What Does a Typical Online Small Group Look Like?

Last week, I wrote about the overall definition of online small group that Saddleback Church has developed over the years. It is a gathering of people meeting through a video conference software facilitated by a Small Group Curriculum.

On this post, I will paint a picture of how a typical online small group meets.

Let’s dive into it.

Welcoming & Life Sharing (5 minutes)

As the small group host and members start to join in the online meeting room, participants can engage in conversation about one another’s week. Just like any physical groups, not everyone will come on time, so this opening minutes can be used to share significant life events or other life stories from the past week. It’s not a filler-time, it can be used to follow up from last week’s discussion and/or to know one another deeply.

Opening Prayer (1-2 minutes)

This one is straightforward and does not need more details but does need to be mentioned.

Small Group Curriculum (15-25 minutes)

Then the group will watch the video curriculum together. The group can watch it together by the host sharing the screen on the video platform that the whole group has joined. This works best when the bandwidth of internet connectivity is strong for both the hosts and other members. If a bandwidth is not strong on both ends, a group will watch the small group curriculum in one’s own time before they meet together online. For Saddleback Church, a video curriculum will run for about 15-25 minutes.

Discussion Questions (20-25 minutes)

A typical small group curriculum poses questions related to the teaching points of the video. Then the small group host will ask the questions to the participants and facilitate the discussion. Again, facilitation is very important in online groups because it is easier for participants to disconnect emotionally when they are not actively engaged. One of the most important role as the online small group host is asking questions to all the participants. If there is a participant who is hiding behind the screen and not answering, the host should be aware and invite that person to answer a question or two.

Closing Remarks and Planning for Future (5 minutes)

As the video curriculum ends and you’ve had some engaging discussion, the group can get ready to end the group. If the group watches the video teaching before the group meets, this is where the host can highlight which video to watch for next week’s gathering. Also when the small group curriculum series is coming to an end, this is a great time to discuss which small group curriculum to study next. Then the small group can officially close the session with the prayer and blessing.

This is very brief but comprehensive picture of how a typical online small group meets. However, this is not the only way to run an online small group. If your group meets differently or have ideas to improve engagement, let us know on the comment section below.

For an example of what a Saddleback Small Group Curriculum looks like, click here to watch the series “40 Days of Prayer”, video teaching by Pastor Rick Warren.