How to Host an Online Group

New to hosting an online group? An online group is an incredible tool to help people connect with one another when—like right now—an in-person group may not be possible. You can encourage each other in the faith, share authentically, and watch God work in ways you may not have dreamed possible.

Full disclosure: Your first few meetings will take some adjusting as people work out all of the kinks and get acquainted with the technology, the unique group format, and the experience of communicating this way. So, don’t give up too quickly if your first few meetings are a bit of a challenge.

As you look into launching a new group online, or having your current group use this format for the next few weeks (or months), we pray this page will help you figure out which technology to use, learn the best practices for a good online experience, and understand what a typical group meeting might look like.

Best Platforms

The best platform to use is the one you feel most comfortable with. Maybe for you that’s Skype or a Facebook Messenger group; maybe it’s FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or Zoom. Whatever it is, make sure everyone is equally as comfortable as you are!

Based on our experiences and testing of different platforms, we’ve been recommending people use either Google Hangouts or Zoom. Here are some thoughts on each platform:
 

GOOGLE HANGOUTS

  • Pros: It’s free, has no time limit, and has closed captioning. It’s also accessible via a web browser on a computer.
  • Cons: It requires a Google account for all participants—you can sign up for one HERE. Also, a phone-in option isn’t available unless you have a business account. If you have a G Suite business account, you can also share a phone number for people to call into the meeting if they don’t have access to a computer or smartphone. Right now, G Suite business accounts are free until July 1.
  • Capacity: 25 participants/devices
  • How to use:
    • Open Google Hangouts using a web browser or mobile app.
    • Log in.
    • Click the “Video Call” button.
    • Click “Invite People” and type in their e-mail address. If they don’t have a Google account, it will send them an invite to set up an account.
    • You can also schedule a meeting on your Google Calendar and send an invite to join you at a specific time, including a link to your online meeting (see instructions).

 

ZOOM

  • Pros: It’s free! Only hosts are required to have a Zoom account. There is also a phone-in option.
  • Cons: Zoom chats are limited to 40 minutes unless you have a paid account ($14.99/month). You have to download the Zoom app on your phone or computer.
  • Capacity: 100 participants/devices
  • How to use:
      • Open Zoom using a web browser or mobile app.
      • Log in.
      • Click “Host a meeting with video on.”
      • Click “Invite participations” and select how you’d like to send an invite.
      • You can also schedule a meeting on the Zoom website and send an invite to join you at a specific time, including a link to your online meeting (see Instructions).

10 Tips for an Awesome Online Group Experience   

Experiencing Community in a New Way   

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.