While it’s hard to find a silver lining in the effects of COVID-19 on people, our communities, and the economy, there are some bright spots amid some challenging days. The church is experiencing a time of growth as new people are reached online. Churches have made incredible strides in a short amount of time to take their messages into an online world. Facebook Live, Zoom, and other online communication tools have pushed the gospel and Bible study groups into a new frontier. A Hispanic church in Las Vegas, Nevada, reportedly had an average of 100 people on campus for its weekend services. Now online, this church had 1300 views of its Palm Sunday service! My brother-in-law pastors a small congregation in Burleson, Texas, and has reached new people, too, through the church’s new online services and Wednesday night Bible study.
But this period of advancement is not without its own perils and pitfalls. Already there are people, bad people, who are using their time and “talents” to hack into online meetings. Now that the church has placed its worship services online, attention is now being given to helping Sunday School groups use the same technology to meet. Group leaders must now take extra precautions to ensure that their online studies are not hijacked by someone with impure motives. Without a level of cybersecurity, these people could disrupt a group’s next online Bible study.
6 Tips to Keep Your Online Sunday School Meetings Safe
As group leaders schedule more Bible study sessions online, they should keep some basic steps in mind to prevent their group from being infiltrated by unwanted intruders. It’s already happened, so don’t think, “That could never happen to my group.” A growing number of groups have suddenly found themselves viewing unwanted pornographic images that came from a hacker during an online group meeting. By following a few simple steps, though, group leaders can help shore up their group’s online defenses.
1. In your online tool settings, set up a meeting password to keep hackers out.
Online meeting tools like Zoom have a setting that can be put into action. You won’t be able to do this from your calendar when you set up an online meeting. You’ll want to go to your Zoom account and view your scheduled meetings. Open a scheduled meeting and turn on the password requirement. Hackers will hate this.
2. In your online tool settings, don’t allow screen sharing so hackers can’t post inappropriate images.
Some groups have reported that a hacker was able to share his or her screen with the group, and it wasn’t an image for the feint at heart. Can you imagine people’s disgust (and distraction) when a sexually explicit image suddenly appeared during a Bible study? In Zoom settings, change this to “Host Only” sharing.
3. In your online tool settings, don’t use virtual backgrounds (hackers might post inappropriate images).
It has also been reported that hackers can wiggle their way and share an inappropriate image if you are using those delightful virtual backgrounds (the Golden Gate Bridge, other famous places, or funny images). If you’re tempted to share those images, don’t.
4. Never show your meeting ID in social media.
You might be tempted to text your meeting ID to group members and guests; you might also be tempted to send out that ID on Facebook. Please don’t! If a hacker encounters it, you’ll have an unwanted guest that could destroy your meeting.
5. Disable file downloads.
As the host, be sure that you do not allow file downloads. This will prevent malware from finding its way into your computer.
6. Disable the “Join Before Host” feature.
If you don’t turn off this option, and if you as the host can’t start the meeting because you’ve been detained (or maybe you forgot you had a meeting) then the first person who joins the meeting automatically becomes the host and has control over your meeting.
If you practice these simple steps, you’ll dramatically increase the security of your online meeting. Most of us will never experience a meeting that is hacked while we’re online. Don’t be afraid of using this meeting technology – just take adequate precautions and you and your group members will be just fine.