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5 Tips for Leading an Online Bible Study

Leading a Bible study is intimidating as is. Add the challenge of interacting through a screen, and it can become a much more daunting endeavor. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was in college leading a Bible study for a group of about ten women each week. Before we knew it, we were sent home and had to navigate finishing our classes online. I realized our study would be completely different. We could no longer gather in a home, have side conversations before the study began, or get a meal together afterward. Instead, we were left feeling anxious, disconnected, and drained spiritually. Our group had to adapt to meeting together virtually, as many church groups are deciding to do again.

While leading an online Bible study was an unquestionable challenge, the Lord revealed new truths to me as I was forced to trust Him and get creative when approaching the Word. Here are five practical and hopefully encouraging tips for leading an online Bible study.

1. Warm Up—Create a Safe Space

It can be intimidating to jump right into a study, regardless of whether it’s in person or online. I don’t know about you, but I can’t immediately be vulnerable in front of others. It takes time! It takes knowing a group of people and feeling known by them to the point where you feel comfortable.

Before you ever open your Bible, see how your members are doing. If you are on Zoom or Google Meet, consider going person-by-person and giving them the floor (or in this case, the screen) to say how they’ve been doing. In such a time of stress, anxiety, and depression, this simple start to your study can be a much-needed blessing. Maybe two members will discover they are going through a similar trial and can talk about it together later.

If you want to have some fun with it, and depending on the group you are leading, maybe open by playing a game such as online Codenames or Bingo, or even using the drawing tool on Zoom to play Pictionary. The ultimate goal is to build community, give everyone time to share what’s on their hearts and minds, and create an encouraging space to study God’s Word.

couple laughing at video on laptop computer

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes

2. Make it Interactive

Everyone knows that you miss a lot of social queues when meeting virtually. Members could be distracted by kids screaming behind their screens, they could be having internet problems, or they could be distracted by what’s around them. The last thing you want to do is talk at them. We are all used to lectures – whether it be at school, church, or work. It can be easy to check out mentally if they know Bible study is just a time to sign in for an hour and listen to information. Make it interactive!

Ask your members to try to find a quiet space with reliable WiFi where they can join Bible study each week. Tell them to have their Bibles, notebooks, and whatever other materials they may need on hand; this way, they can feel more engaged and prepared, just as they would be if you were meeting in person. Ask a different person each week to read the passage of Scripture aloud, or even split it between two people if it’s longer. Use the breakout room feature to let members discuss what they’ve learned in smaller groups, before coming back together.

Because side chatter gets minimized virtually, make sure to give ample time for asking questions, processing what was learned, and sharing prayer requests.

One thing I loved doing with my group was creating random pairs each week. These pairs would exchange contact information and plan to Facetime each other the following week (or, depending on their mutual comfort levels, they would grab a coffee or sit outside distanced). Oftentimes, I would hear that the pairs wound up texting throughout the week as they faced trials or needed a quick prayer. Either way, this can create an even smaller, less intimidating space for members to feel connected.

woman studying and reading bible, how to dive deeper into scripture

Photo credit: © Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

3. Have a Plan!

This may seem obvious, but it is always a good idea to be prepared! Send the Zoom or Google Meet link ahead of time and explain how to join. Have a backup plan in case some members have difficulty joining or trouble with their WiFi. Think through how you want the study to flow, and how you may have to fill awkward gaps of silence that happen when interacting through a screen. While planning is not a new concept (I’d hope) in leading a study, you may find that you now have to plan transitions or call on members to keep the discussion going.

Some studies might not go as planned; what makes sense to you may leave your members confused and you may feel the temptation to blame yourself as a leader. I fell into this many times and had to constantly remind myself that it wasn’t about me! God does not choose the equipped – He equips the chosen. Thankfully, since the start of the pandemic, everyone is more gracious than ever about trying new things. Persevere and know that it may be a challenge. Keep your eyes set on Christ, and dwell in prayer that He will meet you and your group where you are.

4. Share Screen

This is a more practical tip, but it circles back to my point about being interactive. Whether you’re meeting over Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime, Skype, or any other virtual platform, look into what features they have. Some have the option to share your screen, which can be a beneficial tool in leading a Bible study. Just as you can use a dry erase board in person to write down what people say and keep track of main points, you can do that virtually as well. Open a new document and get to writing! This can help your members feel validated by seeing what they said written down. It also helps for their own note-taking and memory of the big takeaways.

5. Trust that God Is Working

The most important thing to remember is that God is at work. He is not limited by a pandemic or by meeting through a screen. He is not limited by fear, as we so often are. His Word stands true in any and every circumstance, and He delights when we spend time reading and studying it. It is a precious gift to be able to gather together virtually; although you may be missing meeting in person, your members’ hearts are undoubtedly encouraged each week with the normalcy an online study can bring. God’s Word is a stream that never runs dry, and it is the source of peace we so often forget. Rest in that truth and go to Him often in prayer. Lay your fears, struggles, doubts, and insecurities at His feet, and ask that you can simply be a vessel for the work He will do.

Here are some passages to cling to as you prepare your online Bible study:

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act” Psalm 37:5 (ESV)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” Psalm 62:8 (ESV)

“And this is the confidence we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” 1 John 5:14 (ESV)

Be encouraged! We serve a faithful God who hears our struggles and comes alongside us in times of need. He will reveal Himself through His Word, no matter where or how it is studied.

Photo credit: © iStock/Getty Images Plus/yacobchuk

Leah Arthur is the Family Editor of Crosswalk.com. She graduated from James Madison University with a B.A. in English and minors in Creative Writing and Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication.

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