How Does an E-Mail Discussion Work?

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Isn't a chat room a better way to have a Bible study?

In the fall of 1996 we experimented with conducting a Bible study in a chat room. We found that the experience was exhilarating and very intense. However it has these drawbacks:

  • It comes and goes all too fast
  • It requires everyone to be present at the same time, which only works well for people in nearby time zones.
  • It is difficult to prevent a religious "kook" from taking over and turning the discussion to his or her own ends.

In late 1996 we pioneered using an e-mail discussion group as the basis of a Bible study. Since then we've conducted a number of Bible studies with hundreds of participants, and found that e-mail discussion works extremely well as a tool for teaching, discussing, and learning. It's also accessible to people around the world, and allows people to participate at a time convenient to them.

How does an e-mail discussion work?

An e-mail discussion echoes each person's comments to all other participants in the group. While you could conduct a small group of 15 or 20 using the e-mail program on your computer, we use a program called a "listserv" which takes care of routine housekeeping matters of subscribing people to the list and removing them when they no longer want to participate. We use the discussion features at which automatically echoes a participant's comments to all other members within minutes of sending those comments to the "list".

This kind of immediacy allows a discussion to take place between participants in any part of the world. You'll see a sense of community and caring growing between members of the group. We learn from each other's insights and experiences which inform their responses.

Doesn't that mean I'll receive a lot of e-mail?

Yes, you'll get a lot of e-mail, and some of it will be repetitious, answering the same question is much the same way.

I've set up a special "folder" within my e-mail program where I put all the e-mail from the Bible study and then read it all at once each day. I use the "filters" feature of the Eudora e-mail program on my desktop computer to automatically sort my e-mail so I don't get overwhelmed as easily. It automatically places mail in the right folder according to key words or e-mail addresses in the header.

Is my e-mail address private?

Yes and no. When you participate in a group like this by making a comment, every member of the group will read your response and have your e-mail address. We respect your privacy and do not give out to anyone the names and e-mail addresses of people subscribed to the list. When you share voluntarily, however, you give up a bit of privacy. We haven't found that to be a serious problem, however, and police the list pretty carefully, removing anyone who seems to be abusing the privileges of being a member of the group.


Copyright © 2018, Ralph F. Wilson. <> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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