Zoom Breakout Groups Helps Build Online Faith Formation

May 21, 2020

“We have had small social groups going online since week two,” said Cindy Lawler, pastor at Lake Isabella and Kernville United Methodist Churches and participant in this week’s CNUMC’s Wednesday webinar. Lawler’s church has a lot of vulnerable groups including older members who are alone. Reflecting on the recent webinar, she stated, “but, I hadn’t thought of turning them into faith formation groups.”
Rev. Linda Dew-Hiersoux and Rev. Matt Smith, co-pastors at The Table UMC in Sacramento, led the discussion which featured using the regular Zoom platform with “break-out” groups. More than 100 people from Kernville to Arizona participated. The discussion focused on building online faith formation groups using the App and a format similar to their church program entitled, “Kitchen Tables”.
“The central purpose of the Kitchen Tables is for participants to grow in faith by responding to John Wesley’s question: How is it with your soul? We take time to each share how our relationship with God has been over the last week in relationship to Wesley’s three simple rules for Christian living: Do no harm. Do all the good you can. Stay in love with God.” explained Smith. He encouraged using the app to connect individuals through a faith centered approach.  
“Our Wesley traditions have so much to offer to those who are lonely…” added Dew-Hiersoux. She led the session in reviewing two ground rules for the small groups on Zoom. First, no cross talking, interrupting others—put your computer microphone on mute while you listen. Last, she stressed, “stories of others are theirs to share—hold words confidential.”
“After attending the seminar, I feel that, we what we were doing was working—I am on the right track,” said retired Rev. Robert Kuyper who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. Kuyper participated in the event because he works with his church’s men’s group and teaches a Sunday School class—all of which he put online using Zoom. He added, “I think I can be more conscious of the faith formation component, though.”
“During the pandemic, [these small groups online] have created a heightened sense of intimacy,” stated Dew-Hiersoux who noted that even those who have drifted away are coming back. It has been a time, says Dew-Hiersoux, to reconnect with people.
“This is our first pandemic,” said Smith, who introduced a six-week series for clergy entitled, “Growing in Faith For Pastors during a Pandemic” starting Tuesday May 26 from 2:00-3:30. The sessions are expected to assist clergy in cultivating and using effective tools to begin to set up their churches as the pandemic restrictions are slowly lift. “We are all experiencing, all this, together, at the same time.”
Register for the six-week series at https://theTableumc.org
To watch this webinar and others, visit the CNUMC website at cnumc.org and click on the Webinar tab on the right of the homepage. The conference offers three weekly online opportunities: Tuesdays feature the Reflections on the lectionary by guest speakers; Wednesdays host a webinar from 4:00-5:30 p.m.; and, on Thursday, the email entitled “The Instant Connection” is published.
Next week’s Wednesday webinar is entitled, “Connecting Neighbors” with Sonja Edd-Bennett, director of the Disaster Response in the California-Nevada Conference.
We all want to be good neighbors, especially in a time of crisis. Yet sometimes it is hard to know how to be a good neighbor when we are told to stay at home. Connecting Neighbors is a training course offered through The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and will be featured during this session. Learn more about the principles behind the training and how you might schedule an online training for your faith family.

Sign up today!