Covenant will offer its second virtual Explore Membership class in April. Covenant Visitor and New Member Coordinator Amy Skaggs leads the class. She and a few people who participated in our inaugural 2020 virtual class reflected on taking the class remotely.
The 20 new members welcomed into the church family in late 2020 were the first, and to date the only, ones who have joined virtually. Like all things 2020, Covenant’s class to educate and connect potential new members had to adapt to the current environment. Visitor and New Member Coordinator Amy Skaggs stepped up to the challenge.
“We’ve had so many people join in the last few years, and we didn’t want others to miss out on the chance to be members, regardless of the timing,” Amy said. “Providing the class enabled us to maintain our momentum.”
And the result? “Explore Membership via Zoom went surprisingly well,” Amy said. “As the facilitator, I was so nervous about all the things that could go wrong. I was worried about the class feeling disconnected because of the virtual format. I was worried about my home WiFi crashing. I was worried class members wouldn’t feel comfortable participating.
“Guess what?!” Amy continued, laughing. “None of those worries were necessary. I really did feel God’s presence during this class. We all had the best time!”
A key to the success of the online class was participation from other Covenant staff and members. The pastors each joined the class for one of the sessions. Thomas Daniel talked about Covenant’s mission statement, what it means to be a member, and information related to Covenant’s philosophies and leadership. Jill Williams shared information about mission opportunities, what it looks like to practice solitude, and how the congregation cares for members; Jon Wasson talked about adult discipleship and how beneficial small groups can be for new members.
While Amy very much appreciated the pastors, she was especially excited about the small group time. “I think small groups are key for connection,” she said. “We had the best small group leaders leading our new members – Laura Tuma, Kathryn Sedberry and Pansy Flick. They have such a beautiful way of making everyone feel comfortable and willing to share. Covenant is so lucky that they are always willing to jump in and share their gifts.”
Kathryn reflected on the class. “Amy’s genuine excitement and commitment to providing a meaningful experience for each participant sets the stage beautifully for a comfortable and meaningful time together. The first half of each evening provides participants the opportunity to hear from one of our pastors in a relaxed, interactive setting, followed by small group time.”
Class participant Louise Avant said she felt connections with both Amy and classmates went very well over Zoom. “Of course, I already knew Amy and that probably helped,” she said, “but the small groups over Zoom allowed us to get to know some of the other participants in a closer way.”
Kathryn is very happy to participate in Explore Membership and is always thankful for the things she learns and the people she meets. “Amy provides questions and topics for discussion, which make conversation so easy to facilitate. Participants are able to share at whatever level they are most comfortable.” Through the conversations, Kathryn said, “I am reminded of how our varied histories and experiences create the Covenant family of which we have all been called to be a part!”
Amy said participants may have been more relaxed joining in from home. “They didn’t have to rush into class on Sunday mornings or fight traffic for our Wednesday evening class. I think that was a nice change of pace,” she said.
Class participant Louise agreed. “Taking the class virtually was super convenient and, during the pandemic, much safer. Being able to take it online was a plus because normally I would have had to miss choir and worship. This way I was able to learn about Covenant and meet other people without missing the things I love about Covenant.”
And like the true connector that she is, Amy was sad that she couldn’t figure out a way to make the popular “speed dating” session work. During that segment of Explore Membership, several Covenant leaders representing different classes and groups offer very speedy downloads of information about their areas. It’s a fast and efficient way for those unfamiliar with Covenant to get a glimpse of our most popular activities, and opens the door for them to explore further. (Learn more about “speed dating” here.)
“Because we didn’t have speed dating, I think the class wanted a little bit more information on different ways to connect with different areas at Covenant,” Amy said, and explained: “For example, we have a table during speed dating for our children’s ministry and youth ministry, two areas that are a great way to find connection at Covenant.”
The class wrapped after three two-hour sessions and Amy wasn’t expecting her reaction. “I was surprised at how emotional I felt when these class participants joined the church on the last class,” she said. “There was something about being together and making it work; it felt like such a blessing. I was so proud of the class and their willingness to jump in, even if it was via Zoom.”
Louise, who recommends taking the class online, had this advice for those thinking about jumping in: “If you’re still in pandemic mode, this is perfect for going ahead and taking the new member class and getting you involved in Covenant right away. We’re about to partially open, so this way you can take the class and still participate in the worship of your choice. And, don’t be afraid to share about yourself and ask questions of Amy or your small group leader. They are all super helpful and want to assist you in getting connected to Covenant.