Q: What do the printing press and Zoom have in common?
         A: They both transformed the way culture communicates!

Zooming (or whatever platform you prefer) is here for the long haul. So, how do we do it well and graciously?

Just like in-person hospitality, there is no magic to good online hospitality. There is no one formula for doing it right. And while perfecting our technical skills for any online gathering is an important sign of respect for those we meet with, technology is not at the heart of hospitality.

Online hospitality requires the same considerations as in-person hospitality – it’s just in a new land! For hospitality to be extended – in person or online – it needs to be grounded in faith, honor the participants, and expect transformation.

Here are some things we have learned about online hospitality:

  • As a virtual host, warmly welcome participants to the Zoom gathering and begin with prayer…this reflects that God is present. Send out the agenda 24 hours ahead of time. As you gather online, be clear about what will occur in the meeting, how participants can access what they need, and who will help them with those inevitable “glitches”. Sharing this at the start helps participants feel welcomed, safe, cared for, and less anxious about technical skills.
  • Virtual hospitality is about paying attention. Pay attention to participation levels. For instance, the chat function helps keep everyone involved by giving participants an always-open path of expression. The host can also invite everyone to speak and make sure that no one voice is dominating. Even if you’re good at this in-person, facilitating over Zoom takes practice.

If you are using breakout rooms, don’t automatically cut participants off after the designated time. Instead, as the host, drop in each room and remind participants of the time limits or send a group message. This is more hospitable and more like what a host would do if participants were in a room together physically.

  • Good online hospitality honors participants. Instill trust with your participants. Honor them through your kindness and patience, especially those who may need to step away from the meeting for a coffee re-fill or restroom break. If it is a longer meeting (more than 90 minutes), build these breaks into the agenda. Be understanding as internet connections go out, cats jump onto shoulders, and children decide they need mom or dad NOW.
  • Finally, good online hospitality affirms that whenever and wherever God is welcomed in, God provides transformation. God’s work is still being accomplished. Yes, real ministry can be accomplished!

Online meetings are here to stay. Post-pandemic, we’ll continue to have options to work at home, because it’s cost-effective…both in terms of time and expense. We’ll continue to have online church or organizational committee meetings, because attendance is up. We’ll continue to meet as friends and family, because some are unable to drive, travel or be away from home. So we might as well learn to be radically hospitable in the new land!

If you have questions and would like to talk further about the Capital Campaign Process, don’t hesitate to contact me at jclark@jamescompany.com.

John V. Clark, President/Partner
The James Company