How to Build Virtual Community

As some states are beginning to open back up, many states are still either under stay-at-home orders, require reduced capacity for public gatherings, or mandate social distancing practices.

In the midst of this, many people have been missing their church family. Community is an essential part of the Christian life, and gathering on Sunday mornings for church is a natural way to build relationships. Add to that weekly small group Bible studies, accountability meetings, and hangouts that are no longer happening, and we have a community crisis on our hands.

Think back on the past two months. How many times have you talked with someone from church? When was the last time your Bible study met—even just to catch up? Likely, it’s been far less than you would have ordinarily gathered.

When our routine community activities are disturbed, we need to creatively find ways to maintain and build community. Even in times of social distancing, it’s possible. Here are a few ideas that have been used at my church.

Socially Distanced Bible Study

However often your small group Bible study meets, consider meeting via video chat during your normal meeting time. Our young adult Bible study has been meeting every week via Zoom. We spend the first thirty minutes or so sharing our highs and lows from the past week, and then we do a short Bible study.

We’ve found that our Bible studies are a lot shorter than when we meet in person, so don’t feel the need to force a two-hour meeting. Online, we typically meet for an hour. It’s so refreshing to see familiar faces and pray for one another.

If your state allows gatherings of ten people or less, consider meeting outdoors and maintaining adequate physical distance as much as possible. Of course, do whatever is best for your group, remembering that some people are more vulnerable than others.

Virtual Trivia Night

Large church-wide events are likely going to look a lot different in the next year or so, as we try to figure out how to interact while maintaining safety. In our young adult small group, we hosted a virtual trivia night via Zoom, where our leader shared his screen with the trivia slides, and individuals wrote down their own answers and kept track of their own scores.

Although it wasn’t quite the same as an in-person trivia night with homemade snacks, it was something to look forward to and felt somewhat like old times!

Pre- and Post-Service Chat

One thing my church has done that has been so fulfilling for me is to start the Zoom video stream ten minutes early and then extend it ten minutes after, to allow time for people to talk in the chat feature. Even seeing a familiar name typing, “Good morning, excited to worship!” is such a blessing. One week, the chat even convinced our music director to do an impromptu hymn sing afterward!

If your church doesn’t use Zoom, you could do something similar on Facebook or YouTube, although the chat would be more public.

Facebook Live Devotions

Our pastors have been doing daily devotions on Facebook Live to connect with members throughout the week. These devotions are typically tailored to the struggles we might be facing while staying at home, like being quick to anger with our family, struggling with depression or anxiety, or missing our friends. It’s nice to get a quick two- or three-minute devotion in, especially as you’re mindlessly scrolling through Facebook.

Phone Call Check-Ins

How many times have you checked in with someone during quarantine? Just called a friend to say hello and ask how she's doing? I admit that I do it far less than I should. I have one friend from church who is faithful to call me and check in, and even if I’m not able to call her back, it’s so nice to know that someone is thinking of me.

Checking in with a friend is beneficial not only for them but also for you. One-on-one friendships are so important. One of our pastors has encouraged us to call or text one friend a day. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but it’s important to check in with one another. 

How has your church been maintaining and building virtual community?

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Written by

Hannah Hansen

Hannah is a freelance writer and brand designer. She currently lives in Oceanside, California, where her husband serves as a pastor. When she’s not running along the coast, you’ll likely find her cooking new vegan recipes or browsing her local thrift store.

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