Every once in a while, we all need a little boost. Some of us need a boost of energy. Others need a boost of confidence. If you are leading an online Bible study group, chances are you could use some ways to boost the discussion taking place. By now you’ve learned that teaching online is different than teaching in a classroom or living room. Your group members may not have fully adjusted to this new virtual environment, but you can have great discussion with a little boost. Here are 6 ways to boost discussion in your online group:
- Call on a specific person to answer a specific question. By asking a person to respond to your question, you’ll get better responses than if you throw a question out to the group. You can even say to another person, “I’m coming to you next with the same question…get ready!”
- Send questions to group members in advance of the Bible study. Use email or text messaging to send a few questions to your group members before you meet. If they have a day or two to ponder the questions, you’ll get a boost in the discussion during your Bible study.
- Do not answer your own questions. If you are a group leader and frequently ask questions in your group, do not let silence intimidate you into answering your questions. If you do, you’ll train group members to wait for you to respond. Ask your question, wait 15-20 seconds, take a sip of coffee and relax, and I promise that someone in your group will be more uncomfortable with the silence and they’ll answer your question—just wait them out! Additionally, Christian educator and groups expert Robert Pamino’s research validated that the quality of responses goes up after people have had at least 20 seconds to contemplate their answers.
- Ask group members to raise their hand, use the chat feature, or use the “raise hand” feature in your online meeting tool. Your online meeting tool, such as Zoom, will have features like “chat” and “raise hand.” Encourage your group members to use these, but don’t forget about the old-fashioned way…ask them to physically raise their hand if they want to ask a question or respond to one.
- Send group members to a breakout room. If you use Zoom, the tool can divide your group into smaller ones and you can send them to a breakout room in smaller groups of 3-4 people to discuss a question you’ve assigned to the larger group. This is the same as using buzz groups in a classroom, except you’re doing so virtually.
- Use a curriculum series that is discussion-oriented. Lifeway’s Bible Studies for Life series is designed to get group members talking. Each session contains 5 really great discussion questions, and the leader guide has three more alternate questions. The questions are provocative and open-ended so that discussion is boosted, not stymied. If you want to take a look at some free samples, click here to jump to the Bible Studies for Life homepage. It will be worth your time!
By implementing any or all of the 6 strategies above, you’ll boost discussion in your online Bible study group. Pick one or two to try the next time you meet with your group online.