Virtual meeting groups, a step by step guide

It's important to note that Zoom’s advice around under 16s using the platform is: “Children under 16 cannot create a Zoom account. A parent or guardian may, however, permit the child to use that parent or guardian’s account with their supervision.”

Step 1: Contact parents and carers

Contact the parents and carers of those under 16 via email or direct messaging, informing them of your intention to create a virtual meeting group. Seek their support and permission to do this.  Explain how, when and where the meeting will be happening so everyone is clear about how it will take place.

Encourage parents/carers to talk with their children about these new arrangements. Let them know who they can contact if they have a question or concern. It is essential that they are on board and able to set boundaries that they feel are appropriate for their children whilst they are on the Zoom chat (eg. the parent might want the child to participate in the Zoom chat from a visible space in the house or, if the child attends the meeting from their bedroom, they might want them to leave the door open, or they might just want to check in with the child at the end of the meeting).

Ask parents/carers to complete and return this consent form before their child participates in a Zoom gathering. You can use the following text in your email for parents/carers, to offer an explanation of the expected supervision:

"Parents/carers we ask that you supervise* your child's use of the Zoom account and are aware of when, how and why they are using the account, ensuring that you keep the log in details and do not share this with your child. Each time your child wants to attend a session facilitated by your church or organisation. You should log them in for the session, do not give them the log in details. please ensure that you read and follow the Methodist Church guidelines outlined in our Zoom Safeguarding policy.  

Zoom collects information about its users and has its own privacy terms and conditions to which members must adhere. Please review Zoom’s privacy terms and conditions carefully before registering, and ask parents/carers to do so also.

The session leaders will ensure that they comply with the Methodist Church Safeguarding procedures and policies in the same way that they would if meeting face to face.

In order for your child to participate in distance-based youth group experiences, you will need to provide the following:

  • a computer, mobile, or tablet device with access to the Internet
  • a free Zoom licence, with you as parent/carer/guardian holding the account.

It is your responsibility to log in securely each time your child attends a session and to log out when the session has ended.

* By supervision we mean: The parent/carer holds the responsibility to log in to the Zoom meeting and agrees to not share the log in details. The parent/guardian is also responsible for logging out of the Zoom call at the end of a session and checking that privacy settings haven’t been changed and their passwords are not saved. The parent/carer is to manage the Zoom account and to ensure that they are at home while the child or young person is attending the session. Where possible the child/young person should be in a communal space or in a room with the doors left open when accessing the session via their laptop, computer or other device.  

Step 2: Create the group

Shortly before it is time for everyone to join in, send the Zoom link to the parents/carers of those under 16 years and directly to those who are 16 or above.  As leader of the group you have control over when the video meeting starts and ends and no interaction can take place unless you have opened the space first or after you have closed it. 

Step 3: Group content

The first meeting should include a discussion of the rules everyone will be expected to adhere to: many of those when meeting face to face will equally apply here.  These should be kept simple and be for the benefit of all involved with online safety as paramount. Each time you meet subsequently, remind participants of these rules.

There are many great ways to create community together such as: sharing life updates or presenting artwork, posing questions, prayer, reading scripture, offer something with an encouragement to join in and respond. 

There are many resources available giving further ideas and inspiration – a selection of these can be found in the sections on Ideas and good practice for children and Ideas and good practice for youth work.

Ideally keep these meeting times shorter than usual (half an hour to 40 minutes may be enough) so be creative in finding ways to help everyone engage.  Asking good open questions such as ‘What’s the best thing you’ve done since we last met?’ can generate interaction. 

You may want to include some time when parents and carers are present (especially when meeting with under 11 year olds) so they are actively involved for part of the time and observers during the rest if they wish.  As time goes on you may wish to consider asking your young people to take a lead and inviting them to create a space for meeting that is more peer led.  Give some consideration to how to divide the time up best for those taking part.

Step 4: Keep a record

It is best practice to keep a log of your Zoom meetings. Who attended? How long did it last? Also include a brief description of what was covered and if any issues arose.

Step 5: Takeaways

Give some thought to what you can offer the group as a takeaway from your time together.  Could you set a task or challenge?  This could be reported back on next time.  How could everyone be praying for each other in the meantime, is there a fun way to capture this?  Let everyone know that as the group leader you’ll remain in touch with parents and carers between meetings so they’re fully informed of what will be happening.

Step 6: Further contact

Staying in touch with parents in between meetings is important so they’re fully informed of upcoming dates and times of when the virtual group will gather. This can be done via email or direct messaging. Underline that, as the group leader, you will have no direct contact with the children themselves outside of the virtual group meeting.

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