I have always loved to read since I was a little girl. Nancy Drew, Harriet the Spy, the Bobbsey Twins, and various other books geared toward young girls were my best friends growing up. Reading was my recreation. Oh, how I wish Kindles were in existence 40+ years ago! My 1970s Kindle would have had ridiculous amounts of books loaded and ready. Instead, I was at the library frequently, books were passed down between friends and family members, and we purchased books from used bookstores.
As an adult, I still enjoy reading. My time now is more limited than when I was a child and I don’t get to read as much as I would like. I also tend to read the same genre over and over again. I am not one to venture out of that box too often.
Searching for a Book Club
To remedy this, I began reading a book about Divine Mercy in our parish’s adoration chapel every Monday evening. When I finished that book, I thought it would be great to have a Bible study or other book study with women. However, I knew that I did not want to lead or be the “teacher.” I get enough of that role on Monday-Friday in my school classroom. Besides, I am no expert on my Faith. I just wanted to learn more about it and discuss it with like-minded folks.
My search began for a book/Bible study. A neighboring parish had a Bible study beginning and I seriously considered going. I knew, though, that I would miss a couple of weeks due to some travel. Additionally, I did not know a soul at this study. Our own parish had nothing going on in this regard either. Again, I could have started one, but I knew I would be deemed “the teacher.”
What about an Online Book Club?
An online book club kept rolling around in my mind. I thought I could set up a private Facebook group with a chosen book as our study. Looking back, I think this was God nudging me.
I put out a question via my personal Facebook page and asked who would be interested in an online, private Facebook group Catholic book study. Immediately, a dozen ladies or more messaged me with “YES!”
At this point, I decided we would give it a try just for the summer.
How to Start an Online Book Club
Here are some tips and lessons I learned along the way. Don’t be afraid to start your own!
- Put out Facebook feelers or advertise in your church bulletin.
- Create your Facebook group and make it private! You will only want group members to see discussions, questions, and other comments made. There are levels of trust associated with doing a study of this nature. Privacy should never be violated and it is of extreme importance to keep confidences shared in the group within the group.
- Find 3 or 4 books which are faithful to Catholic teaching and might be of interest to your group. Create a poll within your Facebook group for members to vote on the book. I posted links to the books where members could read the summary, see reviews, and all associated materials.
- Keep the book cost reasonable so that cost does not keep someone from participating. We each paid for our own book and did not ask our parish to fund this.
- Decide who will be the “facilitator” for this study. This person would be in charge of presenting discussion questions to the group and being the lead person in organizing materials and group. This could certainly rotate each time a different book is studied.
- Determine a timeline for posting discussion questions. I posted them once a week and left them up for the entire week.
- Post some rules or guidelines for your group. Ours were 1) Pray before you post, 2) Remember to keep everything that is said in the group private, and 3) Participate when you can.
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Pros of an Online Book Club
Members can answer questions when it is convenient. Night owls can answer in the middle of the night. Early risers can answer in the morning. There is no worry about finding meeting times or securing childcare. Keep your jammies on and your cup of coffee in hand!
Questions are posted and answers are not expected immediately. There is “think” time and time for thoughtful reflection when members can post at their convenience. I am not good on the spot, but can process a thoughtful reflection with a little time.
Vacations and distance did not interfere. Don’t live near the other members? Not a problem—answer when you can and when you have internet. No pressure.
Cons of an Online Book Club
Since members do not meet face to face, you always get the “typed” response. We all know how texts and emails can be perceived incorrectly without the associated body language, inflection, and presentation of our thoughts.
Not everyone in the group will actually type responses and participate. If I am being honest, I was a little bothered by this. All of these ladies joined the group, but the same few were the only ones commenting. I worried that the others didn’t feel comfortable or were not enjoying it. Later on, an active group member told me that someone else who joined the group and never said a word really enjoyed it and hoped we would do it again. My response was, “Really? She never said a word!” Probably a bit uncharitable and judgmental of me since after that I learned that the “inactive” member was learning so much by simply reading the book and reading the responses. My lesson in this is that God uses things in His way to accomplish His purpose, not what I thought needed to happen.
You might not develop the personal relationships with the others in the group since the study is online. That is not necessarily the case in my example, since we all knew one another. If that aspect is important to your group, then set up some outside social time to simply meet for coffee and enjoy one another’s company.
Try Starting an Online Book Club!
Our group ran the gamut from young moms to middle aged to senior citizens. Some were married, some divorced, some widowed, and some single. That aspect of it made it so interesting to me. We saw life experience from the seniors to the struggles of middle aged and younger women and their various stations in life. We all learned from one another.
As my family says when I cook something they like, it is a “do-over”! This online book study was a do-over as well! Next summer we hope to tackle a different Catholic book.
Have you ever participated in an online book club? What did you enjoy about it?How to Start an Online Book Club #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Noelle Jean is a Catholic wife, mom, and public school teacher trying to connect with other faithful Catholic women and grow in her faith.