With government leaders wisely restricting the gathering of large numbers of people to slow the spread of COVID-19, most churches have figured out how to livestream their services via Facebook Live, YouTube or some other provider.
This past Sunday, social media was filled with “watch parties” hosted by people all around the world featuring these live videos of worship services. It was beautiful to see the body of Christ mobilize online.
But what about small groups?
By now, leaders in many places are asking people to practice social distancing, discouraging meetings of most any size. With this in mind, some churches are giving up on pulling people together for small groups. They don’t need to.
Here are some electronic tools to use so small groups and Bible studies can continue meeting online:
- Zoom: A popular video conference tool used by many churches and businesses because of its ease of use and reliability, the free version of Zoom allows up to 100 people in a video conference at a time. The free version limits meetings to 40 minutes in length, however. Click here to get it today.
- Group FaceTime: If you have an iPhone or iPad, you have access to Facetime. It’s among the most commonly used video chat tools on the planet. It might also be the easiest. You can connect up to 32 devices in one group FaceTime. If a husband and wife share a device, you can host quite a few people in one chat. Click here for an easy tutorial on how to use FaceTime for your next small group gathering.
- Google Hangouts: A less common, but still effective tool is Google Hangouts. It’s reliable and capable of including up to 250 devices in one conference call. Still, because it’s less common, there may be a bit of learning curve for your group. Click here to look into Google Hangouts.
Here are a few tips for the first time you gather online, no matter what tool you use:
- Give everyone plenty of notice. Depending on the platform, the members of your group may need to download tools.
- Expect technical difficulties. Make sure you try several times a few days before your small group is scheduled to gather to iron out any issues you as the host may have. Even after you’re comfortable with the platform, you may have members of your group that have issues connecting. Be patient. Everyone will get there and eventually it will work if you stick with it.
- Try to keep it interactive to keep everyone engaged. Your group members miss each other. Let them talk about how things are going.
- Keep it to 40 minutes or less. As anyone who has tried to make it through a conference call can tell you, 40 minutes is a long time in a setting like this. Stick to the format you typically use in your small group. You may just have to condense it a bit.
- Schedule the next video conference call. Set expectations of when everyone will connect again like this. Ask people to send any suggestions to you as the leader.
- Keep in contact with people between gatherings. Before social distancing, you kept up with the members of your group, right? Keep it up now! It might even be more important now to cultivate relationships and meet needs.
The most important thing to remember is to heed what the writer in Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.”