Last year we asked you to share your thoughts and challenges with us in our annual Lifeway Women survey. In the coming months, our team is going to work together to help you overcome some of the Bible study roadblocks you shared with us.
Zoom, Facebook, Google Hangouts, Skype, YouTube Live—the list could go on. A year ago we dove headfirst into the world of online meetings, virtual hangouts, and remote Bible study groups. As the world reopens, some of the technical issues associated with virtual groups and online Bible study meetings are here to stay. Perhaps you want to continue to stay connected to your Bible study group while traveling; you want to make it easy for long-distance friends to stay connected; or you want to continue to meet the needs of homebound friends.
Whatever your reason, I want to offer you a few tips for overcoming the Bible study roadblock of technical issues. In case we haven’t met, I’m Juliana. I manage Lifeway Women’s social media. That means if you reached out in the past year to ask questions about hosting a virtual Bible study group, a Zoom meeting, downloading and sharing videos, or pretty much anything else through one of our social media channels, we’ve already chatted. I’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions related to using technology in Bible study, and today I’m going to share some tips to help you make the most of your digital Bible study time. While this blog is not comprehensive, hopefully, it will help you jump right over these roadblocks!
Challenge 1: I’m having difficulty downloading or streaming video teaching sessions.
If you are using a digital version of our video teaching sessions (instead of the DVD) and you are having playback issues, try this:
- Log in to my.lifeway.com using the same email and password you used to purchase the videos. Then go to Digital Media; this is where you will find all your purchased and rented videos.
- Check your Internet connection. A strong Internet connection will help your video stream clearly and quickly. We recommend making sure your web browser is up to date. We find that Firefox or Google Chrome work well. Sometimes it is helpful to close other windows or apps that may be running in the background.
- Allow the video to buffer. I know it’s exciting and you want to watch the videos right away, but sometimes (depending on your Internet connection), a longer video file may need a few minutes to fully load and play.
If you continue to have difficulty downloading or streaming our videos, please reach out. Our customer support team is here to help!
Challenge 2: How can I share digital videos with my Bible study group?
Here are some ways that you can share video content with your group (and a few things you can’t do):
- Purchase a digital group use video bundle, or if you have purchased a physical leader kit, check inside for a download card to redeem up to three free downloads of the video teaching content.
- Stream and watch together in a private group. Use a meeting platform like Zoom where one person plays the video from her computer and shares her screen so that the whole group can view it at the same time. The group use license covers a group of any size viewing the content together (even if that group is very large). It does not, however, cover allowing women to download the content on their own or email it to each other. It also does not allow you to record the meeting for future viewing. The purpose of the group license is to allow a group of women, large or small, to experience the video teaching together at the same time.
- Share the videos on a password-protected site or in a private group. Please be sure group members are aware they would be infringing copyright if they download or share the videos. Also, please plan to remove these videos from the private group after the study is complete.
- Choose an online Bible study where we provide the video content for free for a limited time. View current studies at lifewaywomen.com/OBS
What you cannot do due to copyright infringement (in which legal action could be taken):
- Email video files;
- Publicly post or share video content (this includes public Facebook groups and YouTube channels);
- Leave video content up and available without an end date.
Challenge 3: Our Bible study has a Facebook group; can I share the videos on Facebook or YouTube?
We’d love for you to stay connected with your small group on social media through Facebook groups or messenger. If you’d like to know how to create a private Facebook group, click here. (Lifeway Women does not host online Bible studies or communities on Facebook beyond our Facebook page.)
If you are hosting an online Bible study using a Facebook group, we ask that you:
- Please do not email video files to Bible study participants or friends;
- Do not publicly post or share any copyrighted Bible study material (this includes all Lifeway Women Bible study teaching videos, audio recordings, and teaching materials). You may share the video content in a private Facebook group for a limited time. More information on setting your group to private can be found here;
- Once the Bible study has been completed, delete the video or audio content from the page.
