Tips for virtual gatherings
Updated March 30, 12:55pm
In the interest of everyone’s safety we have canceled all in-person gatherings or events until further notice. This was a tough call for us; we don’t want to cause any panic, and as one news article put it this week, it’s hard for any stringent measures to not seem alarmist. But more and more social distancing measures being implemented the last thing we want to do is organize the people of Vintage such that it put them in harms way.
However, a moratorium on in-person gatherings doesn’t mean you can’t still get together with your people. We’re encouraging groups to continue their weekly rhythms by gathering via video chat. Below you’ll see a list of helpful tips on how you can do this most effectively.
Most recommended platform: Zoom
Zoom has been the most widely recommended platform by CG leaders running these meetings. The free account has a 40 minute time limit on group meetings, and the next plan up is $15/month, but several folks have used the coupon code LETSCONNECT to get 50% off the fee. $7.50 isn’t a bad deal on a great way to connect with your folks.
Pros: Video and sound quality are great, Gallery View is way more user friendly (more on Gallery View below)
Cons: Participants need to download a quick bit of client software, time limits on the free account (see above).
No time limits on a free plan:Webex
Webex has the most features on it’s free plan and if you don’t have another preferred platform it’s our recommendation for your CG gatherings. Signing up for their free account is easy, you’ll just need to send out a link ahead of time so people can prep and download the Webex app on their phones if need be. Here’s a link to the Webex support page if you need help getting up and running.
Pros: Pros: Video and sound quality are great, Gallery View, and no time limit
Cons: Participants need to download a quick bit of client software, getting your free account set up is taking a while right now since so many people are signing up for new accounts.
Quickest platform to start using: Jitsi
Jitsi is amazingly easy to use. Click the link above, click “Go” in the middle of the page, and there your video meeting room is! It’ll give you a link you can send out, and you can even password protect your call.
Pros: So sign ups, accounts, client software, anything, and it’s free! Also has Tile view (similar to Gallery)
Cons: We haven’t done a ton of tests with large groups on Jitsi, so call quality could be sacrificed considering it’s a free option.
Other tips for video
Ask folks on the call to mute their mic while they’re not talking. That keeps barking dogs in the background from disrupting someone else’s serious prayer request.
Use a platform with Gallery View or Tile View. Most platforms have an option that is called something like Speaker View, which is usually the default and changes the main person on the screen to whomever is talking. This can be super jarring if you’ve got 15 chatty people all at once. Some platforms like Google Hangouts don’t have any other option than Speaker View, which gets annoying after a while. Other platforms like Zoom, Webex, and Jitsi have an option called Gallery or Tile View that shows little individual windows for each person. This is the preferred view for most leaders I’ve talked to.
Most often it’s helpful to just address the fact that video calls can be awkward. Folks will likely talk over one another, it’s hard to read body language, and with call quality going in and out you might have to repeat your long insightful thought.
Streamlining your meeting
Connecting via video presents some challenges for your typical CG gathering, particularly for your Bible-study discussion. Having a long, thoughtful conversation can be hard if you aren’t in person, not to mention the possibility of faulty connections. Over the next few weeks we’ll be slimming down the discussion guides just a bit to help account for this. Rather than the typical 6-7 questions we’ll be doing just a few, hopefully concentrating that discussion time while still making it meaningful. You can even send the discussion guides out to your people ahead of time so that discussion is primed and ready to go.
When you get on a call together, consider doing check-ins with each person one-by-one, just so everyone has the chance to speak (it’s even easier for talkers to dominate conversation via video). This could just be a round of “how’s everyone doing?” or even specific prompts like “how have you seen God’s grace in the past week?” Organize your call however you like, with the goal being social connection, centering on God’s word and prayer, and supporting one another during a difficult time.
Encouraging your people in the day-to-day
Not being able to gather in person will make daily connections with one another even more helpful. Your group most likely already has a group communication method like a group text, GroupMe, or email chain. Another platform to consider is Marco Polo, which allows you to send video messages to individuals or groups. It’s an easy way for folks to send individual updates to your group in a more personal way than via text.
Another thing to connect over day-to-day is the Lent Study Guide (we still have two weeks left). Having access to daily devotionals that can literally keep each other on the same page is an excellent resource right now.
For coming Sundays we’ll be providing a full online service so you can stream worship and the sermon. We’ll be providing content on vintagenc.com to help you walk through the services individually, with your housemates, or with your family. That will include lesson resources for kids if you need it. Consider setting a time as a group to all watch the stream together. Depending on your setup for the service you can all get on a video call to worship together, or schedule a video call over Sunday lunch to check in and discuss the sermon. Technically you could combine your weekly discussion gathering with this Sunday check in, but we’d encourage you to keep the twice-a-week rhythm of worshiping together and discussing together. With stricter and stricter social distancing measures taking effect in the coming weeks, most folks could use a frequent tether to one another.
Be a blessing
Aside from how you gather and connect in the day-to-day, this is a great time for your group to talk about how we can be of benefit to our neighbors in creative ways. A writer named Andy Crouch mentioned in an article this week that most human institutions are either exploitative, ethical, or redemptive. Social distancing right now is an ethical choice to the benefit of our neighbors, but more than just being ethical the church gets to be redemptive and shine light into darkness. Since many of us are now posted up at home, consider how your group members could be supportive to neighbors, particularly those who don’t have as easy access to food, medical benefits, or transportation. Keep in mind social distancing practices and recommendations for the safety of others, but there are surely ways we can be a blessing in a crisis. As a church we’re considering other ways to pool our resources and accomplish this, so stay tuned to vintagenc.com for more in the coming days.