Martha Fisher is a Bible teacher and Pastor of Women at Community Bible Church in San Antonio and friend of mine. Martha has also been recruiting, training, and empowering leaders for groups in Online Ministry for the past several years. Martha specifically focuses on the area of discipleship for Online Ministry.
Here are 3 questions I recently asked Martha:
Having led a ministry that connected thousands into small groups each week face to face and now doing the same, but online, what do you see as the most significant differences?
Face to face groups have their own set of challenges; the fear of walking into a group where you are not known, the hassle of driving across town in traffic, and finding a group of people in which you have something in common, to name a few.
Without the pressure of peers staring you down, online groups can mask the fear of being unknown since you can present whatever and however much you choose to reveal. Online groups are the answer to driving in traffic and cost of gasoline as they require neither. And online groups often by name alone give very specific descriptions of commonalities, such as Cancer Care Community, Women Who Long for Children, or Adoption Option, making It easier to find a group where you already have something in common.
Another significant difference lies in the very foundation for online groups – technology. For the most part technology plays a very small part, if any in a face to face group. However, online groups are dependent on technology which can be challenging for some people to navigate and in some countries the internet is unreliable.
Both types of groups have their own set of challenges; I think it comes down to what works for each individual.
How have Online Groups changed the most over the past 3 years and what are the most significant changes that you foresee in the next 3 years?
When we began online groups, they met only one time per week on a specific day and time, viewing a video study and chatting on the keyboard. Since that time, groups have become more vibrant with consistent and daily access to those in the group with tools such as Facebook and Zoom. Facebook is the “on demand” for online groups, allowing people to have access to the group at a day and time that is convenient to them.
Video conferences such as Zoom have opened the door from faceless interaction to personal interaction. A Zoom experience is literally like sitting across the table from those in your group and allows the host to share their screen, enabling the group to experience teaching, discussion, and/or video real time with one another.
What the future holds is anyone’s guess, but one possibility is the virtual classroom; a 3D experience. Online ministry may well be the only voice to unite Believers some day; a network that will cross all boundaries of time and space.
Cause and demand have always driven innovation and I believe cause and demand will determine what comes next in online ministry. I have no doubt that God will provide all that we need to minister to all of those in need of a community of faith, Bible teaching, and encouragement!
For a ministry leader who fears these new technologies, how would you advise them when trying to navigate the possibilities of Online Small Groups?
Ministry has always had an element of vulnerability. It takes disclosure of ones weaknesses for God to use them. Scripture tells us that confession of sin is an integral part of forgiveness. Vulnerability, weakness, and sin are all very exposing.
Technology can be very exposing as well. There is no doubt that use of technology may indeed uncover us even more and in different ways from face to face ministry.
However, Scripture tells us that perfect love casts out fear. There are people and people groups that face hardships most of us cannot imagine and they need fearless leaders to bring them hope and the good news of Jesus Christ. We should be bold with the message of hope and wise in how we approach individuals and groups in ministry.
I personally use the tools of social media strictly for ministry. I do not post pictures of my children or grandchildren. I do not give details about family life. I know that does not completely insulate me or my family, but I do my best to use technology wisely and trust God to protect us.
For more great insights from Martha you can read here blog here: (www.marthafisher.wordpress.com). You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.