How to manage security for online courses | Evangelism in lockdown
The COVID-19 pandemic has created many great opportunities to reach new people with the gospel. However, it also brings with it new challenges for online security.
No two situations are the same, and they will all involve a great deal of wisdom and prayer. We've put together a few thoughts for how you might start to manage tricky situations.
Make good use of built-in security features
Platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, YouTube Live and Facebook Live have in-built features that can help keep your online course a safe and friendly environment.
The Evangelical Alliance have put together this really helpful guide about online meeting security, which we recommend you check out for some technical guidance.
Be on your guard
Don't automatically assume that everyone attending your online course is a genuine seeker. Hopefully the majority of guests will be sincere, but sadly there are people who attend courses with an ulterior motive.
We heard of one course where two guests seemed pleasant and interested for the first few sessions, but then became increasingly aggressive and disruptive as the weeks went on. The course leaders later found out that they were part of an organised group specifically targeting Christianity Explored courses with the aim of disrupting them.
The internet makes it easier for groups like this to target Christians. We must avoid the temptation to view everyone with suspicion, but we must also not be naive.
Establish the context
Most people who attend an evangelistic course will have been invited personally (or digitally!) by someone.
If you have concerns about a guest and the manner in which they are asking questions or disrupting sessions, find out whether they have any personal connections with church family so you can find out more about their background. This might help to explain their behaviour.
If they have no connections with church family, it is more likely they could be deliberately trying to derail the course.
Talk to the individual privately
If you find a guest keeps asking very difficult and tangential questions that seem designed to catch you out, suggest picking up the conversation privately outside of the course session for the benefit of the other guests.
If the guest is not receptive to this suggestion, or you find their manner is consistently aggressive and unhelpful to the rest of the group, arrange to talk to them outside of the session and explain why their behaviour is unhelpful.
If they won't listen to you and their behaviour does not change, you might need to ask them not to attend the course again, perhaps suggesting they meet to cover the rest of the content 121 with you or one of your co-leaders instead.
We pray this won’t be part of your experience of running an online course, and we’re so encouraged by the many positive stories we’ve heard from churches.
However, if you do find yourself in a difficult situation and would like further advice, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
More about running courses during the pandemic