If you’re looking to start an online evangelism project, you might want to consider launching an online small group.
What are Online Small Groups?
According to The Network, a Small Group is “an intentional gathering, meeting regularly for the purpose of joining God’s mission.”
Against this background, we can define an online small group as a small number of individuals who meet online regularly to grow in faith, meet the felt needs of others, and create disciples.
Online Small Groups can consist of 5 to 20 individuals and the interaction takes place using an online video conferring platform.
Are Online Small Groups Necessary for the Growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church?
In short, any method, guided by the Spirit that facilitates the spreading of the Gospel around the world is necessary for the growth of our church.
The online small group strategy is an optimal way for church members to create disciples.
This method opens the way for people to get a better understanding of the body of Christ while having a need met. It shows the practicality of faith and its relevance in the world.
Online small groups also serve as an avenue for persons to learn the Gospel and what it means to walk in the Spirit.
The growth of the Adventist Church depends on the ability of members to be witnesses for Christ. Growth is also dependent on the penetration of the Gospel into homes and cities where it was once foreign.
This digital evangelism method enables this kind of growth to take place.
Why should I Start an Online Small Group?
You can build stronger relationships.
If done correctly, small groups give you an opportunity to meet others and foster deeper relationships.
This means you must be intentional about the goals you have for the small group.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of discussing a topic during your online meetings without being intentional about getting to know the members of your small group.
Use a portion of the meeting times to be deliberate about learning more about your group members.
Jesus had a small circle of disciples, but His aim was never to create a small elite club.
He called this small group to Him, taught them, empowered them with His Spirit and then sent them out into the world to make more disciples.
This is the Biblical model for small online groups; disciple them, empower with the Spirit, send them out to make more disciples.
Doing this online means that you can lead your small group regardless of where you are.
You can reach more people all over the world.
Hosting an online small group means you can spread your net far and wide.
While it is still very important to know your target audience, remember that you are not limited by geography, weather, or transportation. The impact of your online group can spread over countries and continents.
One online small group had members from Canada, the Bahamas, the United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Panama, and Barbados. One thing to be aware of is time zones. If you want to reach others on the other side of the globe, make sure that your meeting time is convenient for them.
You meet people where they are.
People are becoming more and more resistant to the idea of “going to church.”
Online evangelism, and in this case, online small groups, means that the church must go out to where the people are.
Jesus spent time “between the mountain and the multitude” (SC 101.1). He spent time with His heavenly Father and after receiving a fresh anointing, spent it sacrificially on those He came to save. But He had to go where the people were.
We too are to follow His example if we hope to bring in a harvest of souls for the kingdom of God.
Half of the world’s population is online. Instead of going to a church building, they’re logging in online.
People are still searching for a sense of community and online small groups can meet that need.
Your church’s influence can reach beyond the physical walls.
Through online small groups, the local church becomes more than a brick and mortar building.
When members who are filled with the Spirit (lay people) take responsibility to disciple others outside of normal “church hours” and beyond the church’s meeting place, the influence of our work can spread like wildfire.
The main thing to be wary of when starting an online small group is to not turn it into a space where “Adventists are only talking to Adventists.”
Be intentional about extending an invitation to those who are not members of your church. Encourage church members to invite their online friends to join a small group.
Small steps like these can grow a church exponentially.
How do I Start an Online Small Group?
Now let’s look at the step by step process to start an online small group.
Spend more time in prayer
If we used the time we spent talking, reading, and preaching about prayer in actual prayer, the Gospel work would be done.
Any ministry work that can be done in your own power is not worth doing.
Although starting an online small group might sound like something simple, do not start without spending significant time praying for strength and wisdom, as well as for those who will participate.
The success of your ministry depends on God’s help received through prayer.
Define your target audience
Your target audience is the group of people you intend to receive your message or join your online group.
One of the biggest mistakes online missionaries make is to say, “I’m trying to reach everybody.”
Although there is a lot of heart behind this goal, it won’t help you achieve success in ministry.
Why is having a target audience important?
First, knowing who you’re targeting gives you an idea of how to reach them and where to reach them.
If you are creating an online youth group for teenagers, you will have to target them on Instagram or Snapchat instead of Facebook.
The way you communicate your message to young adults will be different from your communication style with a senior group.
If the members of your group are not Seventh-day Adventists, there are certain lingos they may not be able to relate to, for example, “health message,” “remnant,” or “Sabbath.”
Second, knowing your audience gives you an idea of what topics to cover. This is discussed further in the following section.
Finally, having a narrow focus on your audience will help you to know what goals to set and the types of CTAs (Calls-to-Action) you want to make.
To discover your target audience, start by answering the following questions:
- Who will benefit the most from this online small group?
- Is your target audience mostly male or female?
- What’s their age range?
- Where do they live?
- What are their interests?
- What’s their religious background?
- What’s their view on the Bible?
- Do they attend church?
- What are they worried/concerned about?
- What fears do they have?
The answers to these questions will give you clarity on how to approach your group.
Pick a topic and plan your content
Finding a topic for your online small group can be a “simply difficult” task because topic ideas can seem endless.
While Gospel will always be the treasure we want to share, other topics can be used as an opening wedge.
Ellen White describes the health message as an “entering wedge.”
There are so many topics or ideas that you can use as a launching pad for your online group.
