If you want to expand your church’s reach, why not host a Q&A Bible study online? While it does take some preparation, you’ll help grow your church family.
From members who can’t always attend or want more study time to people worldwide looking to explore their faith, you’re able to bring all types of people together.
To make it a success, you’ll need to know what participants expect and how to keep the session engaging.
Ensure You Have Interest First
This might sound obvious, but make sure you have interest within your church first. The last thing you want is to host your first Bible study online and no one attends. While it might sound very inspiring, you likely won’t have a large group at first, but as long as just a few people participate, it’s well worth your time.
Ask members in your church whether they’d be interested and what time and day works well for them. This gives you a starting point to help plan out your first session.
Choose Where To Host It
You actually have quite a few options on how and where to host your Bible study online. Obviously, if you have the capabilities, you can host it on your website. However, this is far from the only option. Some of the most popular include:
- Facebook Groups – This is one of the top options since it’s easily accessible and free. You can live stream if you want video or simply do group posts. Either way works and it’s easy for participants to go back and view/read it later.
- Skype – Skype works well too, especially for group calls and chats. You can even host video Bible studies. The only drawback is not everyone may feel comfortable on the phone, so participation may not be quite as high.
- Chat apps – Pretty much any chat app that offers group chat will work well for a Bible study. While Messenger is obviously a top choice. For even more options, Tom’s Guide has a large list that explains the pros and cons.
- Text message – While it may seem less personal, texting is something many people have access to and it’s typically unlimited with most smartphone plans. For those without a texting plan, there are desktop options as well.
- Email – This one is a bit old school, but still highly effective. If you have a less than tech-savvy audience, email can work well. Just ensure everyone knows to hit Reply All for group messages and Reply for private messages.
As you can see, you do have options. Ask your members which works best for them and go from there.
Select A Theme
Every Bible study online needs a theme. Not only does this help everyone stay on topic, it also helps you market upcoming Bible studies. More on marketing later.
The most obvious is to focus on specific books in the Bible. However, you don’t have to just stop there. You can break it down by specific themes or lessons within each book. You could also focus on common issues facing today’s society, such as finances, business and relationships.
If you’re struggling to find the right theme, post a poll on social media and your church website with multiple topics and even an Other option. For Other, voters add in their own idea. This helps you see what’s most important to your participants.
For even more help, use these Bible study resources:
- Bible Info – Bible Topics (good for individual topic themes)
- Sign Up Genius – 60 Small Group Bible Study Topics
- Bible Study Tools – constantly updated with new resources
- Bible Info – Bible Study (more in-depth themes)
Establish A Duration
Have you ever had anyone not attend church simply because they were afraid of services running too long? Sadly, busy schedules don’t always permit extra time for church. But, a Bible study online just might work as long as everyone knows how long it will be.
Make a point of setting a duration. While people can continue to discuss things among themselves, the actual session will end at a set time. For those seeking more guidance, give them a way to send you more questions and comments privately. For instance, you might provide an email address or a link to your Facebook page.
When participants aren’t stressed about the length, they’ll enjoy themselves more and pay more attention.
Make It Interactive
This isn’t a sermon. It’s a Bible study. However, it’s easy to get so passionate that you forget to include everyone else. It’s even more difficult when people aren’t in the same room.
The idea is to have an actual conversation. Listen to or read the comments and questions coming in. That’s the Q&A part. When prepping your Bible study, ensure you leave plenty of room for questions. Also, encourage people to ask questions at certain points. Odds are, if one person has a question, others have the same question.
As long as everyone feels safe to talk, you’ll have a much more interactive session. The more interactive, the more likely it is that participants will invite others to join in next time.
Decide If You’ll Have Multiple Groups
This will obviously depend upon how many participants you have and whether it makes sense to divide things out. For instance, you might host multiple types of groups each week to focus on more specific issues. For example, you may have a teens group or a women’s group.
As your Bible study online grows, ask participants whether they’d be interested in segmented groups that focus more on their specific needs. This will give you a good idea of whether it’s necessary and which groups are needed.
You can also start out with the same Bible study groups you already have within your church. Your members may enjoy doing two Bible studies per week versus just one.
Ensure You Have A Quiet Place
This goes not only for a Bible study, but any type of audio/video you place online. If participants can’t hear you, it’s not going to be successful. The last thing you want is a bunch of static, background noise or sounding like you’re speaking from far away.
