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Growth Group Uses Tech to Overcome Pandemic Barriers

The pandemic has caused us all to rely on technology to connect with others. Online groups, streaming, texting, video chats etc. became the new normal as we had to physically distance.

Dan and Emily Kopp have led their growth group using technology for the past year and a half. Because of personal risk factors and the uncertainties of the pandemic, the group decided that meeting virtually was the best option for now. As a member of this group, I’m so grateful for their hearts to serve us, going above and beyond so that we can all meet safely.

Dan says he became a growth group shepherd because “The word of God is powerful, and it needs to be proclaimed.” Dan desires to live out what he learns and to disciple others. Psalm 1 is a life verse: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Time to Get Creative

When the pandemic hit, meeting was still essential to us, so we kept meeting virtually for growth group. We tried a few different technologies and decided to use Zoom video meetings because it was accessible and had the best sound quality. We had some glitches, but it was more seamless than we all thought it would be.

“We’ve seen a lot of relationship building, which is just ironic. You’d not think you’d have that kind of relationship building when you’re forced to be apart, but people have been open.

Before the pandemic, our growth group used to meet at the Kopps’, share dinner together and discuss the study. So one of the first creative things the Kopps did after the lockdown was to have dinner “together” over Zoom. Those of us that could logged in from our own homes with our dinner.

Even during the summer of 2020, we continued to meet and read through Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper. This book helped us as a group keep our eyes on Jesus rather than the pandemic news and uncertainties around us.

Plus, Dan says, “We’ve seen a lot of relationship building, which is just ironic. You’d not think you’d have that kind of relationship building when you’re forced to be apart, but people have been open. I don’t think that’s a product of the tech... Tech has been the medium because we haven’t been able to meet in person. There’s an aspect of people’s hearts wanting to grow.”

Some members did donut door drops or other creative kindnesses to serve each other during lockdown.

“No distance or pandemic can stop us loving and caring for each other,” says group member Manlan Craig.

Meeting on Zoom hasn’t stopped us from laughing together and just having fun. Plus, illness doesn’t prevent us from attending. Emily notes that our attendance has been better, and we’ve needed that connection with other believers.

“My original growth group had stopped meeting during the pandemic," Laura Brown says. "When I heard that the Kopps’ group was continuing to meet via Zoom, I asked to join. I missed attending church so much and this was a chance to feel the sense of community again while studying God’s Word. I’m so thankful I had that option because it really helped sustain me throughout the pandemic.”

Lines of Communication

We’ve also been able to keep up and encourage one another through a group conversation on the WhatsApp messaging tool. It’s separate from a regular group text and easy to add new members. We use this to share life updates, prayer requests, and praises.

“Send a text to the group and within minutes, if not seconds, people are responding saying they’re praying,” Dan says. “That’s awesome!”

“Send a text to the group and within minutes, if not seconds, people are responding saying they’re praying,”

Kayla Stene likes using WhatsApp because she can instantly share prayer requests and life updates with the group.

She says, “I’m so thankful for the technology of our age, that we were still able to talk and see each other’s faces! That was very helpful particularly in 2020 when things were still very shut down.”

Dan uses his skills to serve our group by helping us with our tech problems and questions. He does his best to resolve the issue or point us to a solution. He’s even researched different technologies like good microphones so we can all be heard during group.

Daryl Reed says, “I think we have truly grown closer because of our desire to keep learning during these difficult times. I’m so grateful

that Dan and Emily made it work for us and made it so comfortable to meet on Zoom.”

“Real” FaceTime

Useful as it is, I think we can all agree that technology is no substitute for meeting in person. It was still essential that we have some face-to-face time. So, we would meet in smaller groups, such as families with kids meeting at the park for a visit.

A couple times this summer, we had a barbecue at the Kopps’ house. Meeting outside, with most of our group vaccinated, put us more at ease. It was a great time! The kids played together and we all enjoyed each other’s company. (Side note: Dan makes a mean brisket!)

But we’ve all missed the weekly dinner together and look forward to the day we can safely do that again.

As we’ve continued to meet on Zoom this year, Dan invested in video conferencing equipment. Eventually we will move towards a hybrid model, so that some of us can meet in person, and those who are more comfortable staying home for now can join in virtually.

“Technology is not good or bad," Dan says. “It’s what we do with it that makes it either good or bad for us and others. The main focus is on God because that’s where it needs to be.”

If a hybrid growth group format is something that interests you, fill out the form at fbchurch.org/findagroup. If you have questions about using technology for ministry, contact info@fbchurch.org to get connected with Dan Kopp.