With your target audience in mind, write down 10 issues or topics you believe they are interested in.
Examples of groups you can focus on and subject ideas:
You can start a group for:
- Young adults who want to be debt-free
- People who want to know the symbols of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation
- Women who struggle with pornography
- Married couples who want to get better at conflict resolution
- Young women interested in modest fashion
- Singles who are looking forward to marriage
- Seekers who want to learn more about what Adventists believe
- Retirees who want to use their time wisely
Use answerthepublic.com to determine the common questions that people are searching for online about the topic and use this data to build discussion in your group.
You don’t need to be an “expert” on the subject being explored in your group. However, it is very important to a working knowledge of what you are sharing.
Conduct research, study scripture related to the topic, ask advice and pray for understanding and the ability to share concisely.
For sensitive topics or for subjects that require medical or scientific knowledge, invite a guest who is knowledgeable about the matter being discussed.
Avoid giving the impression that you know all the answers by creating an atmosphere for everyone to learn and feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.
Remember, you’re in the group to learn as well.
Write down your goals
What do you want people to do as a result of your online group? How will you be able to tell whether your small group was a success?
By answering these questions, you will be able to set your goals.
A goal is the purpose of an action. It’s the intent behind your online group. By writing down your goals, you get a clear picture of your objective.
- Do you want 7 people to join over the next 3 weeks?
- Would you like 4 people to sign up for Bible studies at their local church by the end of the group period?
- Do you want half of your group members to make a commitment to follow Jesus in the next year?
- Will group members be able to start their own group and disciple others within 6 months?
All of these are examples of goals that you can set for your group.
Set a date and time
Now that your foundation is set, it’s time to determine when you will meet and how long you will meet for.
It’s recommended that you meet with your group at least twice per month. Once per week would be ideal but work with your schedule and that of others.
If you have individuals who join from different time zones, be mindful of setting a time that is convenient for most people.
The frequency of the sessions plays a role in the duration of the meetings. For example, my online group met for 45 minutes every Friday evening.
If you meet bimonthly, you may want to consider meeting for at least an hour and fifteen minutes.
Although timing will not always work for everyone, try to keep the majority in mind.
You can also determine how long you want your small group to meet. The average duration is three to six months.
When I started my online small group, we met for as many weeks as the chapter in the book we were studying, which was19 weeks.
Take factors such as your topic in mind when making this decision.
Find your online platform
Perhaps the best platform you can use to launch your online small group is Zoom.
Zoom offers a free option as well as a subscription-based plan with more features. However, with the free plan, you only have 45 minutes.
If you want more time, after the call ends, you will have to send a new invitation via email to your group members.
The free plan allows up to 50 participants and you can have an unlimited number of sessions.
The paid plan gives you the option to livestream on Facebook and YouTube. Consider this option carefully and get permission from every group member before streaming or recording.
Since the small group is designed to be a safe place, you want to be sure that all your members are ok with being recorded.
How Zoom Works
To Start a Meeting
- Go to Zoom.us
- Click the “Host a Meeting” tab on the top right-hand corner
- Choose to keep video chat on
- Sign in using your login information or create a new account
- Launch the Zoom application and open
- Send out the meeting details, including the Meeting ID and/or link to the email addresses you collect from those interested.
- You’ve created a meeting!
To Join a Meeting
- Go to Zoom.us
- Click the “Join a Meeting” tab. You can find the tab on the top right corner of the homepage
- When prompted, add your designated Meeting ID (The Meeting ID can be a 9, 10, or 11-Digit number).
- You’re in!
During your group sessions, you can also share your screen if there’s something you want group participants to see, like a slide presentation.
To Share Your Screen
- To share your screen, click “Share Screen” at the bottom of the window.
- To stop sharing the screen, click “Stop Sharing.”
- Ask participants to mute their microphones when they’re not speaking.
- Talk about gallery view (which allows users to see everyone at once) or speaker view (that enables you to see one person at a time.
Promote your Online Group
Now it’s time to let people know about your small group.
Going back to knowing your target audience; promote your small group on the platform(s) they frequent.
My target was single young adults between the ages of 25 – 40.
This demographic is mostly on Facebook and Instagram, so I made several posts on these platforms.
I instructed those who were interested to send their emails to my messenger inbox.
When I collected the emails, I sent details on how to join the group.
My aim was to get 10 group members. In total, there were 27 individuals who registered.
Based on your goals and target audience, the Holy Spirit will lead you into the best way to advertise your small group.
When you’re first starting your group, you might aim to invite friends you want to share the Gospel with.
As you become more familiar with how online small groups work, you can branch out to others you may not know, even create a page and target an audience.
It’s important to note that this method is NOT recommended for your local church because church members can hold small groups in a traditional way.
This is specifically aimed for persons who are either online seekers, not readily open to attend church or are not physically in your area to meet up in person.
Start your online group
Now that you’ve promoted your online group and collected emails, you’re ready to start!
Log on to Zoom (or whichever platform you’re using) before other participants login to help anyone who may have trouble logging in.
Carefully note the progress of your group so you can note areas to improve on.
We are commissioned to preach the Gospel to the ends. Today, we have many digital tools to help us accomplish this task.
Online small groups are a great way to build relationships and share the Gospel and make disciples.
As more small groups appear online, the Seventh-day Adventist church will be instrumental in creating countless communities of believers online.Download Slides