[caption id="attachment_172071" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Image: Unsplash.com (2020), CC0/PD[/caption]
How are you staying connected with your friends and women’s ministry group during these days of COVID-19 quarantine? Over the last few weeks, my parish’s women’s group has continued our usual schedule of weekly Bible study meetings in a digital format. But we’ve found that digital Bible study is not meeting our participants’ needs, and we’ve had to get more creative about our approach to gathering and inviting new people to join in.
Honestly, our participants are overwhelmed with the work of our Bible study. We’re elbow deep in homeschool, sinks full of dishes from preparing three meals a day at home, trying to balance working from home while not allowing the kids to veg out in front of the TV all day, and a myriad of other stressors. Sound familiar?
As the weeks go on, fewer women are attending virtual Bible study. Last week, only four women attended. What’s more nobody had actually completed the reading -- not even the facilitators!
And you know what? It's OK. If this is happening in your women’s group, you might feel discouraged, but please don’t! The women who show up unprepared are communicating their immediate needs: they need a break from home and homework, and just want to connect, socialize, and be encouraged. They don’t have time or the mental energy to do homework. So let’s take the homework out of it from time to time.
[tweet "Host a virtual Ladies' Night In to help your women's group remain connected without any additional to-dos. By @joyfulmomentum"]
Virtual Ladies’ Night In is a great way to help your group remain connected without adding additional to-dos. This is also an easy way to welcome new people who may not have been able to participate before but now find themselves complying with a stay-at-home order. Here are some steps to get started:
- Make the invitation. Make a broad invitation to your community inviting people to the event, using email, word of mouth, and social media. If there will be a theme or activity, share that. If the ladies will need supplies, make sure to post that information in advance.
- Select a platform. Use a reliable platform like Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams to invite your community into a closed gathering online. Use a password or waiting room to keep your meeting secure.
- Communicate the start and end time. Publish a start and end time for your ladies’ night. I recommend about 1.5 to 2 hours. This gives you time to settle in, but it’s still short enough so that people can work it into their busy days. If you’re having a great time, you can keep the party going, but a published end time allows people an opportunity to sign off without feeling awkward.
- Make time for introductions so that new people feel welcomed and comfortable and so that people who have not participated in a while feel included.
- Facilitate an activity. While conversation is essential to your gathering, it's nice to have an activity as well. The activity could be as simple as an icebreaker, or as complex as a cooking class. Our gathering recently held a virtual bingo night. This weekend, we’re having face masks and prosecco.
- Door prizes! If you have a game or friendly competition, think of delivering a door prize to the winner’s house or dropping a prize in the mail.
- Thank you. Thank people for attending and encourage them to bring a friend to your next gathering.
- Outreach for your parish. If possible, let participants know when your next gathering will be. If your gathering is a parish ministry, this is a great opportunity to publicize other parish opportunities, such as virtual or parking lot Mass times, drive-by confession, or Bible study opportunities.
- Build curiosity. Take a screenshot or a few pictures during the event and post them online for your community to see. This will help generate curiosity for people who were not able to attend. If you made a craft or cooked something together, share some pictures of your masterpieces on social media.
- Connect with new people after the event. If new people join the gathering, be sure to reach out to them personally afterward to welcome them to the community.
- Keep it light. We have enough stress. Keep things fun. Steer the conversation away from hot button issues or negativity. If the conversation starts to skew negative, ask each person to share one positive things from the week.
- Recruit a new host. A ladies' night is a great way to invite people to step up and offer their gifts to lead an event. Often, people just need to be asked to take on a more active role in a ministry group. Encourage a pair of participants to co-host the next ladies' night, so that you can relax and enjoy.
Ladies' Night In is all about fun and fellowship. Feel free to adjust the framework above to meet your community's needs and interests. What’s your community doing to stay connected?
[caption id="attachment_172069" align="aligncenter" width="1180"] Image by Andrea Piacquadio (2018), Pexels.com, CC0/PD[/caption]
Copyright 2020 Elizabeth Tomlin
About the Author
Elizabeth is the author of Joyful Momentum: Building and Sustaining Vibrant Women’s Groups (Ave Maria Press), General Counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and director of stewardship for the Military Council of Catholic Women, where she previously served as the president and as director of faith formation. Elizabeth is a catechist and speaker, and blogs at JoyfulMomentum.org.