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Hosting an M4 Learning Community during a pandemic

This last weekend we hosted our third M4 Learning Community in the UK. Once again due to the pandemic our 10 church planting teams joined us for a 24 hour zoom conference. If you have spent the last 10 months holed up in your spare room locked into the dreaded “zoom calls” and feel like you have become a “zoom zombie” you may be forgiven for thinking this sounds like your worst nightmare! Sure, it is not the same as meeting in person like we would have liked it to be, but the feedback we have received has indicated that in many ways the Lord enabled us to have as productive a time as we would have hoped for if we were in person.

To achieve this we had to be creative in adapting the tried and tested M4 training tools, to enable them to become a dynamic learning experience on Zoom. The learning community may have been spread over a 24-hour period, but it was not all intense zoom watching. The four main sessions were broken up with loads of variety. Every 30 minutes brought a change in style of learning with the direct teaching from presenters restricted to three 20-minute sessions brought by 4 different speakers from 4 different European counties. Every hour we had a short comfort break and longer breaks for meals. 14 different Breakout rooms were in operation to enable lots of helpful interaction between the teams as they processed what the Holy Spirit was saying to them and providing an opportunity for Q & A with coaches and speakers.

The pandemic has been especially hard on church planters. Several of our lead planters have been hospitalised by Covid and lockdowns have made building connections with communities extra hard. In recognition of this we have extended the training programme by expanding the M3 section to cover two learning communities spread over 6 months. This will lengthen the programme for those who are in the second year of M4 but most of them feel that they have lost 6 months due to Covid so last week’s learning community was reshaped to speak into that. We were able to do this by focusing on the importance of discipling the core team. By investing in the planting team at this stage and discipling each other it helps to create a culture of disciples who make disciples within the new church which is such a healthy foundation stone to lay. We also were inspired by having a man join us to give his testimony of how he found faith in Jesus during the autumn lockdown from a completely non-Christian background through the witness of a Christian friend at work and connecting with his local church online services. We also shared stories of churches that had run Alpha and seen totally unknown people to the church come to faith in Christ too.

We may all be glad to see the back of the pandemic but by God’s grace he is at work in our nation in remarkable ways and still in the business of building his church for which we praise his name. Planting new churches is one of his instruments which is gaining momentum at this key time across our land.

Tim Cracknell

Church Planting Officer, Counties

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