Now, you may be wondering why we are so strict with our video and audio teaching content— these limitations are due to copyright laws. All Lifeway Women Bible study content is copyrighted materials. Failure to comply with these restrictions could result in copyright infringement in which legal action could be taken.
Challenge 4: I’m not sure how to use the Bible study eBook; can I print it out?
Our eBooks are a great way to take your Bible study with you wherever you are because our reader works on your portable device anywhere you have an Internet connection. Our eBooks are designed to be interactive and work using the Lifeway Reader app. This app allows you to use our eBooks just like a printed version: you can take notes, highlight, and type directly in the book. Due to copyright laws, our eBooks cannot be printed, reproduced, or shared. If you would like a printed version of a Bible study book, we recommend purchasing the physical copy of the study.
Challenge 5: My group is unsure how to use a virtual meeting host website like Zoom.
As you might imagine, having an online group experience is considerably different from sharing a living room or classroom in person. Here are a few tips for participating in or facilitating an online Bible study group experience:
- Recommend group members download meeting software at least thirty minutes before the meeting in case they have technology issues they need to work out.
- Make sure your face has sufficient lighting. Lighting works best in front of your face, not behind.
- Make sure your face is centered in the video camera. Members probably don’t want to see only your forehead or neck throughout the meeting, so position your camera accordingly.
- Select the quietest room or location you can find. Turn off anything making noise in the background (TV, radio, appliances). Put pets in a different room or have them in a place where they will be most quiet.
- Only use one device per household. When two devices are used in the same room, it produces feedback that affects all group participants. If two people feel more comfortable participating with their own devices than sharing the same one, each should have his or her own room for doing so.
- Mute your computer unless you’re talking. If everyone’s microphone is turned on at the same time, sound quality can be an issue, and it can be hard to hear the person who is talking. The best policy is to mute yourself when you are not talking. If you are muted, make sure to nod your head and listen well so people recognize you are following them.
You will be muting and unmuting a lot, but this will make everyone’s experience more enjoyable. Also, you’ll get called out if you don’t unmute, so don’t be offended.
- Be an assertive moderator. The moderator/host of the group will need to be welcoming and directive. Make sure that you, as the host, join the video call a few minutes early to welcome everyone. Redirect the conversation or mute participants as necessary. This may feel rude at times, but it is necessary to manage a good online experience for the group.
- Create a plan for participants to indicate they’d like to talk. Since participants will often be muted, having a plan will help you know when to mute and unmute. You may try something like raising a hand, answering in a specific order, or a different signal. Consider utilizing the “chat” feature to post questions for discussion.
- Give your full attention to the group experience, resisting the urge to multitask. When participants are not paying full attention, it can be a big distraction online just like it is in an in-person group. When talking, spend some time looking at the camera, not just the screen. This digital form of “eye contact” goes a long way toward creating a sense of connection and community.
- Stay in touch afterward. Assign prayer partners to call each other after the group is over and pray with them. Text each other to share requests. Leverage GroupMe, Facebook Groups, WhatsApp, etc., as a way to stay connected and keep the conversation going throughout the week.
You can find more information from the Lifeway team about hosting remote Bible studies, using programs like Zoom (including finding the app that is best for your group), and how to connect and engage online here.
I know nothing is more frustrating than getting ready for a Bible study only to realize something isn’t working. Be patient with yourself, don’t allow the enemy to distract and anger you through technology, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone in your church or community group. I am praying for you as you study God’s Word, and I feel honored to walk alongside you as you pursue a deeper relationship with Christ.
Juliana Wilson is the social media and influencer marketing specialist for Lifeway Women. She is passionate about encouraging women and girls to dig into God’s Word and pursue an active relationship with Christ every day. Juliana loves Instagram-worthy ice cream, coffee dates, and traveling with her husband, Ben. Look for them on the upcoming season of NBC’s show, American Ninja Warrior! You can follow their journey on Instagram with #WhereInTheWorldAreTheWilsons