How To Host An Online Group

New to hosting a group online? An online group is an incredible tool to help people connect with each other when an in-person group may not be possible. You can encourage each others faith, share authentically, and watch God work in ways you may not have dreamed possible.

Your first few meetings will take some adjusting as everyone gets acquainted with the technology and the format and works out all of the kinks. So don’t give up too quickly if your first few meetings are a bit of a challenge.

As you look into launching a group online, or having your group try it out for a week, this page will help you figure out the technology to use, best practices for a good online experience, and what a typical group meeting might look like.

Have questions? Contact us HERE. We’d love to help!

INSTRUCTIONS EMAIL TEMPLATE TO SEND TO GROUP

TECHNOLOGY

GOOGLE HANGOUTS

Pros: Free. Unlimited time. Closed Captioning. Accessible via web browser on computer.

Cons: Requires a google account for all participants. (can sign up for one HERE). Phone-in option not available unless you have a business account. (If you have a G Suite business account, you can also share a phone number for people to call into the meeting if they don’t have access to a computer or smartphone. GSuite accounts are free till July 1.)

Capacity (25 Participants/Devices)

How to use:

■ Open Google Hangouts in web browser or mobile app (apple device , android device, chrome web browser extension)

■ Login

■ Click “Video Call” button

■ Click “Invite People” and type in their email address (If they don’t have a google account it will send them an invite to setup an account)

■ You can also schedule a meeting on your google calendar and send an invite to join you at a specific time, including a link to your online meeting.
(See Instructions)

Watch 6 minute youtube tutorial.

ZOOM

Pros: Free. Only hosts are required to have a Zoom account. There is a phone-in option.

Cons: Limited to 40 minutes unless you have a paid account ($14.99/mo). Have to download Zoom application to phone or computer.

Capacity (100 participants/Devices)

How To Use:

■ Open Zoom in a web browser or mobile app (apple device, android device, chrome web browser extension)

■ Login

■ Click “Host a meeting with video on”

■ Click “Invite participants”

■ Select how you’d like to send an invite:

■ Default Email, Gmail, Yahoo to send email invite

■ or “copy URL”, “Copy Invitation” to copy a link and send it via a text message, email, facebook message, etc.

■ You can also schedule a meeting on the zoom website and send an invite to join you at a specific time, including a link to your online meeting.
(See Instructions)

Watch tutorial videos in Zoom video library.

FACEBOOK MESSENGER GROUPS

Pros: Free. Accessible via web browser on computer. Can access without a facebook account. (If you don’t have a facebook account you’ll need to download the app to your phone and use phone number.)

Cons: Phone-in option not available.

Capacity (50 participants/Devices: 6 video, 44 audio)

How To Use:

■ Open facebook messenger on web browser or mobile app

■ Login (with facebook account or phone number)

■ Click “New Message” button to add facebook friends to group chat

■ After adding contacts, click the “Video Call” button to start video chat.

Watch 2 minute tutorial.

FREECONFERENCECALL.COM

If your group is not as tech savvy or doesn’t have the technology to do a video chat, this website offers a free conference call option to phone in. It will be a long distance number most likely.

How to use:

■ Sign up for an account HERE

■ Share the dial-in number and access code with your group.

BEST PRACTICES/ONLINE ETIQUETTE

1. Recommend group members to download meeting software prior to meeting.

2. Make sure your face has sufficient lighting.

3. Make sure your face is centered in the video camera.

4. Select the quietest room/location you can find.

5. Only use one device per household.

6. Mute your computer unless you’re talking.

7. Be an assertive moderator.

8. Create a plan for participants to indicate they’d like to talk.

9. Give full attention, don’t multitask.

10. Stay in touch afterwards.

FORMAT/SCHEDULE

Practice Session/First Meeting (30 minutes)

◦ It can be helpful to have a 30 minute practice session together, or take the first half of your first online group get everyone acquainted with how an online group will work.

◦ Review online etiquette/best practices (listed above). You may want to review some of these talking points the first several meetings until people figure it out.

◦ Help people learn how to use the technology and answer any questions.

◦ If you are a new group, make sure to introduce yourself, share you name, and share how you got connected with Valley and the online group.

◦ End by sharing prayer requests; have 1 person pray.

Typical Meeting (45-60 minutes)

Connect - 15-20 minutes

■ Welcome people as they login (people tend to arrive late online, just like in-person groups)

■ Begin ice breaker.

Discuss - 30-40 minutes

■ Discuss reading questions, leaving plenty of time for application questions.

Wrap Up - 5 minutes

■ Ask for any prayer requests.

■ Have 1 person wrap up in prayer.

■ Encourage people to text each other afterwards for further prayer requests and to pray together. (Prayer Ideas: men’s group text, women’s group text, whole group text, prayer partners.)

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