Online Groups

by Tim Isbell, 3/21/2020

In-person meetings are more difficult because of hectic schedules and long commute times. Adding today's shelter-in-place requirements triggered me to increase my video conferencing capability. After some research, I decided to use the Zoom platform. It seems especially well suited for meetings, seminars, and webinars.  

As a first step, I start the "New Life-group Online" at our local church. Soon I intend to start another group for anyone on the internet. I'll probably call this one "The Assembly."  

New Life-group Online

Soon after the social distancing requirement started, I launched the New Life-group Online. It offers weekly spiritual refreshment through scripture and discussion designed to guide us through the rest of each week. Each session is fitting for newcomers. The prepared content lasts only 30 minutes. Afterward, people can socialize in the “meeting room” for another 15 minutes. We use the Revised Common Lectionary to connect participants to the Christian calendar and to ensure balanced content that is independent of preceding weeks. Planning the meeting only requires modest content development, making it suitable for a wide variety of leaders. Finally, these meetings can point participants to other topic-focused seminars or webinars. Here is an example of one session's participant's notes, which the leader can provide in the Zoom meeting through posting the link in the Zoom Chat function, or which the leader can deliver through email or texting.

A midweek online lifegroup serves multiple needs. It fits children's workers who miss the adult parts of weekend worship and Sunday School. It serves parishioners who can’t get to the usual weekend services consistently. It accommodates senior adults who are uncomfortable driving at night and shut-ins with access to the internet. For people with contagious illnesses, or needing to social-distance for health reasons, a midweek lifegroup is the only option. Zoom also functions passively through a simple browser for people who want to view the meeting but not participate. And people can even connect through an ordinary telephone.
Start times can range from 7 to 9:15pm. You can target for after dinner, or for after parents put the kids to bed. Of course, this concept works at any time or day of the week.

The lifegroup concept works at a small attendee size of 3-4 people and scales almost without limit. If the meeting grows too large, we can use Zoom’s breakout-group function to right-size multiple subgroups for part of the agenda. Over time, some participants are sure to decide to start new lifegroups, which is an even more powerful scaling strategy.

The Assembly or Prologue

Stay tuned, more info coming on this one.