There’s no replacement for being in the same room.  The dynamics of conversation, relationship, and engagement cannot completely be duplicated online.  But there are ways to make the online small group successful, providing the connections we all need while we look forward to being in the same room again.

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Keep the Vision

Remind the group even more of the purpose and vision of your group.

Be Friendly

Greet everyone as they come into the virtual room with a question.  A simple, “How are you doing?” works. This not only makes people feel welcome, you’ll find out if their microphone is working and if they can hear you.  Along with this, greet couples individually by name.

Virtual Pot-luck

If you hold your meeting near a meal-time, encourage people to eat their meal during the start of the meeting.

Hang Out Time

Allow ‘hang out’ time at the beginning and end of the meeting with microphones unmuted just to chat. This works well if you have a virtual pot-luck at the beginning.

Mute Microphones

Once the meeting starts, encourage members to mute their microphones until they’re ready to speak.

Confidential Conversations

There might be children in the room you can’t see, or someone you don’t know in another part of the house. So be careful about the questions you ask or sharing about other family members.  The chat function can be used to share prayer requests and other sensitive information.

Breakout Rooms

Utilize the breakout room feature in Zoom for prayer time. Even the free version of Zoom has the feature to allow the host to create breakout rooms. This is a great way to have men/women time or smaller group prayer time. Make sure you try this feature out with a few friends before your meeting.

Encourage Engagement During the Meeting

Encourage people to be completely engaged like they would be during a meeting in a home. It’s tempting to take the dog for a walk during a meeting since you can carry your phone along, but it’s very distracting.

Encourage Engagement After the Meeting

Encourage people to get together through phone or video chat during the week. I’ve created weekly buddies by drawing names to pair people up during the week.

Have Fun

Adults can enjoy playing games just like kids do. Eric Miller, director of ministry operations for CE National, held a scavenger hunt with his group. “It was simple, fun, and a good way to involve children,” Eric said. The leaders named different items and the first person to bring that object and put it on the screen won points.

End the Meeting

It can be tempting to let the meeting drag on, but stick to your end-time.  At least let your members know that the regular meeting is over, but you’ll stick around for anyone who wants to chat.  That gives members the freedom to leave the meeting if they want to.

We’re all looking forward to when we can greet each other at the door of our home.  But until then, the virtual meeting can be an engaging substitute if done well.

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IT Developer at

Steve Koontz is IT Developer for CE National. Steve was pastor of children and youth at Grace Brethren Church in Maitland, Florida. When he moved to Indiana in 1999 to take the position at CE National, he volunteered as children's director at Community Grace Brethren Church of Warsaw for three years. Steve and his wife, Christine, are now attending Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church in Winona Lake, Indiana, where he coordinates and coaches small group leaders.

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