Is there anything like that feeling you get after hosting a great Bible study? It's a humbling experience to see God use a group you run to help someone know Him more. It's what we all want and imagine when we step out in small group leadership. Maybe you are new to this, or you've never done a virtual group before. Everyone starts somewhere, and there are ways to make it easier for you and better for your group.
Running a virtual group is a great way to build community and grow in faith. It also comes with logistical challenges. We want to help you bridge that gap and make this your best group yet! Here are 6 tips to have a strong group kick off.
1. One is the Loneliest Number
If it's your first time leading a group virtually - don't do it alone! Ask a friend to co-lead or assist you. The benefits of this cannot be overstated. First off, it's just more fun to do something with a friend! You also can share the load of preparing, inviting, and scheduling the meetings. Think of it this way, if no one shows up (we've been there) at least you'll still get to hang with your friend! Trust us on this and buddy up.
2. Make Technology your Friend
Not in a weird way, but if you want to avoid asking the Lord to smite your computer, you should get familiar with your platform. Maybe you spent all of 2020 on Zoom and can do it with your eyes closed. Still, practice and review how to do basic functions like adding people from a waiting list, sharing a screen, and creating break-out rooms. No one wants to fumble through their first meeting. Rev.com has a great breakdown on how to do all that and more here.
Be sure to reach out to the people you invite to make sure they know how to join the video and have the correct link. Don't assume that everyone knows what they're doing, especially the first few meetings.
If you are using Zoom as your platform of choice, keep in mind that free accounts limit your meeting time to 40-minute sessions. If you think your Bible study needs more time, consider upgrading your Zoom account in advance, or simply use a platform like Google Meet. With Google Meet there is no time limit if you use your Google account. Even if you don’t have a Google account, the standard limit is 60-minutes, which gives you a lot more time for your Bible discussion.
3. Build it and They Will Come...Right?
Maybe. A great rule to live by is that about 50% of the people you invite will actually show up any given week. If you want to have ten people in your group, invite twenty. Also, get creative. This is a virtual group, so geography isn't a factor. Invite your cousin from out of state or reach out to that friend who moved away. Lastly, posting about your group on social media is a great way to spread the word, but there's nothing like a personal invite. Text or *gasp* call people to tell them that you would love to have them join your study.
4. Break the Ice
Once you have the whole gang online and looking like the Brady Bunch, it's time to have some fun! Start by having everyone introduce themselves (this can be a game itself if you have them share interesting/funny facts). Next, have a fun and easy game on deck to get everyone feeling comfortable and happy.
5. Curate Your Content
Following a study or book takes the pressure off you and your co-leader each week, and makes it easier to get members to take part. Any study you pick should appeal and apply to the people you invite. Email out what material/scripture you will discuss each week and have discussion questions prepared ahead of time. Be bold and ask people to share by keeping your questions open-ended and calling on people if you have to. It may feel awkward the first time, but it's often the only way to get the ball rolling. A pro-tip would be to ask a willing member ahead of time if they would mind kicking off the discussion.
6. Always Pray
Don't be fooled into thinking that a virtual group cannot have a powerful time of prayer. This is where you as a leader will need to show your members how to step in boldness and trust that God will meet you where you are at. Ask people for prayer requests and have your assistant or co-leader write them in the chatbox. Then assign out prayers to each member so that they are praying for each other. You can tell anyone who isn't comfortable praying out loud to private chat you beforehand. As the leader, you should start. Suggest that everyone play worship music quietly in the background to set the atmosphere (just have them mute themselves if they aren’t praying!). Be bold!
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
By following the tips above, you will be well on your way to leading a successful virtual Bible Study.