Videoconferencing is a great tool for connecting with far-away friends and family. Initially prompted by a desire for connection and social interaction in the midst of a pandemic, many now have established a regular (weekly, monthly) virtual-gathering time with friends who are scattered across the country, or even the world.
Some of these are formal gatherings set up by churches or other organizations, while others are simply a group of individuals setting aside a regular time for conversation and encouragement. For those who are homebound, virtual fellowship options remain a way to connect with their brothers and sisters in Christ. If technology is a challenge, there’s another opportunity for connection! Partner members together with some technology training/mentoring.
If you're looking for ideas on how to keep your congregation connected virtually, take a look at the suggestions below.
Bible Studies and Small Groups
Although the focus of a Bible study is, well, studying the Bible, fellowship is often another key element. In addition to digging into Scripture, small groups also gather for prayer, discussion on a particular book or topic, and to share life with one another.
Virtual meetings offer the chance to connect and share in times and places that might not otherwise be possible. Take for example the parenting group that meets via Zoom in the evening after the kids have gone to bed. In this scenario, there’s no need to arrange childcare or juggle an earlier evening meeting time with supper and other activities, but parents are able to meet and learn together and encourage each other.
If you’re looking for more on the technical side of facilitating fellowship virtually, the Michigan District of the LCMS created a helpful tutorial on using various features within Zoom to bolster conversation and engagement in virtual Bible study or small group setting.
Looking for some light-hearted (and maybe a bit competitive) virtual fellowship ideas? Consider hosting a game night! This can be church-wide or for specific groups within your congregation. Classics such as trivia, charades, 20 Questions, and bingo, as well as other online games, provide a conduit for interaction and fun.
Old-Fashioned Fellowship and Fun
When a learning cohort I’m a part of wasn’t able to meet in-person as originally planned, our event became virtual. Fellowship has always been a significant part of our time together and easily could have been a casualty of the online format. Thankfully, those leading the event put great thought into their planning and created a framework that gave us a taste of what we experience face-to-face.
One of the tools that helped to foster connection was Zoom breakout rooms. Our larger group of about 25 was split into three smaller sets that would rotate through three rooms, each with a different game or purpose. Over our hour together, we caught up with one another, laughed and enjoyed a bit of friendly competition—all great ingredients for good fellowship, in my book!
Virtual Coffee Hour
Coffee and fellowship go together like peanut butter and jelly, so combining the two virtually is a natural match. Encourage those participating to come with their beverage and treat of choice, ready to enjoy time checking in and catching up with fellow members of the body of Christ! These events can be held virtually (pun intended) any time, like weekdays in the morning or over lunch time or weekends following a live-stream worship service.
There are a few different ways to host a coffee hour depending on the purpose you’d like it to serve. If connecting members with one another is the goal, set it up in a similar fashion to a Bible study session, sending a link so everyone can log on for the set period of time.
Holding a drop-in coffee time can function more like office hours with one or more leaders (paid or laity) being available on Zoom for anyone to pop in and chat. This provides a point of contact outside of weekend “church time” and offers the opportunity to connect with leaders in a more informal setting.
Virtual gatherings and video conferencing can’t replace in-person fellowship, but they can be a helpful supplement or substitute when, for whatever reason, gathering face-to-face isn’t an option. Using technology to connect with, support and encourage one another within the body of Christ is a beautiful thing and a gift for which I am very grateful.
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