In order for people to be able to join a meeting, someone has to set up the meeting in the first place. That person is known as the host and they control the meeting.
In order to host a meeting you need to create a Zoom account. Go to the Zoom signup page and follow the instructions there. You may want to refer to our advice on choosing a strong password. Once you have an account and you’re signed in then you can create new meetings and invite people to join them.
You should be aware that the free version of Zoom only allows meetings of up to 40 minutes if there are more than 2 people in the meeting. That might work well for a short coffee meeting, but is less useful for a home group. For longer meetings you will need to pay a monthly fee, currently about £12/month. Only the host needs to pay, so it would be possible to set up a church account and use it for multiple purposes, although you’re limited to holding one meeting at a time.
Allowing for participants to join by telephone is a really useful feature as it allows those who don’t have a smartphone or computer to join in too. But you do need a paid account to get that feature. Be aware too that some of the people you’d like to participate may have an old laptop that just isn’t up to the job. Be prepared to help people get started.
Although you can participate in Zoom meetings from many different types of device, including mobile phones and tablets, we recommend using a laptop or desktop if you’re running a meeting. This is because you have a bigger screen so you can see all the participants easily and you can keep better control of the meeting.
Schedule a meeting
You can schedule a meeting directly from the Zoom website or from the Zoom application. The pictures shown are taken from the Zoom application, but the process is very similar on the website.
When you start the Zoom app you have just two buttons. You can join a meeting without logging in, but to do anything else you need to sign in. Enter your email and password to get to the main Zoom screen.
The orange New Meeting starts a meeting immediately, which is not usually what you want to do. Instead you need to Schedule a meeting.
Give your meeting a name so both you and your participants know what it’s about, and set the start time and duration. Most of the other settings can be left alone. Note that in all these settings Host means you, the meeting organiser.
It’s best to start with video on as new zoom users often forget to turn it on themselves.
Click schedule and your meeting details will be saved.Your meeting is now set up.
If you click on the Meetings tab at the top of the Zoom app you can see your new meeting, and any others you’ve scheduled.
The list of meetings is on the left hand side, click on a meeting to see the details.
Click Copy Invitation to copy some text which you can edit and paste into an email to send out to the people you want to invite to the meeting.
Start the meeting
You’ll need to be logged in in order to start the meeting too. Click on the Meetings tab, select your meeting, and then click Start. If you are using the free account, be aware that the 40 minute limit starts ticking from the moment you start the meeting, so don’t be too early.
As the meeting host, you have more control than the other attendees. You can mute or unmute the other participants, you can let people into the meeting and you can even throw them out for bad behaviour. You can also end the meeting for all participants. If you have to leave early you can nominate another person to take over from you as host.
During the meeting
It can be quite noisy if everyone has their microphones turned on, especially if there are children present! It generally works best if everyone is muted and just unmutes themselves when they want to speak. If you’re using a laptop then you can use the space bar to unmute yourself temporarily. You get used to it quite quickly, although you may sometimes have to remind someone to unmute if you can see them talking but can’t hear them.
As the meeting host, you are able to mute all participants at once. Be sure to tell them that you’re doing this, otherwise they’ll wonder why no-one is listening to them.
It may seem like a good idea to ask everyone to unmute so they can say a prayer together. Unfortunately it really doesn’t work well because of the inherent delay. If you try to speak in sync with someone else, what they will hear is you speaking half a second after them, which is very distracting. It’s best to leave one person to lead while everyone else remains muted.
There has been much talk about the security of Zoom meetings. Unless you are discussing state secrets there is not too much to worry about, and the default settings are now reasonably secure, but there are some settings to check if your meeting is being advertised publicly, e.g. on your website or Facebook. Churches have had instances of outsiders crashing their meetings and showing pornographic or other inappropriate images. You should be particularly careful if your meetings involve young people or vulnerable adults, and you should check with the safeguarding lead to see if there is a specific policy.
Some meetings you will want to be private, by invitation only, and others you may want to be as open as possible. There are steps you can take to avoid unpleasant surprises. Most of these are in the Settings section of your Zoom account.
There is a good summary of what to do in this article from Evangelical Magazine. Some of the points in this article are biased towards having meetings completely open, which may not be appropriate in all cases. In the physical world your home groups may welcome anyone, but they still control who walks through the front door. If you have a parrot on your shoulder you may be judged for it.