In the past few years, it has become increasingly difficult to bring people together for meetings and training because of the complexities of life. And now, because of the current pandemic requiring social distancing in our culture, it is not possible to have Sunday School, small group Bible studies, or any other church meeting with more than a few people.
For now, our only way of holding group meetings for Bible study is through virtual online meetings. There are other means of doing this, such as Facebook Live, Facebook group, and other platforms similar to Zoom. But I have found Zoom to be the easiest, lowest cost (FREE) method for having online meetings at anytime, anywhere. Now, if you want to get together with several group members in your home, on your porch, in your backyard, you can do that, at your own risk of course. But you will need to take precautions, like
- Keep a distance of six feet from each other.
- Don’t greet each other with a handshake, hug, or personal contact.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Don’t touch your face, mouth, or eyes with your hands.
- When your meeting is over, be sure to disinfect anything used or touched by anyone.
We need to do all we can to maintain community among believers. Our classes and groups are much more than just Bible classes. Our groups are the basic community group within the larger context of the church. Church is relationships built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. These relationship exist to strengthen one another, teach one another, and encourage one another to live the Christian life out in the public. Small groups are the primary structure within your church to build a sense of community and belonging. When we feel like we belong and have a purpose, we are more engaged in ministry, service, and leadership.
We need to maintain ministry and prayer. Because of what we just talked about, small groups are basic organizational structure within the church to produce ministry. In groups, we pray for one another, study God’s Word together, challenge one another, and lead serve and minister to one another and to others outside our groups. Our pastors cannot even make visits in the hospitals or care facilities, making group ministry even more important. It is a true statement that we can do much more together than we can do alone. We need each other. God created us to exist, act, serve, and lead in relationship.
Disclaimer: I have a paid subscription through my church, and I do not receive any benefits from Zoom for my recommendation.
What is Zoom? According to Zoom’s website, Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable method for video and audio conferencing, collaboration, chat, and webinars across mobile devices, desktops, telephones, and room systems. The company has been around since 2011 to help businesses and organizations bring their teams together when they can’t be physically in the same location. You may use Zoom in your workplace, or your children’s school teacher may use Zoom during this time of social isolation to keep education going.
It’s Free. That’s right, it’s free. You can purchase a subscription if you want to, but for most Bible study groups, you can do everything you need to with the free edition. With the free edition, you are limited to a 40-minute maximum meeting length, and you can have no more that 100 participants in your online group. Neither of these should be a problem for your group. If you need more time that the 40-minute limit, I suggest holding two meetings a week. One for Bible teaching time, and another for prayer and general fellowship.
It’s Easy. Zoom is by far the easiest way to have an online meeting, plain and simple. With four simple steps, you can be online and running your first meeting in five minutes or less. I cannot stress how easy it is. You can use a computer, an iPad or tablet, or a smartphone to join in meetings.
Everyone Can Participate. Group members who do not have a computer, tablet, or smartphone can join the group meeting by phone.
How to get Zoom for Free
Follow the instructions below, or watch my easy instructions:
- Navigate to www.zoom.com.
- Click Sign Up, It’s Free in right corner.
- Type in your email address.
- Respond to the email to complete your registration.
- That’s it. You are almost ready to lead your first virtual, online meeting.
Once you have established your account with Zoom, you should make sure you load the Zoom plugin for your web browser to make starting online meetings easy. During your first login, you should receive a message from Zoom to load the plugin for your web browser. I use Google Chrome, so my instructions will related to this web browser. As long as you use any of the modern browser, the process should be the same.
Set Up A Meeting
- You can start a Zoom meeting in one of two ways: You can navigate to their homepage and follow the instructions below; or you can click the Zoom icon from your home screen or taskbar and click the Schedule button..
- Click Schedule and follow the instructions on the window:
- Name the Topic, something like “My Bible Study on July 12″
- Enter the date and time of your meeting. You can make this a recurring meeting if you’d like.
- Select a Meeting ID. I typically leave Generate Automatically selected.
- Password protect the meeting if you’d like to. Since I only send invitations to people I want to join this meeting. This is up to you.
- Video. I choose On for Host (that’s you), but you can leave it off if you just want to have a voice only meeting. Make the same choice for the Participants as you’d like. You can always change these settings anytime during the meeting.
- Audio. Leave on Telephone and Audio in case someone who doesn’t have a computer, tablet, or smartphone. They can to call in to join the meeting.
- Calendar. You can automatically add your meeting to your calendar by selecting which calendar you use.
- Under the Advanced options at the bottom, I usually check all three, and select save the meeting Locally.
- Finally, under Advanced options, you invite an alternative host in case you can’t be there, or if you are having multiple leaders.
- Once you are satisfied with all your choices, click the Schedule button. You can edit the meeting setup at anytime, or delete the meeting altogether.
- You can also log into your Zoom account at www.zoom.us to edit the meeting. You have a few more options on the web site, too. The one you should look for is Invited Attendees. Copy the Join URL and email or text it to your invitees.Or click the Copy Invitation and paste it in an email to send you invitees.
Start Your Meeting
Click the Zoom button on your desktop or app bar to start the meeting. I like to arrive a few minutes early to be the first one online.
Record Your Meeting
If you plan on recording your meeting, be sure to alert you attendees and ask if anyone objects. Be sure to push the RECORD button at the bottom of the Zoom window. Zoom does not automatically record.
That’s about it. You are ready to have your first Online Virtual Group Meeting. It’s not the same as being in the same room, but it’s not bad when we are socially distancing!