While you can’t do much about participants having clear audio, you can control things on your end. Have a set room where you won’t be disturbed. Your church office works well. Just make sure your phone won’t be ringing while you’re in the middle of things.
You may also encourage participants to find a quiet place and to silence their phones. For those using their phones to participate, they can still silence them and see any videos, text messages or chat messages.
Test Equipment Before You Start
One thing people hate is wasting time while you get your equipment sorted out. If this is your first time hosting a Bible study online, test everything out at least an hour before. Ensure you are able to connect using your chosen platform.
Try sending messages or doing a test group call. The things you test will vary based upon the platform you use. Have a small group of church members or leaders help you out. It’s always best to work out the bugs before you have an eager audience that slowly dwindles away as things go wrong.
Be Prepared For Debates
You’d think a Bible study online would be a nice, peaceful place, but debates can and will happen. In most cases, they won’t happen often, but when they do, be prepared to step in. Kindly and respectfully ask that both parties cease with their argument or take it elsewhere.
If you have an answer, go ahead and give it. Remind everyone that this is supposed to be a discussion, not a debate. Most importantly, avoid diving in yourself.
Try To Add A Personal Element
You’re not always going to have a personal story to add to your Bible study, but when you do, talk about it. You could also ask participants to share their stories that pertain to this week’s theme.
Sometimes, it’s easy for it to sound too clinical. Getting more personal makes it easier to relate and encourages more discussion.
Market Your Bible Study
Hosting a great Q&A Bible study online won’t happen if no one knows about it. Market it. Blog about it. Put a call-to-action on your church website’s homepage. Remind everyone on Facebook. You can also do Google ads to draw more attention. Whatever you do, get the word out.
Prep People Beforehand
Many people find it hard to think of questions quickly. So, give them a chance to prepare. Write a blog post about the upcoming Bible study with highlights and the theme. You might add suggest reading as well. Then, your participants come prepared and won’t get distracted trying to think of what to ask.
It’s Okay To Not Answer Every Question
The more your Bible study online grows, the harder it’ll be to answer every question. You’ll likely find that many questions are similar. Have a few volunteers gathering questions and seeing which ones are the best to answer.
Always apologize for not getting to everything. Ask participants to please send any questions directly to you if they still need an answer. You can also turn some of those questions into future Bible studies.
Admit When You’re Not Certain
While you’re there to help guide people, you’re not going to have all the answers. Only God has those. Admit when you’re not certain about something. It’s not a weakness. At this point, all you can do is point to scripture that comes close and suggest that both you and the person asking the question pray about it.
It’s better to admit you’re uncertain than give an answer that just sounds silly. Plus, it makes you sound more human and relatable.
Make It Feel Like A Conversation
You don’t want to be the only one doing the talking. Anytime things start getting quiet, ask a question to your participants. You want this to be a conversation and not a lecture. Encourage people to talk about their views, feelings and experiences. You want your group to feel like a family.
It’s only through conversation that participants get to know each other and feel more comfortable sharing. Odds are, things will be pretty quiet at first. After all, everyone might feel a bit awkward. Just keep encouraging them to participate and you’ll soon have an active group.
Consider Providing A Recording For Later
After spending all that time on a single Bible study online, why let all that hard work and all those great questions and answers go to waste? Instead, record each session and let those who couldn’t participate check it out when they have time.
This is also a great way to market your Bible studies. Let people listen in or watch a previous one. This is one reason Facebook works well. To make it easier for people to find past Bible studies, have an archive with links on your church’s website.
Pay Attention To Feedback
It’s a nice thought that your first Q&A Bible study online is going to be perfect, but that may just be pride talking. Pay close attention to any feedback you get throughout every session.
Many people might not say anything during, so ask for feedback at the end of every Bible study. If you’re afraid of what might be said, ask them to send any feedback to your email. This keeps everything private, but still gives you the feedback you need to improve.
You should also pay attention to feedback within your Bible study groups in church. Use them to help fine tune your online sessions as well.
Check Out Online Bible Studies
If you’re not sure what to do, check out other churches. See what they do and how participants interact. Join in on the conversation too. While you don’t have to copy what they do, get inspired so you can host your own.
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