A virtual or online group provides great flexibility and an opportunity to stay connected. We know that leading a digital group can be hard and has its own challenges. We want to help. Check out the St Mary Online Leader Guide. Having trouble with attendance due to “Zoom fatigue” or COVID exhaustion?
TOOLS FOR CONVERSATION
When your team is newly formed and your team members don’t yet know each other very well, you might need some new ways to start the conversation. Check out these options from North Point Church in Atlanta icebreaker questions or use our Digital Story Cards.
CREATING A FUN ENVIRONMENT
Consider scheduling a virtual game night when you are not discussing your small group study. Games can be a great way to grow connections with your group members in a stress-free way. Check out these digital games:
Musical Bingo: A digital twist on a classic Bingo game Kahoot!: An online trivia game Virtual Scavenger Hunt: A race to gather specific items around your house. Who Said It: Jesus or Oprah?: A game of guessing who said each quote Scattergories: A creative-thinking, category-based game Houseparty: An app for several virtual games Not-So-Newlywed Game (for couples): See which couple knows each other best Heads Up (Apple or Android): Guess the word or phrase and see which couple gets the most right. Charades: Act out words and phrases. Use the board game version or the app. Pictionary: Use a piece of paper or the Zoom whiteboard to draw. Use the board game version or an app to get words or phrases.
SOCIAL DISTANCING MEETING IDEAS
If your group is meeting permanently online, you can still create opportunities to come together with other permanently online groups. Connect with another permanently online small group leader and choose a week when your two groups meet together online (all the recommended platforms have plenty of capacity to do so). Make it fun with an Ice Cream Social or a Happy Hour theme (each member brings his/her favorite frozen treat or adult beverage to the meeting). These are ideal social events to plan for weeks during the year when there might not be a formal video/questions for the group to discuss.
If your group is only meeting online temporarily, you might find it helpful to periodically create opportunities for your group to come together in person in socially distant ways. Here are a few ideas: Park - Invite your group to meet at a local park, asking members to bring their own lawn chairs, blankets, food, and drinks, and reminding them to remain six feet apart. Grill - If you have a large yard, invite members to join you for a night of grilling and fun. Let them know if they need to bring their own lawn chairs or if you will be providing them, and that seating will be six feet apart. Pool or Outdoors - Some neighborhood pools, park pavilions, and other outdoor spaces have opened. Reserve a night to meet with your group members for a social gathering. Driveway Social - Don’t have a big yard? Invite your group to join you in your driveway. Encourage them to bring their own lawn chairs, snacks, and drinks. Restaurant Patio - If your group members are comfortable eating at a restaurant, find a great local eatery where group members can hang out, order good food, and enjoy the patio. Fire Pit - Have a fire pit? Put it to good use! Invite group members for a night around the fire pit. You can even provide supplies for s’mores.
Host a 60- to 90-minute video meeting with your members to:
Connect - (10-15 minutes): Check in with your group. Need some new ways to start the conversation? Check out these icebreaker questions or use our Digital Story Cards. Open in Prayer Either the facilitator or a group member can open in prayer Learn - (10-15 minutes): Watch the small group homily for the week before you meet or during the meeting. Groups who meet exclusively online may find it helpful to ask group members to view the homily BEFORE the meeting because some online platforms are more difficult than others to project the homily with good sound quality. Additionally, the ability to preview the discussion questions at the end of the homily gives participants a chance to think about their answers in advance – a plus for those who may need a little more time composing their thoughts prior to sharing their feelings with a group. Discussion Questions - (20-30 minutes): Share what you’ve learned from the weekend homily, answer the discussion questions with your group. Take advantage of the Small Group Leader Guide to help you prepare for the discussion. Close - Either the facilitator or a group member can close in prayer and ask the group for special intentions for the week. Celebrate answered prayers from prior weeks as well during this time to feel an even stronger sense of connection to how God is working in your lives.
VIRTUAL MEETING ELEMENTS
COMMUNICATION Communicate with your group early and often. Send weekly emails or text reminders regarding group meetings, and let your group know you are there for them.
Turn off any potential distractions ahead of time, so you can be fully engaged.
If your group is newly formed (or has welcomed new members),check in with group members after week six. Ask: How are you doing? How is the digital format working? Do you feel you are connecting with other group members? How can I pray for you? How can I help? If you sense that a particular member is uncomfortable or not feeling that your group is a good fit, reach out to us to seek a potentially better fit.
SOUND Since background noise can cause feedback and static noise on your call, ask group members to mute themselves when they are not talking to eliminate feedback.
If you have others in the home (e.g., roommate or spouse) who are not in the group, please consider using headphones to maintain confidentiality.
Consider playing background music as people initially join the call.
VIDEO Download the video-conferencing platform you chose ahead of time and test it to become familiar with it.
To ensure the integrity and safety of your digital group, please make your meeting links password protected, create a waiting room, or make the meeting invitation only.
Go online early before each meeting to ensure your video and audio are working.
Sit close to the screen, so it appears you are sitting across from them. Be mindful of the camera angle and what is behind you.
Good lighting goes a long way. Place lighting behind your computer or phone, not directly behind you, so it brightens your face.
AVOID ZOOM FATIGUE
You or your group members feeling extra exhausted meeting digitally? Check out our tips to help with “Zoom Fatigue”.
Reach out to us if you have any questions! Not sure how to reach your us? Email us and we’ll connect you.