3 Keys to Powerful Virtual Groups
The Virtual Small Group
Max opened his time with prayer, then began the process of working through his struggles with his boss. As we walked through his hurt and questions, the Holy Spirit began to open his heart to see how he could love his boss in these difficult times. Slowly his voice quieted, and his heart grew light. Within 20 minutes Max moved from angry and unsure to confident and loving. Suddenly, the power of our God stunned me. Max shared from west Oklahoma, and I listened from Ohio. The other men praying in our group live in Texas, Arkansas, and Virginia. The same Holy Spirit moved in us all.
Studies are clear that people grow best in their understandings when they share in small discussion groups. While I have spent most of my adult life sharing in these types of learning atmospheres and find the interplay of live discussion the most beneficial, over the last several years I have also learned the power and joy of virtual small groups.
As the globe shrinks in our Gig. Economy we must begin to not only accept the powerful technology that allows people to connect around the globe, but to embrace it as a tool for the gospel. However, I have also learned some keys to a successful virtual small group experience that will help you gain more from the experience.
1. Clear Purpose
When gathering online the freedom and temptation for distraction multiplies. To get the most out of this type of group, you need a clear picture of why you are gathering. If each individual does not understand their own purpose in participating in the virtual group, then they can disconnect much more easily than in a live meeting.
So, take time before you gather to remind the members of the power of input. Everyone needs to bring their full passion to the table. Connect. Interact. Share. Understand the value that comes from your gathering, even when you are not the one speaking, and your group will be stronger.
2. Clean Protocols
One difficulty in virtual groups is interruption. As amazing as technology is, we still cannot overcome the dropping out of voices when we talk over each other. This annoyance demonstrates the reality of what happens in our brains when we start talking over each other even in a live group. To keep this struggle minimized, create protocols that allow discussion to move from person to person without interruption.
Also, before each meeting there should be a clean map of the order of discussion. This map can be the same every week or can be sent to the group in advance of the next meeting.
3. Confidential Agreement
Even though you are hundreds or even thousands of miles away from each other, confidentiality is still vital. For people to trust each other with their lives, they need to be able to be open to the point of great vulnerability, and know that they will not be judged, mocked, or outed to others. If we want to receive all the value a virtual group has to offer this confidentiality must be maintained.
When you may never see someone face to face, it can be easy to think of them as a character in a virtual world, but these are real people with real lives, who need to be free to be real. Protect the members of your group.
The world is changing, and the disconnectedness of virtual life should drive us to find real people we can share life with. But this brave new world also provides a great opportunity to connect with others of like mind and heart anywhere on the planet. Enjoy the world