Besides growing up attending a weekly Sunday School in church, my first small group Bible study experience happened during college. For an entire year, I gathered with six others as we studied God’s Word and learned how to apply it to our lives. It changed my life in such a way that it’s hard to fathom a spiritual journey without the gathering of friends and open Bibles. Until now.
In a matter of days, all of our lives were changed with the outbreak of COVID-19. With instructions to not gather and to remain socially distanced from one another, the idea of not having in-person Bible studies and gatherings has forced us to examine how we stay connected.
Yet, we continue to innovate, pivot our strategies, and seek new ways to keep one another connected to God’s Word and to each other.
I think we can admit this isn’t our best-case scenario. We can’t replace the value of biblical community that takes place when we sit around someone’s table or in a circle where we can see each other face-to-face. But there are ways to stay connected—whether it’s through technology or resurfacing some old methods.
If you’re looking to stay connected, while still feeling isolated, here are some methods you can incorporate with your Bible study groups.
-Stay connected with online formats such as Facebook or using a video-conferencing tool like Zoom. One of my women’s Bible study groups at church has a teaching leader who sends out questions for each week as they go through the book of Romans chapter by chapter. They meet for an hour over Zoom and discuss what they’ve learned while also sharing prayer requests and needs within the group.
-Continue using the same ongoing curriculum you’ve always used through a digital format. LifeWay Christian Resources is currently offering some of its ongoing curriculum in a digital format for leaders who don’t have access to the printed material or if they want to discover new curriculum they’ve never used. I currently am teaching The Gospel Project to high school girls and each week. I’m able to continue working through the weekly lessons by gathering together online to provide biblical content.
-Consider setting up a Facebook group and going live each week with your study group. If you choose to put your teaching on your personal Facebook page, consider how your audience might increase and others might join. Encourage those in the group to purchase the study you’re going through as a way for others to personally engage in God’s Word. Other women’s ministry leaders have done similar types of studies with Instagram and YouTube.
-If you’re doing a newer LifeWay women’s Bible study, the leader kits include a redemption code for the leader to download the video content. A leader can download the content to her desktop and then share her screen with others in the group so you can still have the experience of learning from trusted teachers and authors. If you’re gathering over Zoom, I encourage you to set up a passcode protected ID to avoid unwanted hackers who could disrupt your group.
-Encourage women to stay in God’s Word. You can choose many tools to help, but one option is LifeWay’s online Bible studies. Several online studies have been opened up so more women can experience various authors. Participants can still purchase the actual study book or the e-book and then participate with others through the online experience. You can still engage with questions and comments, knowing someone is available on the other end to help answer your questions. You can also encourage women in your church or neighborhood to watch the video first and then gather online to discuss what they’ve learned.
-Find a Bible reading plan and work through the content together and set up a time for discussion. Whether it’s through a study found in a Bible app or on a website, you can consistently work through the same Scripture together. Encourage women to journal what they are learning and use tools, such as the SOAP method, to write down their insights. (SOAP stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer)
-Challenge group members to memorize and meditate on the same passage. My church is encouraging members to read Psalm 91 each day for a month. I’ve written down specific verses on index cards and learning much of what this Psalm has to say about the protection of the Lord.
-Besides Bible study, staying connected through prayer is a vital part of biblical community. Whether you stay connected through a group text message or using a video chat app such as Marco Polo, share prayer requests with one another during this time. Pair women into prayer partners during this time so they can have one specific person to pray for. In our church, one adult group has adopted a senior adult group and are checking on each other during this time for prayer needs as well as physical needs they might have.
-It’s still OK to use snail mail! Write cards of encouragement to others and let them know you’re thinking of them. One woman in my church wrote notes to every mom who has a preschool or grade school child. Because she isn’t able to go to work right now, she felt like this was one small gesture to encourage moms who are juggling working from home and trying to homeschool their children.
-Finally, use technology to share your personal testimony. Encourage others to record how they came to a personal relationship with Christ and post them on your ministry’s social media. Have members use the same hashtag and to tag your ministry in each post. It’s a great time to spread the gospel and let others know the difference that Christ has made in your life.
Kelly D. King is manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women's Ministry Training at LifeWay Christian Resources. LifeWay is offering a number of free resources for churches to help congregations stay connected and engaged in Bible study during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit LifeWay.com/coronavirus for more information.