Your Church & COVID-19

Continuing Intentional Community in a Socially Distant World

A mentorship relationship starts with purpose and intentional relationship. Kevin stated that, “More time with fewer people is greater kingdom impact.” 

At Radical Mentorship, their mentorship groups are high commitment, as they call their participants to application and high standards. Radical Mentoring’s groups meet once a month for three hours at the homes of mentors instead of asking for weekly meetings. This cadence of meeting has been found to help participants go deeper in their relationships with each other. 

Mentees get homework that applies to spiritual development, and they do one-on-ones with other men in the group in between monthly sessions. The success of this mentorship program comes down to the accountability and standard, the quality of the mentors, and the willingness of mentees to do the work and be transparent.

A best practice around mentor and mentee relationships is that the mentors have a season of life experience that is ahead of the mentees. That experience gap allows a mentor to speak into the lives of their mentees in many ways. It’s also helpful to keep groups demographically similar and in the same season of life. However, you might have younger individuals at your church who are old souls and have perspectives on life and faith that might be helpful for guiding others. In these cases, you have the opportunity to pair a younger mentor with an experienced mentor to co-lead a group.

Our current context in dealing with COVID-19

We’re all in a strange time where we are trying to figure out what relationship looks like for our people. Engaging people can sometimes be difficult, and we’re heading into a season where some people are apt to be even more disconnected.

There are three types of people in this environment:

  • Those who have to be alone due to self-isolation or quarantine.
  • Those who choose to be alone. Maybe they have been travelling and don’t know how to engage in community, so they actively decide to pull themselves out of relationship.
  • Those who are at home but are still alone because they’re normally gone all the time and don’t know the people in their own homes.

There is no playbook or textbook for this. Kevin noted that someone has got to make the first move when it comes to connection. If you’re waiting for someone to call you, they’re likely on the other end waiting for you to call them. Pick up the phone and call your people, whether that’s those who you mentor, your fellow small group or Bible study members, the youth you normally connect with on a weekly basis, or your accountability partners. Just start picking up the phone. 

Sometimes it’s not best to text; seeing faces and hearing voices is a greater level of connection. That goes for leaders as well. It’s important for us to get in front of our people and get face to face. We can all be practically leveraging the technological tools we have access to. 

For those mentoring many individuals, just start working down the list by calling them to check in. Leverage technology by setting up Zoom or Facebook video calls, one-on-one Facetimes, etc. Create a sense and place of community where your group can connect with each other in a meaningful way. If you are connecting with a group that has history together, it’s a lot easier to have those video chats and conversations and intentionally ask people are doing. People share more easily when they’re known, and when you’re known it gives some permission for your group to lean in and ask some questions.

In times like these, it’s easy to sink into using technology to escape from reality in unhealthy ways. It’s the easier thing to do when we just disengage or numb out. We can turn that escapism around by leaning into creating community and connection instead.

Question and Answer

How structured are Radical Mentoring’s usual monthly conversations? What are some best practices for this time?

In a typical Radical Mentoring session, there is an agenda around topics and things the group has been working through. At this point though, take the agenda and push it off to the side. You can’t do a three hour session on Zoom, so we’re transitioning to probably bi-weekly hour or hour and a half chats. Changing the cadence of check-ins might be helpful with group momentum and communication. 

How can churches get started mentoring with Radical Mentoring? 

Our entry points include word of mouth, senior pastors, staff pastors, discipleship group pastors, or just a lay leader. Anyone can create an account and the Radical Mentoring team will guide people in the process. The content is all free to make coaching and material available to ministries.

Looking at the coming weeks, is there anything we should be thinking about in the area of keeping churches plugged in and connected? 

Online church has almost reminded us of the power of community. In light of the fact that we can’t worship with a community of believers, we are now craving that worship and conversation together. Maybe the busyness shift might recalibrate us to help us see the power of community and not use online church to as an easy way to just do church and move on to our other activities.

For the church right now, it’s communicate, communicate, communicate. It’s the authenticity of seeing the pastor off the stage talking about how this time is impacting him or her personally. Everyone’s off the platform now to some degree. Churches are doing worship nights online. It’s not a production, it’s just a person with a guitar. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s authentic, that coming down off the stage and offering ways to be real and connect. Ensure your people have the tools and know how to leverage some of the technology that can bring them together. You don’t want to lose your grip on your people right now; you don’t want them to drift. 

Do you have/know of any resources or have any recommendations (outside of the typical video or Zoom calls) for maintaining those groups and connections in a time like this? 
The reality is it’s really about forcing ourselves into the habits of reaching out to people. Pick up the phone and call to ask how you can pray for them. Right now it’s about doing anything you can to engage your people. Be as creative as you can. These connection points can be both high tech and high “touch,” though—not actual touch though, of course. The idea of doing video or phone calls is great, but this can also be about finding those alternative but allowable methods to connect, including ways to check-in and serve others:

  • Set up a competition or scavenger hunt for your group on group text or using an app like GooseChase, where you take pictures around your home or town, and then meet up at a location at the end and check in with how people are doing (while practicing social distancing or whatever the current protocols are for your locale) 
  • Serve with organizations and initiatives such as Boxes of Hope or other initiatives and efforts going on in your community to meet needs 
  • Hide Easter eggs for the young families at your church while respecting whatever the current guidelines are for your church or community

Looking to the future beyond all this, what does it look like for Radical Mentoring?

There are some core things that will never be replaced. We are leveraging technology to engage in a time that calls for it. However, you can’t replace that face to face communication and community. That will likely never change. We are learning things and having conversations about other ways to use technology in the interim, including the variety and frequency of connection to maintain the momentum of our groups.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.