Facilitating & Moderating Online Communities

Facilitating a faith-based small group online is more than just moderating a chat space. The facilitator keeps the conversation going — grounded in scripture and personal experience — and thus creates a meaningful experience.

Moderating online groups is similar to in-person groups. Moderators are asked to do many familiar functions:

  • Tend to the conversation and keep it going. This might mean asking specific people for more information or re-asking a question in a new way.
  • Herd participants back together if they stray; invite folks who haven’t responded in a while to post.
  • Take ownership of the group and protect them from bad behavior. You will be asked to intercede for the good of the group.

One function that is the same for all small groups is creating group norms. Many of these norms will be the same as an in-person group, but the functions of the internet make for some unique challenges. Be prepared to remind participants of the expectations that are set at the start of the group.

Questions to ask before you start your online small group:

  • May content be shared with people outside the group?
  • May users post anonymously?
  • How will participants introduce themselves to one another?
  • How often should group members post? Is there a lower limit or an upper limit?
  • How should participants be reminded of the group norms?
  • When someone behaves badly, do they get a second chance? How many opportunities are they given before they are asked to leave?
  • Remember that there are real people on the other side of the keyboard. Respond to one another authentically and with love.
  • Do not use personal attacks or hate speech.

We recommend pinning your group norms in a visible place and ask all participants to respond to them. This allows everyone in the group to see that all have agreed to the same guidelines. When everyone knows and follows the rules, trust can be built and real communication can happen.