Have you "lost that lovin’ feeling" now that many Bible studies and spring events have been put on pause? We completely understand! So we’re putting our heads together—Hayley the twenty-something technology nerd and Leslie the sixty-something women’s ministry veteran—to help you "bring it on back."
While online gatherings can never replace in-person fellowship, technology is one of God’s gifts to help us bridge the gap until we can meet again. Quarantine cannot steal our joy for meeting together, even if it’s through a screen.
Maybe you’re feeling digitally challenged these days. Friend, that doesn’t have to hold you back! This post will give you what you need to get something started. With our tips, you can take the lead and bring back a sense of community to your local church or neighborhood.
Step #1: Look around You
Make a list mentally or on paper: What do you already have available to you? Here’s some ideas to get you started.
- Do you have a laptop or computer or smartphone with a camera?
- Do you have a Facebook account or a favorite app that you already use to connect with people?
- Do you have a tech-savvy teen at home or someone else you can call for tech support?
- Do you have a great Bible study book that you would love to go through again?
- Do you have a gift for coming up with conversation starters?
- Do you have a listening ear and a Spirit-filled, praying mouth?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, congratulations, you’re already well-equipped to start out. All of these are assets that God (and you) can use!
Step #2: Decide What You Want to Do
We’re making it super easy for you to host a virtual one-time gathering (think ladies fellowship or coffee connection) or a multi-session small group study. What is the purpose of your online community? Do you want to form a group to meet for prayer or fellowship, or to organize a Bible study?
Either way, Revive Our Hearts offers on-demand videos (at no charge!) on topics such as revival, true womanhood, Titus 2, and prayer. Many of them include bonus materials like message outlines and discussion questions. You’ll find everything you need (and so much more!) in the Revive Our Hearts Event Kit.
Here’s a sampling of the most popular messages. (Popcorn is optional but we do suggest having your Bible and journal on hand!):
- Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, “Crying Out from a Heart of Brokenness”
- John Piper, “The Ultimate Meaning of True Womanhood”
- Mary Kassian, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!”
- Susan Hunt, “Don’t Give Up On That Modeling Career”
- Dannah Gresh, “Need Help Lovin’ That Man”
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “A Different Kind of Freedom”
- Jackie Hill Perry, “The Truth About Sexuality”
Or, if you want an actual book to go through together, good news! We also have Bible studies available on biblical womanhood, personal revival, and women of the Bible. (Abigail, Esther, and Elizabeth are available in book or digital form and have accompanying podcasts and videos.)
Step #3: Choose Your Technology
If you feel overwhelmed by all the online options for connection, we’ve created a cheat sheet so you won’t have to spend your time tracking down information. Take a look at our 5 Easy Tools for Online Community infographic below.
Step #4: Learn from Experience
Your friends may need lots of hand-holding while they adjust to building community online. It will be worth your effort to call the ones who are hesitant to try it. Remember, most of us are all learning together, so you’re not expected to be an expert. Your extra effort earns you an “atta-girl”! If needed, recruit a tech-savvy friend to come alongside and offer “tech support.”
Announce all the details by email and include the instructions and links for joining the meeting or event. Tutorial videos can give people confidence to get started. For example, if you’re using the Zoom conference platform, here’s a helpful video that a women’s ministry leader shared with us.
While everyone gets comfortable to the new format, you should all plan to join the meeting early so you can work out any technical issues. Give reminders about the meet-up as the date draws near.
It can be difficult to cultivate an intimate feel in virtual connections—we know! Try these best practices to maximize your online community time:
- Do it with video. Encourage participants to use their video camera to catch each other’s facial expressions and nuance. Non-verbal cues while muted like head nods and hand raises are also welcomed.
- Eliminate background noise. Explain (and keep reminding!) everyone how to use the mute/unmute feature. In a larger group, whoever is not currently talking should stay muted so all can hear well. Wearing earbuds will also minimize sound interference. In a small group where there are few distractions, you can try leaving the mics on for more natural conversations.
- Maximize interaction. Coach you friends to use the chat feature to respond to what others are sharing. To encourage participation, you may even want to offer a giveaway to those who use the chat option. Remind everyone to stay focused on the virtual connection just as if they were sitting together in the same room. If a participant needs to move around or talk with someone in their home, they should turn off their video momentarily.
- Recruit a side-kick. Before your first meeting, ask someone to moderate. Her role is to support the leader by monitoring the chatbox, troubleshooting, taking screenshots, recording prayer requests, or taking notes of the conversation.
- Take security precautions. Be sure to set a password for your meeting—to keep any potential troublemakers from disrupting your time together. Also, send out the meeting URL/link privately over email or a private message, rather than publicly on social media.
- Keep it fun! Start with an icebreaker or warm-up activity. The website Women’s Ministry Toolbox offers a great list of ideas to choose from. Don’t forget to spice it up with visuals to promote laughter and camaraderie. We love using virtual backgrounds on Zoom! You could also invite guests to wear their favorite colors or funky hats, share GIFs or emojis, or show off their favorite coffee mugs.
Hopefully with the tips above, you’re starting to feel that old love coming on back. If so, don’t let the obstacles overwhelm you. Be courageous and try something new! Share your own tips, or just let us know what works for you in the comments below. We’re in a unique time for ministry and connection. “Don’t let it slip away.”