Hope Explored in Different Contexts: Online
We interviewed Christine Armstrong, Evangelism Worker at All Souls, Langham Place about her experience of running Hope Explored online.
Why did you decide to run Hope Explored on Zoom?
We initially started online courses during the height of the pandemic, because it was our only option back in 2020 when we wanted to trial the Hope Explored material before it would be finalised for publishing. Now, we are continuing to run courses using Zoom because it makes it easier for people to attend from all around the country and some globally as well.
What are the pros and cons of running a course online?
The main benefit is that it removes a barrier for people, they don’t have to travel anywhere, they can join from the comfort of their own home. Recent research has shown that a substantial proportion of non-Christians are more open to attending a course if it was online (UK National Ministry Survey 2021).
“Recent research has shown that a substantial proportion of non-Christians are more open to attending a course if it was online.”
For some with mobility issues, online is the only way they would be able to attend a course. Another benefit is that it’s possible for church family members to invite and join with their family and friends who live in different parts of the country, or even the world, which is often not possible if the only option is a physical course.
However, like anything online, it can be harder to build relationships with people. In person, it’s easier to have informal conversations over a meal or tea and coffee before and after the sessions. Online often only one person at a time can speak, which makes it a challenge to get to know everyone.
It’s also a challenge to help people take the step of going to a local church in person. This is especially hard if they live in a completely different area.
Tips for running courses online:
Head to the Leader's Area to watch Christine Armstrong talk through each session of Hope Explored to equip leaders as they plan to run the series.
Ensure that you have someone who is really confident in using Zoom on hand, so that the technology runs as smoothly as possible. It’s a good idea to have someone whose designated job for the evening is monitoring the breakout rooms and allowing people to join.
Don’t make the groups too big, so that everyone has a chance to chip into the conversation — if you have plenty of people it’s better to split them up. Try to draw people out at the start of the course to help you get to know them. When the join the course it’s a good idea to chat with people and find out where they are based and how they heard about Hope Explored. Then at the start of each session you can ask how their week has been etc. It’s worth making a note of anything important so that you can follow up next time. At the same time, don’t assume that everyone wants to answer specific questions, so try not to make anyone feel under pressure to give an answer.
Not everyone who attends will know how to access a Bible, it’s great to have the Bible passages on your screen so that you can share that with guests, as well as sending them a link to the passages on Bible Gateway for example. Alternatively, you could send them a physical copy of Luke’s gospel.