Following the pandemic in 2020, videochat has become a popular platform for group Bible study. Though we’re well into the videochat era by now, it’s not too late to pick up some tips that will help you have an effective small-group Bible study.
Set up your hardware and software
Putting a little effort into your videochat setup—especially but not only if you are a teacher—is simply a way of loving your neighbor as yourself by removing distractions. If you haven’t done it by now, it is not too late. If you are a leader, make sure everyone in your group is aware of the hardware and software they’ll need. This information should be sent via email and included on the page about the session or provided as a link. Equipment should be set up and thoroughly tested before the Bible study begins.
Lighting – Place lighting in front and/or to the side of you. Don’t sit with a window or lighting behind you. There are countless lighting tutorials on YouTube.
Audio – Use a microphone made for podcasting or similar tasks. The Blue Yeti USB mic is one of the most popular, and it is not expensive. Use a pop filter to keep the audio clean and reduce pops. Make the extra effort to understand what “ gain levels” are—it’s one of the nerdy things people probably need to learn during global pandemics. If you’re using a smartphone or tablet, a lapel mic or a headset is a good option. Make sure the room is quiet. You might need to turn off fans or air conditioning. People can handle bad video much more patiently than they can handle bad audio.
Headphones – Members should use headphones to reduce echo. Any type of headphones or earbuds will work, including those with built-in microphones (though if they are wireless, battery life can be an issue).
Camera – A 1080p webcam or the camera on a laptop, smartphone, or tablet are nearly always good enough quality for a videochat. But take some time to think things through: if you place the camera at eye level, you are indicating equality with your listeners. If you appear to be looking down on them, then you, well, appear to be looking down on them! If you are looking up to your camera, you may also make your listeners feel awkward.
Look them in the eyes by having the camera at the correct level—and by practicing the initially difficult art of looking into the camera rather than at your screen when talking. Nothing is more disconcerting than watching someone speak to you while he or she is appearing to look at your collarbone.
Internet connection – To reduce lag, use a wired internet connection if you can. A 4G connection is usually fast enough, but WiFi strength can vary wildly inside a house. You might need to reduce the resolution to keep the video running smoothly.
Software – Don’t require software that group members don’t have access to. Provide information about the software so everyone can install it and learn to use it ahead of time.
Join a few online Bible studies
One way to learn how to run an online Bible study is to join a few yourself and see how they work. Notice what works for you and what doesn’t. Note things you want to incorporate and things you want to avoid.
Share your information and link in private groups, through email to your group members, on private pages that members have access to, and on your church website. If you share the invitation link with the public, anyone can join. This may take up important slots, leaving your members without access. (It also has led to some spamming from pranksters; church services have been ruined by young men who think it’s hilarious to barge into others’ video meetings.) Include the date and time, and make sure to include a time zone. Disclose the topic and key verses you’ll be covering so members can read the passages and prepare questions.
Inform everyone of what to expect
Before the study starts, explain the guidelines and tell the group how the study will proceed. This will include: when they can talk, how to ask questions through audio or the in-app chat feature, how to answer questions, how to reduce arguments and move them to a private platform, how to contribute, how not to interrupt whoever is speaking, the Bible translations to have on hand, any tools, books, paper, pens, or highlighters they’ll need, etc.
Everyone in the group should reduce distractions. This includes turning off ringers, informing the family that they’re not available, having members mute their microphones when they’re not talking (there are usually keyboard shortcuts for toggling mute on and off), and keeping animals and children in a different room.
Keep it short
To keep everyone focused and engaged, be prepared to go as much as half the length you would normally go in an in-person study. Make sure everyone knows the projected duration. Plan the amount of time for each element of the study and work to keep the study on target.
Record the session
Most videochat apps have a recording feature. Record the session for anyone who couldn’t attend and for anyone who wants to refer back to it. Make it available for download or streaming through your website, YouTube, Facebook group, the chat software account, etc. Make sure everyone involved is aware that the study is being recorded, will be available for others to see, and where to find it.
Prepare for the study session
List the main points you want to cover and have those points in a location that’s easy to see. They could be on your screen, taped to the side of your screen, next to you, or whatever you find that works best for you. Group members should read the passages ahead of time to familiarize themselves with the topic and write down any questions they’d like to have answered.
Start with prayer
Don’t forget to start with prayer!
Simplify your resources
Use resources that are easy to handle and use. Have your materials and apps ready. Don’t use large books that are hard to handle or read. Don’t read from too many books that have to be shuffled around, searched for, restacked, etc. The fewer resources that have to be handled the better. Using Logos Bible Software, for example, would allow you to share on your screen whatever text you are reading. You can even highlight text live.
Share your screen
Most of the videochat apps have a screen-sharing option. Share your screen with the group to use images, presentations, and videos. This is a great way to show not only Logos but Faithlife Proclaim slides with graphics, Scripture, quotations, maps, images of the locations, etc. Make sure the presentation is ready to display before sharing your screen.
Plan time for discussion
Ask questions and allow a few minutes for discussion. If you’re the leader, ask someone to monitor the chat to make sure no one’s question is ignored. Make the study an interactive experience. Share personal stories and encourage others to do the same.
If you’re the leader, don’t try to answer every question. This can take more time than you’ve allotted. Acknowledge this and apologize for not answering every question. Mention where they can continue the discussion or place their questions to be answered at a later time. Remember that it’s okay to not have all of the answers. We’re all learning and growing. Admitting this makes you more credible and relatable.
Ending the session
Provide a way for group members to contact you with questions and feedback. Let them know when to expect your response. Use feedback to improve the next session. Of course, end with prayer.
Now is a great time to start or join online Bible studies if you haven’t already! Following these tips will help make it a good experience for everyone involved.
This article was originally published in the January/February 2021 issue of Bible Study Magazine. Slight adjustments, such as title and subheadings, may be the addition of an editor.
- 5 Tips to Reinforce Your Bible Study and Prayer Routine
- How to Do In-Depth Study of God’s Word (3 Steps)
- Tips for Bible Students: 2 Simple Things I Do in Logos All the Time
Lexham Bible Dictionary
Regular price: $0.00
Faithlife Study Bible
Regular price: $0.00
Crucial Questions Series (20 vols.)
Regular price: $0.00
Logos 10 Fundamentals
Regular price: $49.99
I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible
Regular price: $8.99
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
Regular price: $16.99