Monday, March 16, 2020

A Short Guide to Leading an Online Group

This week we will be taking a break from our deep dive into Scripture and will instead shift focus to building community amidst the immediate need of Coronavirus preparedness. During unprecedented times like these, the community looks to the response of church staff and its lay leaders to assist in processing the events of national crises. Indeed, this is our opportunity to shine as a church and rally together and help foster a sense of community that ministers to the spiritual needs of the flock (despite social distancing!).

We live in a day and age where technology has allowed our church to continue building relationships through the power of online groups. I pray that this brief “spark-notes” version of online group preparation may be able to bless you and your groups in the coming weeks!

What software should I use?
  • Since both are free, Skype or Google Hangouts are generally recommended, although if you are comfortable in using other conference software tools (and if you have access to them), then please feel free to use your preferred program instead.
    • For Skype:
      • You may install this program on your computer or install the app on your phone.
      • However, there is a browser-version of Skype where the program does not need to be installed.
      • One important thing to note is that a Skype account must be made in order to log in.
    • For Google Hangouts:
      • There is no need to install the program on your computer, as it is browser-based.
      • If you choose to use Google Hangouts on your phone, there is an App that is available to download for free.
      • One important thing to note is that a Google account must be made in order to use this video conferencing feature.
    • For both Google and Skype, a few important notes:
      • Unless you have a large group, the max number of participants should not affect your ability to use the tool. Skype has a max of 50 for a video call, while Google Hangouts has a max of 25.
      • You have to be connected and on each other’s friends list before the video call takes place (So it’s good to work together at adding individuals to your friends list in advance of the day of your meeting so as not to scramble, last minute).
Things to Remember as an Online Group Leader
  • Folks will be late, just like face-to-face groups. Give grace!
  • Let your group members get used to using mute/unmute functionality of their microphones to help eliminate background noise.
  • The group is run just like an in-person group, where:
    • The leader takes care to welcome everyone.
    • Quick intro conversation takes place.
    • Typical small talk takes place, if any.
    • Group members are encouraged to take turns at answering the questions and discussing the evening’s content with one another.
    • The group is wrapped up with prayer.

How to be a good Online Group Participator
  • It’s best to participate in a private room at home where distractions are minimal (or where it is less likely for others to enter the room that we may be in).
  • We all have adorable children and pets, however child and pet care should be arranged to prevent moments like these, just as we would when going to attend a face-to-face meeting with our groups.
  • Be sure to eat before or after the group (Eating on camera is awkward and it just goes downhill from there if we forget to mute the microphone while chewing).
  • Multitasking prevents us from being in the moment and picking up on what the Spirit is attempting to accomplish during your meeting (Emails and social media updates on the Coronavirus can wait!).
  • Try to sit at a desk or table instead of a sofa or bed (Having the computer on our laps can cause us to be distractions to others as we shift in our seats and continuously enter and exit the frame).
  • If you must leave your seat for an emergency break, please mute your microphone before stepping away from your computer. Even if you don’t have a mic on your person, your mic still picks up sounds (even from the next room over).
  • Try to be in a room that is well-lit, but not seated directly in front of windows (The sunlight creates a glare and makes your image appear darker on the computer camera).

As an additional note, now is the perfect time to invite non-believers into your online group! Let us not forget that those who are not a part of a church group may be in a season of life where they are possibly the most receptive to the gospel than they have ever been. Prayerfully consider who in your friends list would be great to invite!

May the Lord abundantly bless your time with your group as you meet online! Let us pray with boldness that this virus is vanquished quickly. Let us give God glory, as we live in an age with the technology to address the spiritual needs in connecting with one another and the medical advancements to address the physical needs of our bodies. Stay safe, and God bless you!

Let's Connect! Follow on Twitter: @SeanBuono


  1. This is so good. So glad you put this out and so promptly in response to the guidelines we are all under. I am thinking about doing an online group with my students and this is helpful!

    1. Thank you Jesse! I just listened to a podcast episode on online groups earlier today and this is jam packed with great info on hosting virtual groups, be sure to take a listen!



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