We recently launched our 1st “on-line” life group – this functions the same as any other regular life group, but instead of meeting at home, we meet online.
We utilise Skype premium which allows every member to see and hear each other. This idea has been something simmering in my heart for a long time. When researching the viability, I stumbled across lifechurch.tv (Craig Groeschel) and thought the idea was absolutely brilliant. Our groups run a little differently to lifechurch.tv, but I am thankful to them for being bold enough to pioneer this kind of thing.
The two biggest issues that I anticipated were
- Technology letting us down
- The potential for awkwardness
Firstly, the technology was adequate. We had a few teething problems at the start, but they were quickly sorted out. Any newish computer with above average internet works well enough. We are committed to growing the group at only 1 extra user per week so when/if it starts to slow down or get “glitchy” we will multiply the group.
Secondly, it really didn’t feel awkward… at all! Actually it was quite the opposite – I felt both vulnerable and comfortable. We are really growing into a tight group and all the signs are pointing toward spiritual depth and community.
The main objection I have heard when pitching this idea is that some believe that this method (on-line) contributes to the notion that the internet is enhancing social ineptness and is conducive to people living in a world where the truth is hidden behind walls where people are role playing. I have my opinions, but I will let the fruit speak for itself over time because anything I say at the moment would simply be my untested opinion.
Here is my list of pros and cons… let me know what you think.
- Parents with small children can attend
- Geography is not an issue… at the moment our group has members in Sydney, Mt Tamborine, Southern Gold Coast and Papua New Guinea!
- Time efficient – we have found that out time together is intense and focussed. We accomplish a lot in a very short time, plus setting up the venue is also unnecessary.
- We can have global reach and minister to people who don’t have a Christian community available.
- It is fun!!… It’s exciting for me especially because I really believe it will be effective.
- Younger people seem interested. This motivates me immensely, especially because most people find Christ while they are young.
- People without good technology are automatically excluded.
- The potential for creeps/wolves in sheep’s clothing is something to consider.
- The legal/liability side of things will be tricky, but not impossible.
- People could see this as a gimmick and not “real community” – but once again, only time (and fruit) will tell – but praise God I don’t really have to worry about that.
I am committed to this project and believe it may well become one of the most effective evangelism initiatives our church ever implements, so please let me know what you think and I’ll keep you posted.