible and to grow in my faith. That said, as technologies have changed, so have methods to communicate with and stay connected to people in your Bible study groups with whom you share life.
In the “olden days” (pre-email, pre-internet, pre-cell phone), small group leaders might have picked up their (gasp) home phone and called you at home or work to check in if you missed a week, or to ask if you had any prayer requests. They may have even written you a note and put it in the mail (shocking, I know).
Small group communication does depend somewhat on the leader and what style they are comfortable with. Some leaders don’t reach out beyond the meeting time; others check in occasionally or even weekly.
Tool #1 – Email
For me, email still remains the number one technology tool I use to reach out to my group outside the meeting time. I create a group of my small group members in Gmail, then simply begin typing “Bible Study” and select the group as the email recipient. I type a short message about the upcoming lesson, include a link to a study guide online or an article that might have to do with the topic, share prayers requests, and click send.
This email functions in a couple of different ways: #1 to encourage #2 to remind #3 to provide a communication touchpoint #4 to get feedback (many of the women in my small group reply back that either they can’t come or they have a prayer request.)
Tool #2 – Text
For groups that have participants who are texters (yes, there are some people who still don’t text), you can create a text group and send text reminders of upcoming events, short prayers requests, or plans to meet up for coffee or dinner. Although text messaging is very quick and timely, I don’t personally like getting tons of texts back because I only pay for 250 text messages a month. So make sure to ask permission to text the people in your group.
Tool #3 -Mobile phone
These days, many people have dropped their home phone and just use a mobile phone as their dedicated phone line. Where once you wouldn’t dare call someone on their cell phone due to cost (unless you had their permission), now the roles are reversed and the home phone is antiquated; mobile phones are the norm. It is helpful to know who in your group has a smartphone – that will help you know if they check their email (some people who don’t have smartphones don’t regularly check their email at home, fyi). Also, don’t assume just because you left a voicemail that they received the message. You might consider texting your message if they don’t pick up – I myself have been known not to check messages for weeks.
Don’t be afraid to make a quick call to someone who seems off, or if need of attention. I often pray for the Holy Spirit to guide me in my communication with my small group – sometimes I just pray, sometimes I pick up the phone, sometimes I text them to tell them I’m thinking about and praying for them.
Lastly, I could add Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks to the list, however, I’ve found that the best technology communication tools for small group ministry involved personal and private communication.
The key is to use technology in a way that builds upon the relationship you’re already building in face-to-face community.