Setup and running an online church/community group/charity

26th March 2020, 8:08am | By Marc Read |

In these difficult times we are being challenged to think of different ways to connect with people. Isolation whether self-isolation or due to medical conditions means we will come to appreciate people who are kept from attending our groups for various meetings even more!

So how do you set about organising a virtual group? Here are some guidelines to consider:-

1. Does everyone have access to the internet?
This is vital for video conferencing and therefore check on the connectivity of your group. If not they will use other means to join your conference e.g. phone

2. Do you have people who do not use computers/mobiles?
If you have these people please use more accessible technology for them e.g. landline phones and simple mobiles. They might not have the same experience of seeing faces but they could benefit from joining in your group session  –  This is only one2one (phone2phone)

3. Consider those who have some knowledge but are not that confident
Consider writing step-by-step instructions . Even walking through the steps with them. Then getting them to make a call. Have someone run the online group session at a different location  to test everything is working.

4. Those with a lot of knowledge and confidence
They are the ones to help you run a meeting. You need someone handling the technical side. Their role would be to do the following:-
a. Mute all and unmute individuals b. Ensure everyone that wants to join in is able to join either via a computer or a landline/mobile phone. c. Some people will sign in and not have a name visible to their call. You can usually rename the caller and that’s what the assistant can do – rename the caller.
Also, there could be someone leading the call and ensuring everyone has a turn. This is a good thing to do. But always allow for some people who just want to listen. So it’s really an invitation.

Prepare ahead of time by:- 

  • Sending out the call details – often editing them to suit your audience. Not too much detail  but essentially the meeting ID and the password if one is set.  Send out two lists – one for computer and tablets and one for landline phones and mobile phones  
  • Computer list goes to those with internet and computer links  
  • Phone lists goes to the least confident. 
  • Try and get a list of those who want to join in on a call so you know who will be there and who might be missing to follow-up on. 
  • Encourage the least confident to join the call saying it’s not that hard to do and practice so that they feel confident. Use the phone list method. 

Arrange for 2 people to run the call – one to lead the meeting , the other to be technical support and handle messages

In the meeting

  • Have someone leading who invites others to participate 
  • Have a gallery view on so you see everyone on the call 
  • Explain timings and what will be covered in the meeting so people know what’s coming and get a sense of how long this will last. 
  • Check that you can be heard AND seen. Get your assistant to check it 
  • Tell participants there is a chat window you will be monitoring  and therefore any questions raised can go there. 
  • Also, if someone wants to speak they can “raise a hand” and therefore your assistant or the leader can see this. 
  • Don’t overrun! Stick to times. People may well have arranged other commitments around your meeting. 
  • Don’t let one member dominate the meeting. Use tactics like “ Thank you  that’s an interesting point you are making we will deal with that later.” Or “ We need to let other members share their thoughts”  Never ignore their contribution or make them feel unwanted.  If points need revisiting go back to it briefly at the end and not allow that person to raise it again in the meeting or else the meeting will be held up.  
  • If the meeting is recurring at the end of the meeting tell the group the next time and date.

After the meeting 

  • Some packages record the meeting. It’s a button or automatic option you can set 
  • This is useful for webinars where most webinars people listen to AFTER the session has been done. For those who struggle with processing they can listen again to your meeting 
  • Follow-up with a short message to say thanks for joining in and reminding them of the next meeting date and time. Also ask if there have been any technical difficulties and also that there was a recording ( if there was one)
  • Useful information on video conferencing tools
    Skype – free – you can create groups but for smaller gatherings of 7 or 10 people
    Google hangout ( G suite)  need a google account for limited number meetings ( up to 15)  Free and easy to use. Set a meeting via a Google calendar. You won’t be able to do that in the app!
    Zoom – the basic free gives you calls up to 45 mins which is easy to reconnect to although it stops the flow of the meeting it is more than possible to do.
    GotoMeeting – webinars and large group meetings. Subscription based and not free . 14 day trial though

Step by step examples

Zoom call 

You can join 2 ways – by phone or by computer/mobile
By Phone
1. Dial < your call’s number>
2. You will be asked for the Meeting ID followed by the #key on your phone
3. Meeting ID < your meeting’s ID>
4. If you make a mistake you can always start from 1 again.
5. You will be in the meeting!
6. You will not be able to see who is on the call but you will be able to participate in the meeting
By Computer
1. Switch on your device
2. Click on Myles Pilling is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
3. Join Zoom Meeting:-
https://zoom.us/j/********
4. When the Option “Join by computer audio” select that
5. You should be in the meeting!
6. You will see who is on the meeting with you and every time someone speaks they will be the visible one to the group.

If you need help or assistance throughout the meeting either call <your technical assistant> or write in the chat window

You will be able to speak as if you are in the same room and communicate with the church directly

Google Hangout

  1. Go to your google account – http://accounts.google.com
  2. Find your google account or make one
  3. Go to the rows of  dots at the top of the browser on the right side
  4. Choose Calendar
  5. Create and appointment
  6. Add Guests to your appointment with email addresses
  7. Under location use the drop down menu and select Google Hangouts
  8. Alternatively if using Zoom you “Make it a Zoom Meeting”
  9. If you use multiple calendars ensure you have the right calendar selected.
  10. There will be a Calendar entry with the conference link visible.
  11. At the time of the conference you click on the link and you go straight to the meeting.

Skype

  1. Go to your Skype icon
  2. To create a group start with one person than add others to your conversation
  3. Those others have to be “invited “ and to accept the invitation before they join
  4. You can delete the conversation by right mouse click over the group collection and “ delete conversation”

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