Appointments, work schedules, kids’ activities. It appears that our days and evenings are filled to the brim on a weekly basis. Cars are jokingly referred to as “mobile offices” as many people are in their cars so often traveling from stop to stop, picking up children from activities, getting groceries, and going to a meeting. “The amount of time the average driver spends behind the wheel each year is equivalent to seven 40-hour weeks at the office,” says Jurek Grabowski, research director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.* For many, one of the first things to get the red pen scratch out on the calendar is church whether it be a Bible study, a church meeting or even a fellowship event. A phrase heard often within the church walls is “Those millennials, they are just on the go all the time”. This is true, but let’s be honest, it is not just millennials.
Being a busy working mom of aging parents, I understand the “busyness” that life brings. I, too, have found myself deleting things off my calendar. These are the “me” things and at times it has included church activities. I wanted to connect with others through the church and connect with God on a deeper level through study, but after working an 8 hour day, making dinner and getting through homework or a band booster meeting, I felt like I didn’t have the time or energy to get into my car and drive to the church to feed my soul at the end of the day. I wanted to climb into my pajamas with a cup of hot cocoa and sit on my comfortable couch. After talking with others, surprisingly, not just millennials, I found out I was not alone. There were others that required the need to have time to find comfort after a long day that had developed into a longer week. But yet, my soul needed fed and comforted as well.
Two years ago, my sister invited me to join her women’s bible study as she felt the topic would be beneficial to me. I was excited to study God’s word with my sister and then I remembered that there was 421 miles between us. I wasn’t certain how this was going to work. Then she explained it was a Facebook study. We would each read our directed bible passages daily along with the book we were studying. We chose a time in the evening that the activities and meetings of the day would be over and would connect through a closed Facebook group open only to those who were in our study group. We had people from several different states join in. There was a bible study leader who opened in prayer and directed our questions so that we could dig deeper into the material. We, the participants, would type our responses and support other group members in their responses. The thing that reached me deeply as the study progressed would happen after the 3rd week. While doing our daily reading, we began to post questions and thoughts on our closed group Facebook page almost daily, not just during our designated meeting time. We began to support each other in “real time” through prayer requests and answered prayer. We were able to check in daily with one another to support and kindly offer accountability to actions our study called us to. Too often as the week passes in a traditional church bible study, our accountability to our group may wane only to be revived as we walk through the doors of the church and we never hear the answers given through our prayer requests.
I wanted to see if my experience could be transferred to my traditional-generational church. We have been offering online Facebook studies during lent and advent for a year. Though they do not have the number of attendees of some of our traditional Bible studies, the participants loyally attended this group that has been designed to provide a study opportunity that allows them to connect with God alongside other people, while still allowing them the flexibility to attend from where ever they may be. Sometimes they connect via their laptop from their couch, some days they connect through their phone while waiting for their children’s karate class to end and others have offered thanks that they were able to attend while in the hospital or while on vacation. God told us to “Go and make disciples”. With His people on the go, sometimes we need to go to where they are – whether it be in their home, a parking lot, a hospital or a Caribbean island. Our goal for 2017 is to take this concept to the next level by offering a video chat style or study. This is a big tech step for many of our members so we will be phasing it in slowly.
We recognize that fellowship and gathering together to study God’s word is important. We continue and will continue to offer in-church and in-home studies and that will not change. But we are striving to reach out from the traditional formatted studies and classes to connect people with God and others from where they are – whether it be for a moment or for a mile.
*Johnson, Tamra, “Americans Spend an Average of 17,600 Minutes Driving Each Year.” AAA NewsRoom. N.p., 06 Sept. 2016. Web. 27 Dec. 2016.
submitted by Stacy Becker, Director of Christian Education at Willoughby U.M.C.