Leading Faith in an Anxious World Virtually
Youth leaders, we believe in you. We know this season offers unprecedented changes to the way you do ministry from week to week, and we’re cheering you on.
We've gathered these tips to help you stay connected and make your gatherings meaningful as you lead your curriculum online.
Choose your video conferencing platform
Video conferencing services like Zoom, ezTalks, Adobe Connect, Google Hangout, and others help groups gather online and provide an easy way to see each other’s faces and hear voices. Our 4-week curriculum contains a large group setting that is centered on conversations around faith and Scripture. For more information about Look Up large group materials, see page 6 of the curriculum introduction.
When choosing a video conferencing service, look for one with a chat function you can use comfortably. This function is helpful in a digital setting as it can be used to help encourage group discussion and interaction.
While not critical, the ability to share video, sound, and your desktop screen is also useful. Many people find that screen sharing is the easiest way to display slides and video content during their digital meetings.
If you’re new to video conferencing, think about who you may need to contact with your technical questions. Many platforms offer online tech support, or often a quick search on YouTube will lead you to a helpful tutorial. You could also connect and network with other ministry leaders you know, who might also have grappled with similar problems. Get to know the tools available as you familiarize yourself with your chosen platform.
Think about virtual roles
While preparing to lead the curriculum online, consider asking some of your leaders to help you facilitate the discussion. Here are roles we recommend:
Host: The host is the one responsible for creating the video conferencing call and inviting everyone to the call. Your host can also communicate with small group leaders about which platform to use for the small group time and help them find their way back to the main meeting if you’re planning a closing session after small group time. It’s important for your host to have a strong internet connection.
Speaker: The speaker is the one who will be leading the large group teaching and taking the group on the journey of learning about faith, anxiety, and Scripture. Oftentimes, the speaker is also the host.
Chat Moderator(s): Chat moderators assist the speaker with interactions in the chat window. This includes helping to answer questions or comments your students might post in the chat, and notifying the speaker of any important questions that might be appropriate to address with the whole group. If you have a large group, you might also ask your chat moderator to type in the discussion questions that the speaker verbally asks the group. The speaker might want to send the chat moderator these questions ahead of time so that the chat moderator is ready to enter them into the chat at the right time.
Small Group Leaders: After leading the large group component of the curriculum, think about how you will break students up into a small group setting for further discussion using the small group discussion materials.
Establish some ground rules
Video conference calls can be hectic and intimidating. Think about the ground rules you’d like your students to follow, and communicate them early on. Every group is different and requires different rules to ensure a successful meeting. Choose rules that best fit your group.
Here are some examples of rules leaders are using:
- - Ask students to mute themselves during the session until it’s time to share.
- - Ask students to turn on the video function so that everyone can see each other.
- - While you’re teaching, ask students to type their questions in the chat.
- - Be clear when you want students to unmute and take part in a verbal discussion.
- - If a student needs to leave the meeting early, encourage them to say their goodbyes in the chat.
Prepare your curriculum
Before you start, read your “FAW Introduction” file. This document will help you understand the layout of the curriculum and give you some suggestions to think about as you prepare.
Tips for leading Look Up Large Group time
Ask your chat moderator to be ready to post conversation prompts and respond to questions or bring them up to the group at appropriate times as you talk.
When you come to a question slide, large groups may want to ask students to “chat” in their answers. Make sure you leave time for students to type an answer, and read out loud all of their answers (or a selected few if your group is large).
Be thoughtful about how you use the slides provided with the curriculum. If you want to stay on a point and discuss for a few minutes, consider switching back to camera view so you can maintain eye contact and engage with your students.
Sometimes open-ended questions in virtual meetings can lead to silence. Start with a really clear and easy-to-answer question in order to get students more comfortable with responding in the gathering. Think about asking a volunteer beforehand to share first if students are hesitant.
In general, plan to teach less and in shorter spurts. The longer you (the speaker) talk without student interaction, the less engaged students will be in a virtual environment.
If an approach to teaching and interaction doesn’t work well one week, try something different next time rather than trying to force it.
Tips for using the discussion-starter videos
If you’re using the discussion starter videos within a closed conferencing platform (like Zoom), ask your chat moderator to share a link to the corresponding video on YouTube when you’d like students to watch it. Give the appropriate amount of time for the students to watch it (for example: for a 4 minute video, give 5 minutes) before continuing. You could also play the video from your computer and use the screenshare function. In this case, you may want to play downloaded files from the curriculum toolkit rather than streaming from YouTube.
Here are links to the curriculum video components on YouTube. You are welcome to share the links themselves or embed them in your messaging to a private social media page or group, or in any other way you communicate with your students, parents, and leaders. We only ask that you do not distribute the videos on any public channels or forward the links to those outside your ministry.
Can I use the discussion starter or Daily Replay videos in my online video or livestream?
You are welcome to use the Faith in an Anxious World video components in your messages on YouTube or within a livestream communication. Please make sure the components are embedded in your talk (i.e., not the first or last thing people see on your video), and include the following messaging in your video description: “‘Life in a [INSERT WORD FROM THE VIDEO TITLE] World' is a video component of the Faith in an Anxious World curriculum series, and is used with permission from The Fuller Youth Institute. Find out more at Fulleryouthinstitute.org/anxiousworld.”
Tips for leading Look Inward Small Group time
If your meeting platform includes the option to create breakout rooms, this might be a convenient function to help host small groups directly after your large group teaching. If not, you may want to set up separate virtual meetings for your small groups. Encourage small group leaders to rely on your established ground rules during their gathering time too.
Talking about anxiety and mental health is hard for young people. Talking about these topics through a screen is even harder. Ask your small group leaders to think about offering follow-up conversations with individual students if they are needed. But remember that boundaries for digital safety still apply—make sure the small group leader is communicating with parents and the ministry leader if they’d like to set up private conversations with students.
Consider the best way to close small groups: on their own with a prayer? Or should the small group re-join the other groups in the main meeting room? Whatever you choose, make sure small group leaders know how to close their virtual meeting meaningfully.
You may want to consider scheduling a weekly meeting with your small group leaders to talk about how small group discussions went, highlight prayer requests, and troubleshoot any technical issues.
Tips for Look Around take-home sheets
After each session, email students the corresponding Look Around take-home sheet and email the parents their weekly parent guide. Students will be challenged to “grow their circle” by connecting with a different key adult weekly. Even if connecting in person isn’t possible, encourage students (and their parents) to think creatively and make time for these valuable conversations each week. Now more than ever, young people need to know that they are surrounded by caring adults they can turn to in good times and bad.