Even as restrictions may be easing in some states, it may still be months before we can gather together again in large groups.
In the interim, many leaders are looking to transition in-person events online to take the place of canceled women’s ministry retreats, conferences, and workshops.
The efforts leaders are making to keep their women engaged and growing spiritually is impressive!
In this post, I’ll walk through some of the decisions you’ll need to make to host a women’s ministry event online.
Side note: Your team doesn’t have to host a women’s ministry event online. One alternative is to point women to online events trusted speakers are already hosting. I’d love for your women to join us for my free Facebook Live Ladies Night In – A Night of Fun, Fashion, and Faith with Shari Braendel of Fashion Meets Faith on May 19th. The Bible Study Summit is a great resource to share with your women too.
While it might seem the first logical step would be to decide which platform you’ll use, there are some questions you need to answer first.
- Do you want participants to be able to use a virtual chat?
- Do you want participants to be able to discuss questions in small breakout groups?
- Do you want to live-stream teaching sessions or share pre-recorded videos?
- Do you want women to be able to access the material later if they are unable to join the event live?
- Are you going to hire a speaker for your event?
- Do you need to be able to show more than one person on the screen at a time?
- Do you need the screen share option?
- If your event will be live, how many women do you expect to attend?
- Is your event going to be public, or do you want to limit access?
- Will viewers have to download a plug-in to access the event?
I genuinely don’t mean to overwhelm you, but it’s essential to know how you want your event to function before you choose your platform (the tool you’ll use to host your event).
You also need to make sure your team has the bandwidth and skills (or willingness to learn) to host an online women’s ministry event. If your team is already overwhelmed, you might want to point women to other online events and resources until you’re able to manage the different moving parts or can find a volunteer to help.
If the following information is way too much, scroll down past each list for my recommendations.
Live options for your online event
Ask someone on your church staff if your church already has an active subscription or account for a live streaming platform. If they do, that maybe your best option.
I’m sharing high-level details to help you narrow down your platform selection. Some platforms offer free and paid options – look carefully at the limitations to determine which version you’ll need.
- Zoom – You’ll need to decide if the webinar or meeting option is better for your event. Here’s a chart that breaks down the differences. Note that the breakout rooms are only available in the meeting mode and the webinar mode is only an option on the paid plan. If you’re bringing in an outside speaker, please discuss both options as she may prefer one over the other.
- Webex – Webex is similar to Zoom in many ways.
- Facebook – Facebook Live can be used on a Facebook page where anyone can view and share your event. Facebook Live can also be used inside a Facebook group where only group members can see your event. If you have someone on your team that’s tech-savvy, they might want to use Streamyard or Zoom to stream your event on Facebook.
- YouTube – YouTube offers three different options for live streaming – public, private, and unlisted. However, private streaming-only allows you to share the event with 50 different people at once, and they have to have an active Google account. You’ll find more information here.
- Vimeo – Live streaming on Vimeo requires a paid membership plan; however, I mention it because it’s possible your church already has a membership that you can use. You’ll find more information here.
My recommendation: If you want your event to be live and with a restricted audience, I suggest Zoom or Webex.
If you get stuck, start by using the help or support section on the website of the tool you’re using. If you’re still stuck, search YouTube for a video tutorial. Chances are someone has created a step-by-step video to show you how to do the thing that’s tripping you up.
Pre-recorded options for your online event
Some of your speakers may not be comfortable with live video. You can pre-record videos for your event and stream the videos live (see options above) or upload them for women to view at their leisure.
Don’t forget to take into consideration whether or not your team or your speaker wants the videos to be made available to the general public.
If you do want your pre-recorded videos to be available for anyone to see consider:
- A Facebook page
If you want your pre-recorded videos to only be available to a select audience:
- Videos can be uploaded to a password-protected page on your church website.
- Publish the videos as “unlisted” on YouTube or Vimeo. Only those who have been given the link would have access.
- Upload the videos to a closed Facebook group.
- Utilize a webinar hosting platform such as Eztalks, Zoom, Zoho, and Webex. Some offer free versions, but it may not provide the features you need. There are many other paid webinar platform options too, but you may not find them budget-friendly unless your church already has an account.
My recommendation: If you want your event to be pre-recorded with a restricted audience, I suggest uploading the videos to your church website. However, if that’s not an option, use the unlisted featured on YouTube and email the link to participants.
Now that we’ve figured out what technology to use, we need to structure our online event.
How to Structure Your Online Event
- Women are getting “zoomed-out” so keep your event short or offer it in shorter chunks over multiple days with a play-back option.
- Warm-up your group with some icebreaker questions at the beginning. They can respond in the chat, you can post a poll (if your platform has that feature), or they can give you a visual thumbs up or thumbs down. Mix up the way you want them to respond to make it even more engaging.
- Create a schedule for your event and stick to it.
- Include a variety of elements. Consider singing a couple of worship songs, offering breakout groups for discussion (Zoom meetings are great for this), asking someone to share a short devotional, and don’t forget to pray at the beginning and end.
- Vet your speaker. There’s a big difference between speaking on a stage and speaking into a camera. Even live and recorded events are different. You don’t necessarily have to hire a speaker, but whoever you choose needs to have the skillset to deliver a great event for your women.
- Have someone working the technical pieces behind the scenes that’s not the speaker, if possible.
- Select a warm and welcoming hostess for the event, just as you would in-person.
- Consider giving away some door prizes that can be dropped off on their porch or picked up at the church.
- If someone is teaching, provide worksheets that can be printed in advance. Worksheets can help hold your attendees’ attention.
- Run through the event in advance and get feedback from the rest of your team so you can make any needed revisions. Some things just don’t translate as well online as they do in-person.
- Keep things moving at a quick pace.
- Start and end on time.
While, yes, there’s a lot of grace right now while we’re all learning to do things in a new way, taking the time to run through an event to smooth its delivery as much as possible is critical.
You are almost certain to have women join your online event that have never attended an in-person women’s ministry event before. You want their experience to be the best it can be.
Just as you wouldn’t throw together a big event under normal circumstances, don’t do it for an online event either.
A word on copyrights: I understand the temptation to stream content from your favorite author’s Bible study DVD or videos. That content is copyright protected, and doing so is illegal without prior permission. You will need to contact the publisher or streaming service to obtain permission.
Pulling together an online women’s ministry event is a lot of work, but it’s worth it!
I pray the Lord will direct your steps as you plan.
You may also want to read:
Virtual Women’s Ministry Resources
20 Virtual Ladies Night Out Ideas
3 Keys to Virtual Women’s Ministry
How to Create Social Media Graphics
How to Create a Women’s Ministry Social Media Plan
How to Host a Virtual Bible Study
How to Host a Virtual Game Night
How to Schedule Social Media Posts
How to Use Facebook Groups for Women’s Ministry
How to Support Your Women When You Can’t Meet Together
Isolation Icebreaker Questions
Social Distancing Random Acts of Kindness
Tips for Creating Live and Recorded Video
Women’s Ministry Email List Service Options