In the midst of COVID-19 we have all started to use alternative ways to communicate and stay in community with one another.
And while Facebook Live has become a preferred way to host sermons and one-way communications, we have found that Zoom is the best alternative for scheduled collaboration, meetings, Bible studies, and Coram Deo Life Groups! Zoom meetings can easily be accessed from any location using your computer or mobile device/phone.
I’d like to encourage you to try this out soon! Our entire Life Group was thrilled when they realized that meeting digitally was possible and we had a great response with 17 life group members (plus pets) joining our first meeting. This included a family who recently moved to Japan!
We started after dinner and used our initial meeting to connect by sharing life updates during these uncertain times. Everyone shared, everyone laughed, and everyone embraced the opportunity to gather virtually. Even the kids got into the action by opening up their own Skype call in real-time (in the future we will use the Zoom Breakout Rooms feature for the kids). Now we are looking to move Life Group from bi-weekly to weekly meetings and even looking at pulling together virtual game nights!
While anyone can use Zoom Basic for free, The Life Group Leaders at Coram Deo Church have been assigned Zoom Business accounts to allow for group meetings greater than 40 minutes. Once you have your account here is how to get started:
As a Zoom Host or Leader:
1. Create your Zoom account or Login to an existing account here.
2. Click Profile and customize your Personal Link for something easy to remember
3. Click Settings to make any changes. Here are my personal settings as examples:
- Host & Participant Video are OFF when meeting starts.
- Allow participants to join meeting before host arrives.
- Require a Password OFF.
- Chat and Screen Sharing ON.
- Breakout Room ON.
- Virtual Background ON.
4. Use your favorite calendar app or use Facebook events to schedule your Life Group Meeting and be sure to put in the Zoom link! You can do this one of two ways:
- For Pro/Business accounts you can Include your personal link (http://zoom.us/my<yourpersonallink>).
- For Basic accounts: You can include a link with your personal ID (http://zoom.us/j/<yourpersonalID>) or simply Click “Schedule a Meeting” to create an auto-generated meeting ID/link.
5. To Host and Start your meeting be sure you are logged into your account. You may consider sending the get started instructions & tips for Guests as highlighted below, or cover them verbally once you start your Zoom.
6. If you want to include the kids, consider opening a Breakout Room so they have their own space for connecting and chatting. Once your meeting starts, you can find the Breakout Room button on the bottom menu towards the right (must be turned on in Settings). You can create rooms and assign who goes where. Once they click “Join” they will move to the assigned room.
As a Zoom Guest:
1. Click on the Zoom invitation link you received from your host and log into your account (or Create your Zoom account here).
2. Check/Select your Audio and Video settings at the bottom left of screen to turn on/off Audio and/or Video.
3. If you want to see everyone at one time (encouraged!) move to Gallery View by selecting the setting in the upper right corner (grid icon with 9 dots). And Yes, I realize it may remind you of this. :)
Here are some additional tips for both leaders & guests to make the most of your meetings:
- Get started with an informal social gathering to share life updates, prayer & praise - wait until a future meeting to formalize a full life group Bible study.
- Download the Zoom desktop app for additional settings & features, including HD activation and the ability to ‘touch-up’ your appearance. :)
- Check your lighting. It is best when the room lighting is in front of you, or to the side
- Stay on Mute when you are not talking/sharing.
- If your computer audio/microphone isn’t working well or you are in a noisy area, considering using a headset with a microphone.
- Be open and patient with distractions - there WILL be distractions.
- Have some fun with Virtual Backgrounds (under Settings in the Zoom desktop app) but don’t overuse them, especially if it distorts your image
- Encourage & invite folks who may have had a hard time attending in person, or who may have moved to another state/country.
- Include the kids by having them join you, and then move them to their own Breakout Room for an adult-only time.
Feel free to let us know if you need any help or guidance, or if you have more ideas, tips, or tricks to share with others! Please let us know if you want to join a group.
Have fun & stay healthy!
Deacon of Benevolence and Groups