With the impact of COVID-19 on large gatherings, churches and places of worship have had to change how they share their message. In the past, some churches have offered ways to view or listen to services online, but now it’s becoming the norm. Those worried about getting sick or feeling under the weather can continue to connect with their church online. Plus, the unpredictable Minnesota winters can make it impossible to get out of the driveway some Sunday mornings. Instead of a watered-down service, technology allows those who attend a virtual service to get as close to the in-person experience as possible from the comfort of their homes.
Online church services aren’t the “right way” or “wrong way” to attend church, they’re just another option at this point. There are many technologies that help churches offer their services online during lockdowns, blizzards, or other events. There are many free and easy-to-use options available for those with a tight budget or limited experience with technology. The focus of online church isn’t the technology, it’s the connection, just like in-person services. Technology is just a tool that lets people connect to the same message from different locations. The specific technology used isn’t as important as its ability to effectively connect to worship and each other.
The goal is to build connections with whatever technology can get the job done and be used comfortably.
Churches can be hesitant about offering online services, especially if they feel like they don’t have high production value or some big, entertaining experience, but that can delay or hurt the message. If you’re waiting to put your ministry online because you don’t have state-of-the-art equipment, forget about that and move forward with what you have. Reach out to your congregation for anyone with experience that can help with the technology, get started with a low-production environment, and make it conversational. You don’t need to worry about getting every aspect of in-person church to the online format, the important part is getting the message across and giving your community a place to gather and connect.
Engaging Fellowship in a New Format
These changes came on suddenly, creating a need to pivot and change directions, often before having a plan in place, but it’s important to understand that change takes time. As you start your online church service journey, get feedback, address any issues you run into, and continue to improve. There’s no good time to sit back and become complacent as there are always opportunities to grow and improve. Taking an attitude of small improvements over time will help you move forward and be ready for the next challenge.
If you’re struggling to get the community to learn about the church online, start by getting to know the community. Build a bridge through communication and focus on the quality of relationships you can build.
Places of worship are financially dependent on support from their congregations, whether they meet in person or online. Churches know a few dollars from each person in the collection plate can go a long way, but how do you transition that to an online format? Some churches have included online and recurring tithes to increase the support they’re able to receive from their community. Now’s the time for churches to implement the right online generosity strategy. There are plenty of options for online giving that we can help you navigate to find the right solution for your church.
Before going live or publishing your content, do some test runs to make sure everything is performing properly.
- Make sure links work
- Check audio & video quality
- Connection quality & speed
Commit to a schedule that can easily be sustained over a long period of time. It’s up to you whether you want the service to be broadcast live as it’s happening or record it beforehand and have it premiere at the time of the service. Try what feels comfortable and make changes along the way as needed.
Just because you can’t meet in person doesn’t mean you can’t create the same connections. Live chat allows viewers to interact with each other and make connections. Make use of your staff in new roles. While the service is in progress, a team can answer questions in the chat to minimize interruptions. Questions can be acknowledged or have brief answers, then choose the questions you want to focus on to go further in-depth with. These can be answered in the next service, a mid-week video, or a blog post. This is a great way to connect with your community and learn more about the things that are important to them.
Make Content with the Audience in Mind
It’s easy to talk about ourselves, but that doesn’t always connect with our audience. Instead, take an approach to address what matters to them.
- What do they need right now?
- What questions are they asking right now?
- What will add value to their lives?
- What will get them to engage, have conversations, and build relationships?
Offering online services can help more people view your website as a resource they can use the rest of the week. Provide links to past services, resources for support, or further reading on topics.
While you’re focusing on figuring out how to share a weekly service online, you might overlook one of the most important parts of your online presence, your website. A website is the perfect central hub for your community. While it’s helpful to have an online presence in the places where your community spends their time, like Facebook and YouTube, having something that you own is very important. Social media platforms change all the time, so while they can be helpful to spread your message, we can’t control how they operate. Here at VantagePoint, we build websites that are easy for our clients to update and take ownership of. We focus on mobile-optimized websites that are easy to navigate and help your visitors find the information they need.
CMU has more information here about equipment to get started, streaming platforms, online giving platforms, and more.
Blackbar released the video below in March of 2020 to help you start streaming your services quickly with any budget.