Teaching Engaging COVID-19 Online Bible Study Groups

The church is getting excited – it’s on the verge of coming together again for the first time in 8 weeks or more. It’s true that many state and local governments have set guidelines for congregations to meet again for worship. Many congregations plan to restart worship later this month or in early June. The future gathering of Bible study groups on campus may not take place at the same time, though. Because of this, let’s consider teaching engaging COVID-19 online Bible study groups. If we’re going to teach God’s Word online, let’s make sure we are using every tool in the teaching toolbox to create engaging online studies.

Here are the 8 learning approaches and some ways that group leaders can use them to keep their online group members actively engaged in each Bible study. With a little practice, group leaders can shift their teaching strategies from a physical classroom environment into a digital one.

Learning approach 1: Musical

  • Sing together (acapella)
  • Read the lyrics to a hymn
  • Read the lyrics to a hymn together
  • Play a music video using “share screen”
  • Ask a group member to play guitar and lead singing
  • Play a song from iTunes and ask people to listen for certain things that relate to your Bible study

Learning approach 2: Visual

  • Use “gallery view” so that people can see one another
  • Share screen and show locations on a map
  • Use PowerPoint to show major points in your lesson
  • Show a chart using screen share
  • Hold up a visual aid for all to see
  • Tell a story and pay attention to the details – help people see the story in their mind

Learning approach 3: Relational

  • Ask open-ended questions and get people talking
  • Use Zoom’s breakout room feature to assign people into smaller groups to respond to a question or assignment you make
  • Be vulnerable – share stories from your experience and show your human side
  • Use Zoom’s breakout rooms to 4-6 people a place to pray for one another

Learning approach 4: Logical

  • Show an outline of your Bible study so people know where you’re headed (that’s using an “advanced organizer”)
  • Send a Word document to your group members with blanks to fill in as you teach
  • Challenge people to discover similar words and concepts in the passage you’re studying
  • Ask group members to make lists of things they see in the biblical text as they relate to the topic at hand
  • Do a word study – get technical

Learning approach 5: Physical

  • Give an assignment and ask group members to move around their house as they look for something you’ve directed them to find that relates to your Bible study
  • Invite group members to stand up and take a 10 second stretch break
  • Use your group’s Personal Study Guides just like you would in a classroom setting…ask group members to turn to certain pages and read or respond to sections in the curriculum

Learning approach 6: Natural

  • Show something from nature
  • Give an advanced assignment before the group meets and challenge group members to find something from outdoors that relates to a part of your upcoming Bible study (and bring it to the study for a time of “show and tell”)
  • Study stories in Scripture that feature something from nature (Jesus walking on a lake, the great flood, Jesus cursing a fig tree, Paul’s journey on the sea, the sun standing still, etc)

Learning approach 7: Reflective

  • Pose questions that require critical thinking skills (text-based questions don’t get the job done)
  • Ask your question and give the group up to 20 seconds to think, without answering your own question
  • Ask questions that give people opportunities to share stories from their lives
  • Pose a question to your group before the group meets, giving them a day or two in order to think through their responses

Learning approach 8: Verbal

  • As a group leader, talk 50% less
  • Let your group members talk – remember that online groups should be “groupalogues” and not monologues
  • Ask great discussion questions, not “groaners”
  • Don’t make up questions on the spot…resist that temptation and only ask questions you’ve had time to carefully craft
  • Invite group members to reach verses of Scripture as you study them

As you can see, there’s a lot more you can do besides just speak and present a Bible study. And remember, successful online group leaders are discovering that a 20-22 minute Bible study experience is about right. This is because people really want to talk and visit before and after the study. In a 40 minute Zoom meeting (the max allowed in their free version), splitting the teaching time and the fellowship/relational time works out great for most groups.

5 comments

  1. Thank You so much for this. We had our first online zoom group meeting yesterday and used session 1 of messy relationships. We will do session 2 next week and I will throw in a couple of the tips you suggested.
    It was good to see our small groups faces again and everyone really enjoyed the session.

  2. Thank you for sharing these tools — we can put them to use immediately. Our Bible study group has been meeting via Zoom since early April. I’m a LifeWay curriculum writer, and these ideas are immensely practical and inspiring for creating session plans.

  3. Discuss the application. Ask people if they have situations where this might be applicable or if what you are teaching can be applied to daily life. If it can’t, consider a different topic. There is nothing worse than useless information.

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