20 Tips for Hosting an Online Bible Study

man holding a bible sitting in front of a computer with people on a video call

Many people are spending more time at home, but there are still ample opportunities to explore the Bible with friends and congregation members. In fact, the convenience of an online church group might encourage even more participation!

Below are useful tips on how to host a successful small group ministry, church group or Bible study via video conferencing. 

Getting Started

  1. Choose a Theme - Get creative and decide on a topic or theme you know members will be interested in learning more about. From "Women of the Bible," "Forgiveness," or "Parenting," there are lots of subjects people will want to dive into!
  2. Required Materials - Once you know the focus, decide which materials to use for the course. Allow plenty of time for participants to order hard copies (via delivery or pick up) and make digital copies available whenever possible.
  3. Pick a Number - Determine how many participants you feel comfortable hosting on an online platform. Keep in mind teaching in a virtual room offers its own set of unique challenges.
  4. Create a Curriculum - Writing a detailed plan about what you want to cover in each session will go a long way in making the virtual experience successful. Send the curriculum with the welcome email or wait until the first class and review it as a group.

  1. Welcome Email - When sign ups are complete, send a welcome email to each registrant that includes information about the topics, required materials, link to the online platform, class times, a calendar invitation, and other pertinent information. Genius Tip: Set up custom confirmation emails with all of that information that will automatically send to participants as soon as they sign up.
  2. Send a Survey - Before the first class, send a short survey asking what participants are most excited about, what questions they have and inquire about their comfort level with online video conferencing. This will help you tailor your first class to meet the needs and expectations of the group.
  3. Be Prepared - Whether this is your first Bible study class or small group ministry or you are a seasoned expert, being prepared (or even over-prepared) will keep you relaxed and ready to guide the group in a positive direction.
  4. Schedule a Run through - Enlist the help of a few friends before the first day of class and invite them to join you for a quick test run. Review the virtual conferencing platform features, get comfortable working with your online presentation and test your audio and visual quality. This quick, 10-to-20-minute rehearsal could save you hours of future headaches.

The First Class

  1. Review Online Features - Whichever platform you use to virtually join together and study the Bible, review the features so each participant can have a rewarding experience. Show the group how to mute and unmute, ask questions, raise a hand, etc.
  2. Get to Know You - Even if participants already know each other, plan for a quick get to know you exercise at the beginning of the first class. Ask everyone to answer a few questions (Where are you from? What are you hoping to get out of the course? How long have you been a Christian? etc.) or share a favorite Bible verse. Try to keep this brief so you don't take up too much class time!
  3. Set Class Rules - Keeping the class fun and open is important but coming up with a few basic rules as a group is important for long term success. For example, decide if everyone should be muted or unmuted during virtual discussions, how questions will be addressed and if chat will be open during the session.
  4. Follow an Agenda - Prepare and email the class agenda prior to each meeting so participants can be prepared and ready to share. Include an outline that lists how much time will be allotted for each activity. This simple tip will help keep you on schedule!
  5. Pick a Timer - If you plan to take a few breaks during your session, ask a class member to keep an eye on the time and remind the leader of when it is time to get up and move around, take a bathroom break, etc. Often the instructor can be so focused on teaching, time flies by! This is a great way to get new members involved.
  6. Give Assignments - Keep the momentum going between sessions by giving participants a quick and easy assignment to complete before the next meet up. This could include completing a selected reading, writing a reflection or finishing an exercise not completed in a prior class.
  7. Be Prepared with Questions - Some participants will be happy to share freely (and often). Have a few questions ready to ask quieter or more reserved members of the group to allow everyone the opportunity to participate.

Subsequent Sessions

  1. Check in - After a few sessions, check in with each participant by phone or email. See if the course is meeting his or her expectations and address any questions or concerns.
  2. Coffee Hour - Even though you aren't in the same room, you can still enjoy a hot beverage and conversation before class. Choose a few dates and open the meeting early for everyone to gather together to sip and share.
  3. Mix it Up - Use the virtual meeting platform tools to keep everyone engaged. Try launching a poll to start a new unit or use break out rooms for more personal discussions.
  4. Pair Participants - Encourage connection by pairing up participants to work through a verse, research a question or tackle discussion questions. Change up partners each week so everyone can get to know each other on a deeper level.
  5. Share with Others - Post a list of materials, reading assignments, etc. to your organization's web page to allow other congregants to follow along with the class. This is a great way to engage members who might not be comfortable with technology and drum up interest for the next Bible study or small church group.
At the end of the course, send a follow up survey to see what worked and what could use improvements. Encourage feedback from participants and consider having a virtual celebration at the end of the class. Online platforms provide an amazing opportunity to strengthen and share in spiritual growth together!

Courtney McLaughlin is a freelance writer in Charlotte, N.C. She gratefully shares her life, home and heart with her daughter and their dog.