One thing the COVID-19 virus has done for many churches is force them into the digital video age, kicking and screaming. Whether it is through live-streaming on their website or Facebook Live, churches that are practicing “social distancing” have to rely on their online platforms to speak to their congregations. For most churches, this is new territory and they are struggling to get the technology in place, but I would argue that is just the beginning.
The questions we need to ask are how do we create an experience of worship for our people and how do we connect with them digitally? No matter if you are re-creating your normal worship service or presenting an unplugged version, there are some key elements and considerations to have in place as you go online to help you make online connection.
1) The online experience should look, feel, and sound familiar.
Now is not the time to experiment with a new style of worship or introduce a new liturgy. This is not only new for your worship team, it is new for your congregation. It is ok to do a modified version of your normal service, for example a pastor and a piano player, just make sure the music and message are consistent with your normal service. It is important that you provide information and announcements that are important to the audience watching and guide them where they can get more details, i.e. the weekly email, a page on the website, or a Facebook page or group.
2) You have to have space where people can share and connect.
One aspect of meeting for worship at the church that people will probably miss most is the social interaction before and after the service. Facebook has a comments thread for their Live posts and if you are streaming on your website, you should create a chat room for people to interact. Here are key points for your worship chat/comment feeds:
- Make sure there are trained, online hosts manning all the interaction feeds to welcome worshippers, to answer questions, and to connect with people in need.
- Open your chat feed or FB thread 10 minutes or more before the service begins and afterward for 10 minutes or more.
- Encourage chatters/commenters to feel free to interact until the service begins, but to make sure they connect offline to have an in-depth check-in session.
3) People need to participate in the worship experience.
It is important to remember that this is still a worship experience and not a performance, which is hard when there is no one sitting in the seats or pews. So, overwelcome folks, thank them for joining online, give them the words to the songs/hymns so they can sing along, etc.
Give people that are new a way to connect with the church, for example, direct them to a first-time visitor page where they can get a code for a coffee in exchange for their email address or even as simple as sign up for the newsletter. Try to have some special content for the children, either as part of your service or at another time, even if it is just a downloadable lesson or email them a short video and lesson. Also, giving is an act of worship, so incorporate that into your service, make sure your congregation knows how to give online or how to send in checks. Make it obvious and easy, just like the plate being passed!
For the last few years, we have been at the early phases of the biggest communication shift we have seen since the invention of the printing press. And just as Gutenberg’s press impacted Christianity forever, the digital revolution will change how we approach church and community going forward. I encourage you to embrace this time as we adhere to CDC recommendations to figure out how you want to connect digitally with your community. Then create a plan to make it happen that makes sense for your church. And, let’s figure out how to build on this by offering more opportunities for teaching, growth, and discipleship the rest of the week too!
FREE PRO TIP: If you are wanting to explore how to create a live, streaming environment for your church, there are some key components to have in place like a streaming provider to distribute it and a way to capture it on your website. Click here for FREE information and links to some reliable providers that help churches around the world.