Little Rock Scripture Study
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August 2020

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Tips for Online Bible Study

by Steve Picard

Steve Picard is a Bible pro who has been facilitating online Bible study with his parish group in Los Angeles. Here’s what he’s learned about what works—and what doesn’t work!

As the Bible study coordinator for St. Jerome Parish in Los Angeles, I have been blessed to help our group navigate the uncharted waters of online Bible study.

I admit that I am not naturally a fan of online learning. Despite my bias, I knew we had to give online Bible study a try given the situation with COVID-19. I needed to be willing to adjust our usual pattern while preserving the essential elements of our Scripture study. I needed to be willing to make mistakes and learn from them—to not be afraid to fail. Patience and openness to the Spirit were essential. And I needed to confidently communicate these priorities to my group.

First I consulted several professional educators for their suggestions for web conferencing tools. Zoom was the unanimous recommendation. I discovered that many members of our group already had some experience with Zoom. For those who don't, there are short videos readily available on YouTube (or on Little Rock Scripture Study's Special Resources page) to help members of your group learn to use this simple online conferencing tool. One note about Zoom: the basic (free) Zoom license allows for meetings of 40 minutes. I recommend buying the least expensive Zoom subscription if you plan to have longer sessions (only one member—the person hosting the online meetings—needs to purchase the subscription).

Next I needed to determine how we could best use our time together online. The chart below compares the agendas for our 90-minute Bible study sessions. I hoped to keep the online agenda close to our “regular” agenda, and only adapt when necessary. Keeping small group conversation as our top priority was non-negotiable. I also wanted to maintain the places for prayer and instruction as much as possible.


Opening Prayer

Beginning the session with sung prayer was the first casualty of the online format due to slight delays in our online connection. A reading from the Biblical text of the evening’s study is now our starting point. Our conversational prayer is also slightly different. Because we can’t pick up on visual and auditory cues as well as we can in person, we now begin with all participants on “mute” while I begin the prayer. I then invite each participant—one at a time, by name—to continue the prayer. Participants pray as the Spirit moves them and everyone has the option to “pass” (though most participate). I set an expectation early on that our prayer time will not exceed 30 minutes (some groups may need less time, depending on size of group, etc.).

Small Group Conversation

After conversational prayer, our large group (usually around 15-20 in attendance) separates into smaller breakout groups (5-7 people each), using the Zoom Breakout Room feature to create those groups automatically (facilitators will find the "Breakout Rooms" option in Zoom settings). Before I launch the breakout rooms, I verify that my co-facilitators are placed in different rooms and adjust assignments if necessary. Robust and meaningful conversation is more important than a need to discuss every question. I select nine study questions in advance to help us stay within the allotted time in an online session. The breakout groups run like conversational prayer with muted participants invited to weigh in by the group facilitator. Participants use the Zoom "hand raise" feature to signal readiness to contribute to the conversation. (A "low tech" option is to have participants actually raise their hands on camera!) Note that some online groups prefer to stay together as one large group for discussion, but our group prefers the "small group" setting as it allows for more in-depth discussion.

Wrap-Up Lectures

In our typical in-person sessions, after small group conversations we reconvene the large group and watch the LRSS wrap-up lecture on DVD. However, since small group conversation and conversational prayer are our priorities (and because they take more time in an online format), our group does not have enough time for a 15-20 minute wrap-up lecture. With the new availability of LRSS lectures online (New Editions studies), this problem is easily solved by directing participants to the LRSS website to watch the video at their leisure. In the five minutes that remain in our online session, I present a “look forward” talk where I preview the assigned reading for the next session, pointing out elements of the biblical text for special consideration.

Closing Prayer

In closing, I thank our attendees for their preparation and participation, and we conclude with an Our Father. We close the online session as we did in-person, with the final blessing from Evening Prayer with lay presider: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

A Word of Encouragement

I hope sharing my group’s experience has been helpful. Every group is different in size, personality, and preference, so you’ll find what works best for your group’s online experience. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and adapt as you go. Everything may not always go smoothly with online Bible study, but we have found it to be a worthwhile way of continuing to share fellowship, support one another, and study God’s word together.


Steve PicardIn addition to facilitating Bible study at his home parish, Steve Picard serves as an instructor for the Los Angeles Catholic Bible Institute, training Bible study facilitators and helping them develop successful strategies for increasing biblical literacy in parishes of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Steve’s Bible study group will be meeting online in the fall and will be studying Little Rock Scripture Study’s Women in the Old Testament.




Helping your group Zoom

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If your Bible study group is meeting online this fall, we have some resources that may help, including links to brief, helpful videos that can help members of your group learn how to host or join a meeting on Zoom. You’ll find those guides on our Special Resources page. And remember, with our New Editions studies, your group can watch online lectures together (one member can share his or her screen with the rest of the group and play the videos), or participants can watch the online lectures on their own.


Individual Bible study

Bible study

While group Bible study is a blessing, keep in mind that you can study the Bible on your own too. Our New Editions studies give you everything you need in one book, including links to online lectures that you can view at any time. Perhaps you’d like to embark on your own overview of the Bible with Panorama of the Old Testament and Panorama of the New Testament. You’ll also find a treasure trove of biblical and spiritual topics in our Alive in the Word series. If you’d rather study and pray with the Sunday readings, our new Ponder series works well for individuals or groups.


Preview the LRSS Fall Catalog

LRSS Catalog 2020

Our Fall Catalog will mail soon, but if you’d like to take a peek online, you can do so here. We can’t wait to share all that Little Rock Scripture Study has to offer you, your small group, and your parish!







Los Angeles Religious Education Conference going virtual

LA Religious Education CongressThe largest Catholic religious education conference in the United States convenes in Anaheim every spring. In spring 2021, due to COVID-19 precautions, LAREC will be held virtually. If you haven’t been able to travel to LAREC in the past, you might consider participating this year from the comfort of your own home. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more!

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