Online group leaders have the privilege and challenge of finding opportunities to connect group members at every level, taking advantage of every occasion. The same is true in any small group situation. There is not a day that goes by that someone, including those involved in more traditional small groups, ask, "Yes, but how do you create community with people when your group family members are from so many places around the world?"
The answer is simple. Making online small group connections is no different from making connections in other small group. Use every opportunity to connect.
This challenge is coming true this month when we host our first Homecoming Event. Here’s how it works:
· We learn a member of the online small group is visiting the Saddleback area.
· We schedule a time convenient with the online small group family member to connect, usually at the Refinery.
· We plan the homecoming event near a scheduled time when a group meets to take advantage of introducing the family member during the session.
· We announce to all members of the online small group community the opportunity to meet the member of the family.
· We spend time over a soda or coffee, getting to know the small group family member. We buy his soda – others are Dutch treat.
When you think of it, this is not any different than connections would be with any other group. Take advantage of every opportunity to celebrate, regardless of the nature of the event!
In May we were hosting an online small group on a Wednesday afternoon. There were fewer than normal in the group that day, but one of the family members from east Tennessee, screen name Amye, had taken a phone call during the meeting. When she returned, she was ecstatic! She had just become a great-grandmother for the first time!
We stopped all we were doing and celebrated! I asked Amye to forward birth information along with pics of the newborn to my e-mail address. I e-mailed everyone involved in online small groups with the announcement, birth information and the picture, and encouraged group members to respond to the e-mail as they would if a child had been born in their biological family.
The response was enormous! One online group member, a twenty-two year old, wrote, Amye, the greatest friend and influence in my life has been my great-grandmother. I pray the same for you!
We became part of the event! Granted the community was from Malaysia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Nova Scotia and points east, north, south and west in the states, but we each became cyber aunts and uncles!
So what will it take to connect members of your small group? Take a few moments to think of the opportunities available to you to celebrate and more importantly, to connect person-to-person!
We’re better – together!