10 Tips for Leading a Great Bible Study Group on Zoom
As we face cancellations, alterations and modifications related to COVID-19, one bright spot has been the ability to use Zoom technology for Bible Study. Many people, of all ages, have been able to download and figure out Zoom on their smart phones, tablets or computers. By joining together, we find ourselves once again enjoying some fellowship and know that Jesus’ words, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am (Matt. 18:20),” is certainly true.
While Zoom is fabulous for helping us gather in a virtual room, the process of leading a study can present new challenges for the leaders. Here are some ideas to make things go smoothly:
1. Plan ahead- Schedule your Zoom meeting and send out the meeting ID and password a week ahead. I send mine out with the prayer request list that goes out the day after our meeting. I highlight the time, the ID and the password out of the complicated-looking list of phone numbers for access and other information.
2. Double check – Before your start time, send out an extra reminder. I learned the importance of this when I logged on one week just a few minutes early, only to find that somehow I had scheduled two meetings for the same group and had sent out conflicting times. The meeting went on as planned, but several people were not able to attend in the confusion.
3. Assign someone to be backup- When you send out your notice, send out the phone number for someone who can be a back-up tech person, helping folks who can’t get in the room or have forgotten how to turn on the video or audio. This can relieve interruptions and make the meeting feel less stressful for the other participants. Again, I started this process after receiving a text ten minutes into the Bible study from a member who was having trouble. Instead of pausing the meeting for everyone, I asked our tech person to call her and give her the necessary assistance.
4. Set up- Before you meeting, set up your space in the home where you will do your meeting. It helps not to have too much background clutter or a long view of the whole room. During this COVID-19 crisis, I have been surprised by all the national newscasters who have invited the nation into their dining rooms or living rooms. It’s interesting, but can be distracting! Also, set your computer up on a book or other elevated surface so that the camera is directed right at your face instead of capturing a less flattering shot going up from your chin. You might also consider the lighting and put a lamp in the room so that you have some indirect lighting. I have also added a couple of comforters on the back of chairs to help absorb extraneous sounds and echoes. Of course, turn off all the background noise, including the television in the other room. It is surprising how much of the background noise gets transmitted through Zoom. Also, consider asking your participants to mute themselves so that accidental sounds don’t distract everyone.
5. Consider your own appearance- Whether you are a man or a woman, it is time to spruce up a little! Dress up, do your make-up and hair, and put on some nice earrings and lipstick (ok, guys you all get a pass on this!). In fact, lipstick or lip lip balm has been shown to help make the speaker more easily understood.
6. Greetings- It helps if the host can be present a few minutes before the start time. In fact, I have started scheduling a 15 minute “chat” before our Bible study time, so that folks can gather, share news, tell funny stories, and work out tech glitches before we get into the Word. I also like to be on hand to greet everyone by name and have each person say something to get started. Having an opportunity to speak initially can break the ice and help folks participate more as the meeting continues.
7. Start as promptly as possible- People like to know what to expect. Starting on time respects their time and gives everyone a much-needed sense of structure during this time where many of us feel somewhat “off quilter.”
Assign prayers and readers ahead of time- One thing that makes a Bible study feel more normal is having different members of the group participate. By planning ahead, and asking people to read specific scriptures or say a prayer, the leader helps to eliminate down time during the meeting or conflicting voices talking.
8. Redundancy in notifications- When life is more normal, people know what to expect and don’t have to think so much about the details of gathering. When using a new app, most of us need an extra measure of grace and a little more time. We also need frequent reminders via several communication methods—Facebook, text and email. The leaders’ proactive approach can help minimize stress and open the group’s heart to hear God’s message for them.
9. Ask questions- Attendees to your Bible study may begin to disengage after a long period of just listening. Be sure and ask questions, hold your Bible up as you make a point, include your hands in the field of vision, and allow for strategic pauses.
10. Close well- Groups sometimes enjoy having a predictable ending to the meeting time. My group generally enjoyed saying The Lord’s Prayer together, but with Zoom that simply does not work because of echoes. We have adapted by finding other ways to end in prayer: using sentence prayers or having someone read a Psalm.
Whatever you do, groups will thrive and return regularly if they feel welcomed, heard and loved. As a leader, your preparation time and the energy you put into making things go smoothly matters just as much now —maybe more—than ever. COVID-19 is a terrible pandemic, but it is possible that some people who have never been able to attend a Bible study, may do so for the first time. The door of opportunity is open. Let us be ready to go through it.