6 - Connect

Connecting People in Groups


People are watching. They’re in the loop. What’s the deepest level of commitment for online churchgoers? Listen as Martha Fisher elaborates on the group component of online church. Martha is Pastor of Women’s Ministry and Online Discipleship Pastor at Community Bible Church in San Antonio, Texas, one of the largest fastest growing churches in the country. 



Martha reiterates what you’ve heard throughout this course: technology comes second to community. She is grateful for Media Social and other online platforms that launch community ministry but says they don’t change lives. While a lot of people at her church have come into their online groups because of their live-streamed content, Martha says people stay in groups and grow because of the relationships formed online.  

Are you tempted to think the latest technology, gadgets, and teaching are what’s most attractive about online ministry? Explain.
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What kinds of relationships do you see people forming online these days (beyond church online)?
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Martha said that glitches in technology are inevitable. They’ve learned to manage those frustrations and go with it. What frustrations have you and your team had with technology as you’ve considered, launched, or managed online church, and what have you done to manage those frustrations?
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What are your goals for online groups? Do you plan on them staying digital, or would you like for them to meet in person at some point? Why do you say that?
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Community Bible Church began with only online groups primarily meeting at a particular time, but they have grown to have groups running 24/7 with people from all over the world. The majority of their online groups are through Facebook, and they have two different types: affinity groups and Bible study groups. Their groups are varied in content and meeting styles:

  • Some gather at a specific time online each week and view Bible studies together. 
  • Groups that utilize RightNow Media view a session on their own time and then come together on Facebook to discuss the content.
  • Video conference groups have one teacher online, and a group gathers together in person to view the video and talk through it together. 

Does the way Community Bible Church do groups give you some ideas? What kinds of things might work for your context?
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A vital component to online group life is leadership. Martha said their group leaders not only facilitate discussion, but they also shepherd the flock. To shepherd, leaders gather the sheep, feed the sheep, and keep the sheep. 

Gathering the sheep is advertising your group in creative ways and spreading the word about your ministry. Social media is an important tool for gathering groups.  

In what ways do you plan to spread the word about your online communities?
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Feeding the sheep is offering encouraging members of the group and making them feel safe. Leaders can post Scriptures, pray for members, and encourage people to minister to one another.  

Can you think of other ways leaders can encourage their groups and make them feel safe? What are they?
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Keeping the sheep is bonding the group, getting people face-to-face every once in a while, and forming a real community. What difference does a real bond make versus a mere connection? At one point do you believe a group is really bonded?
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You’ve written down a lot of names and ideas throughout this course. Who comes to your mind as potential group leaders, or shepherds, for your online groups?
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Did this session or others in this course change your understanding of online community? If so, how?
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In what ways do you see online church as real community ministry, versus a simple live stream?
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Online church is a new frontier, and you are a pioneer! As you think and pray about your online groups, remember to take risks and utilize the people and resources around you. Your ministry might just change lives of people in your neighborhood and around the world!