By Ken Braddy
Zoom fatigue. That phrase has now become part of the landscape of our nation during COVID-19, and a likely candidate for a new phrase to be included in next year’s dictionary.
A few months ago, many people had never heard of the Zoom online meeting tool. Today, it’s hard to find a person who has not heard of it.
Now the phrase “Zoom fatigue” is growing in popularity as the church enters its seventh month of COVID-19 induced sequestering.
When the church in America pivoted to broadcast worship services online, it also moved Bible study groups online.
Zoom has been the virtual meeting tool for most churches. Teachers who had never heard of the meeting tool quickly found themselves feeling like fish out of water.
Teaching in a classroom is one thing; teaching in a digital environment is something else entirely.
Some teachers refused to learn the new technology. Others were enthusiastic early adopters.
The majority have learned how to use Zoom basics to meet with their Bible study groups, hopeful the pandemic would quickly subside, and their groups would return to classrooms once again.
The Zoom fatigue that ministry leaders and group members feel is real. The fatigue has several sources.
According to a Harvard Business Review article, using Zoom during work hours causes us to focus more intently, which causes our brains to feel tired.
People tend to multitask while on Zoom, answering emails, composing letters, and doing other work while trying to stay tuned in to a Zoom meeting.
In addition, the technical challenges of hosting or participating in a Zoom meeting create a level of fatigue.
Frozen screens, unmuted microphones, and background clutter that constantly captures the attention of meeting participants contributes to the general feeling of fatigue.
Many of the same people who use Zoom during work hours put on a different hat and lead ministry activities like Bible study groups. There seems to be no end to virtual meetings.
These digital warriors come into their Bible study groups with a degree of fatigue from their full-time jobs.
Group members who don’t use Zoom as much during the daytime hours were excited and cautiously optimistic about this shiny new digital toy.
But these once excited group members have signaled a retreat and begun to withdraw from Bible study group meetings.
Across the country many Zoom Bible study groups that began with larger numbers of people are now a shadow of their former selves. My Bible study group started with 12 to 14 adults in our weekly Zoom meeting in April 2020.
Today, we average five to six adults.
You can win the war with Zoom fatigue, but you will win it one battle at a time. Play the long game and realize that to win against Zoom fatigue, you may experience advances and setbacks in the fight.
There are several strategies you can use to realign your heart, mind, and soul to reduce the fatigue you feel from meeting online.
Remember that the members of your group are counting on you to bring your best to every Bible study.
You can do it. Here’s how.
1. Get plenty of rest.
Jesus was often pressed by crowds as he traveled and taught in the land of Israel. Ministering to the masses was exhausting, and Scripture contains stories of how Jesus often withdrew to solitary places for rest and prayer.
Luke 5:15-16 states, “But the news about him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.”
On one occasion, Jesus was so exhausted from His work that He slept through a violent storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:38-40).
Psalm 23, one of the most beloved psalms, records poetic words that describe the shepherd leading his sheep to rest, drink, and relax in the safety provided by him.
Rest is needed and it’s necessary if you are going to be at your best each day. Set an earlier bedtime, take regular breaks, and allow your body and mind to rejuvenate.
2. Do something physical.
To clear your mind of the Zoom fatigue that naturally comes as you spend hours online, go for a walk, exercise, ride your bike, work in the flowerbed, or some other physical activity that can help you decompress.
Sometimes we need to clear our minds of the five hours of online meetings you just completed.
3. Meditate on God’s Word.
Psalm 19:14 says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (CSB).
As we meditate on the living Word, we commune with our Creator. Meditating on Bible verses and passages can help you experience joy, hear God’s voice, and increase your faith.
Like the old hymn reminds us, “The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
4. Delegate the teaching.
If you are regularly feeling Zoom fatigue when you approach the time for your group’s Bible study, shake things up and ask your apprentice teacher to take over for a meeting or two.
The fatigue you feel as a group leader may fade after you’ve had time for a mental and physical reset.
5. Go low–tech and meet another way.
Zoom fatigue can be reduced by unplugging and going low-tech. Many groups are choosing to meet in a larger room on the church campus (to allow for physical distancing).
Other groups have discovered they can meet in a backyard, under a tree, in a driveway, or outside in a pavilion at a local park. A change of scenery may be just the ticket you need to rebound from Zoom fatigue.
6. Shake up the way you meet online during your work hours.
If possible, limit the number of Zoom meetings you accept daily. Also, try shortening the length of Zoom meetings; the longer they are the more likely you are to experience fatigue.
Consider meeting by phone instead of by Zoom. If your company allows it, schedule a face-to-face meeting or two during the week (following your employer’s guidelines and those of your state and local leaders).
7. Consider taking a Zoom sabbatical.
Again, if you experience Zoom fatigue primarily because you use it often during work hours, check to see if your employer would be in favor of you and your team unplugging for one week, avoiding Zoom and getting work done via phone calls and emails.
I know it sounds terribly analog, but to win a war you sometimes must do things you wouldn’t normally do.
Like COVID-19, Zoom fatigue is real and isn’t going away any time soon. If you’re leading a Bible study group, or if you are a member of a group, it’s time to be proactive and put yourself in a position to win the war of Zoom fatigue.
Choose your next steps wisely. Move forward. Take some more ground. Win the war one battle at a time.
KEN BRADDY (@kenbraddy) is Lifeway’s Director of Sunday School and is a 30-year veteran of church education ministry. He is a blogger, author, and practitioner – serving a church in the Nashville area as its director of Sunday School and discipleship ministries. Ken also manages Lifeway’s adult ongoing Bible study series.