‘OPPORTUNITY TO CONNECT’: After moving online amid pandemic, some church activities may stay there – The Daily Reporter

McCORDSVILLE – For several weeks, Erin Jackson opened a laptop computer and met weekly with a small group of other people from her church for a 10-week Christian study on discipleship.

Last year, the Outlook Christian Church life group she has been a part of for six years met online when the coronavirus hit the area.

“Technology has made it really easy to stay connected,” she said. “Our small group has given us tremendous support… It’s great to have a support group that can be there for each other, even if it’s not in person.

In any given week, dozens of Hancock County residents open laptops or set up phones to participate in Bible studies and other Christian breakout meetings on an online platform.

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For the uninitiated, online groups look like this: A group leader emails a link for the meeting to attendees, including any ID numbers or meeting codes they’ll need to enter for to access.

When members join the meeting, they can see themselves in small rectangles on the screen through the built-in cameras on their devices. They can turn their own cameras on or off, or turn off their own microphones if they need to cough or step away for a moment.

It offers real-time interaction. Over the past year, many more people have learned about these platforms. Churches have used them as a way to keep Bible studies and other groups in a socially distant way.

Ministries such as the Bible Study Fellowship have also conducted their studies online. Local BSF participants typically attend either Greenfield or the eastern part of Indianapolis. Amy Nicklin, a resident of Hancock, is responsible for teaching the Indianapolis East Day women’s class that met at the First Church of the Nazarene in Indianapolis. In an email, she said enrollments were down more than 25% this year, but attendance has increased – nearly 300 for this year’s Genesis study.

Smaller groups of 10 to 15 women come together in a 40-minute Zoom call to discuss the week’s Bible passage and lesson questions. They can also access the weekly 30-minute online conference individually or in groups.

Nicklin wrote that the longtime members of the class have adapted particularly well, and “Their attendance has been higher this year,” Nicklin wrote, “perhaps because they can participate in their Zoom calls without having to drive on icy roads or worry about viruses, they grow and thrive.

The Rev. Ethan Maple, pastor of Mt. Comfort Church, said his church has a Bible study underway on Zoom that follows up on the topics explored on Sunday morning.

“What’s oddly great about Bible studies on Zoom is that we can actually see each other’s faces,” not faces covered in masks, Maple said. “At least it’s an opportunity to connect.”

Corri Brooks feels the same. Brooks and Jackson are part of a 10-week discipleship training group led by Rob McCord, senior minister at Outlook Christian Church in McCordsville. On Sunday afternoon, the group of leaders from across the church will meet online for the sixth session of the series as it goes through “Disciples Now and Always,” a McCord study wrote.

“It’s been a great way to stay in touch with people and the church, especially when face-to-face meetings have been problematic for many,” Brooks wrote in an email to The Daily Reporter. “It’s also convenient. Even if you have to be out of town, you can still participate in the meeting virtually.

Rev. Larry Van Camp also points out the benefits of an online Bible study that is not linked to a single site. Snowbirds wintering in Florida can still participate in a study in Hancock County if they wish, or people can invite a family member or friend who is interested but does not live locally.

“It just opens up another world of possibilities,” said Van Camp, senior pastor of Trinity Park United Methodist Church.

Van Camp led a six-week Lent study on Wednesday evenings using the book “Seven Words” by Susan Robb, focusing on the last words Jesus spoke on the cross. He also leads a study session at the church.

He’s seen people who must have missed an in-person session later log in to the one on Zoom, and he’s seen people start on Zoom but receive COVID shots and later attend in person.

Despite all its flexibility, the online small group has its own potential pitfalls and need for etiquette, say those who log into such studies.

Maple said people would benefit more from an online study if they actively focused and engaged in it, rather than just having it in the background like a podcast or the radio. Brooks writes that a strong leader with a clear plan for the flow of the meeting is crucial, otherwise the meeting can drift off and feel uncomfortable.

Participants who have background noise at home can be considerate by muting. Van Camp reminds people in any group he leads, in person or virtually, that what is shared in the group should stay in the group.

People participating in online studies say they are grateful that they can continue to come together. They still prefer in-person groups, but they predict that online studies are here to stay in one form or another.

“I love the privacy of getting together in a room,” Jackson said. “You can’t replace it.”

“While it’s always best to meet in person, I was very grateful for this technology last year,” Brooks wrote. “This allowed us to continue to meet for studies and scholarships that otherwise would not have happened. “

“I think Zoom Bible studies aren’t going to go away,” Maple said, but “Zoom options are always a supplement and not a substitution.

“It can never really replace what it is like to sit around a table.”

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Brandywine Community Church will offer Financial Peace University on Zoom starting at 7 p.m. April 6. The meeting usually lasts 30 to 45 minutes and the course lasts 9 weeks. Register at https://brandywine.ccbchurch.com/goto/forms/107/responses/new.

Baptist Church of Calvary in Greenfield has a Women’s Bible Study on Elijah on Thursdays which is available on Zoom or in person, remotely. For further information: cbcgreenfield.org, 317-462-4586

Heather Hills Baptist Church has a Women’s Bible Study on Zoom at 9 a.m. on Tuesday and one at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Information: heatherhills.org, 317-894-7474

New United Methodist Church of Palestine has an ongoing Sunday school class and a Sunday night study group that meets on Zoom. There is also a men’s group that meets on Thursday mornings via Zoom. Information: npumc.com, 317-861-4390

Otterbein United Methodist Church does a Lent study on 1 Peter. It meets at 7 p.m. on Mondays on Zoom. Email Pastor Dave Wise at [email protected] for the link.

Christian church in the park chapel has several groups that meet on Zoom. See parkchapel.org/adults.

Church of LifeTraveling Light’s small group meets online for a book study. It meets from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., three Tuesdays a month. Information: realifechurch.org (select “Next Steps”, then “Groups” and scroll to Traveling Light), 317-468-1100

Trinity Park United Methodist Church offers a Bible study during Lent using the book “Seven Words” by Susan Robb. It meets at 6.30 p.m. on Tuesdays on Zoom. Email Reverend Larry Van Camp at [email protected]

Lutheran Church of Zion has a Zoom Bible study of the Exodus on Sunday morning. Information: zionnewpal.org, 317-861-5544

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Charles K. Eckert