On a weekly basis, 15 women from countries across North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia gathered together through a Zoom video conference — Bible study notes in hand — ready to discuss the book of Romans. Using video conferencing software for a Bible study may be a novelty to many and very foreign to some, and as technology evolves we face new opportunities to use tech for good.

Bible studies seem to come in all shapes and forms these days — via apps, in small groups, with DVDs, books — you name it. Even though some are done in the comfort of your home as an individual devotional time, community plays an important role in creating accountability and motivating healthy discussion.

Eye-Opening Experience

Technology, on the other hand, enables community to be expressed in ways that were not possible a decade ago. As a Bible Study Fellowship group leader, I was able to see first hand the impact that a Bible study via video conferencing can have, not just in the Church but in our faith.

I witnessed members having to be in incognito mode some weeks, without camera or mic, because of persecution in their countries. Their bravery was not just inspiring, it also awakened a new meaning of the Gospel for me personally. I also observed how many prayer requests around me were for travel mercies and mild fevers while some of these ladies were facing daily extortions by gangs. A reality foreign to many.

In this process, although technology presents challenges, like disruption due to poor connectivity, the benefits are many:

Flexibility 

Night owls rejoice! You can now have your Bible discussion time when you are the most focused. And for moms with little children, getting on a Bible study after the children go to bed without having to hire a sitter can be a solution to those years when being in the Word is challenging.

Mobility

You no longer have to miss discussion time if you are traveling. As long as your phone, tablet or computer is with you, your Bible discussion group is too.

No Travel Time

Unless you consider the distance between the kitchen and your desk a commute, there is no travel time. In our agenda-filled days adding the travel time may be a deal breaker for many.

Connection

Technology allows us to connect with people we normally wouldn’t be able to. Think of the possibilities when it comes to a church doing a virtual Bible study with the missionaries they have in other countries.

Reach

You are no longer limited by those that can physically attend a group meeting in person. This opens opportunities for churches with many campuses to share Bible studies online, not to mention the possibilities for those with reduced mobility. Some people may never set foot in a church, but I wonder how many would be willing to discuss questions on God and faith on a virtual discussion group if invited.

Details to Consider

If you are considering video conferencing as a channel for Bible studies at your church or ministry, here are some details to have in mind:

  • Pick the right technology – some tools require downloads, app installation, logins or browser compatibility that may generate frustration. Consider your audience and their savviness with technology before selecting a tool.
  • Set expectations early – during a video conferencing experience sometimes people will interrupt others unintentionally because there is little awareness of body language. And if you have to interrupt someone it is hard to signal that you are going to speak. Outline the expectations to increase engagement early on. 
  • Encourage video – unless there is a connectivity issue (or a persecution situation) set the expectations for video to be used as it increases rich sharing and deeper connections.
  • Keep the group relatively small – I have found 10-15 people to be an ideal group size so there is enough discussion without people feeling left out. 
By creating an online space for total strangers to gather around a book of the Bible for a whole year I have been able to experience my faith and that of others in ways I have never experienced before. Throughout the week, these ladies and I still connect via Slack, where we share prayer requests and encouragement, direct messages and some random thoughts. And all of this, from the comfort of my home, in my pajamas, and with my coffee.
How can your church leverage video conferencing for Bible studies?