4 Different Ways to do Online Church
Ok, church. Let’s talk online church.
As many churches are moving from online-only worship to a combination of online and in-person worship, I’m seeing lots of churches drop the bank on live streaming equipment. Computers, cameras, lights, upgraded internet. The whole shebang!
These are all great tools for churches to have to move them into this new era of church engagement. However, I’m a little nervous most churches will just use all of this amazing gear to live stream their “COVID-safe” worship services in realtime.
Let’s be clear. Live streaming your regular (not so regular for now) worship services online is not the answer you’re looking for. This is a waste of money if that’s all you do.
Let’s look at why live streaming your regular worship services isn’t the answer and four simple ways you can use all that great gear to better engage your community online now and beyond COVID.
(see an earlier post on Why You Need to Throw Out Your Old Order of Worship)
Why Live Streaming Regular Worship Services Isn’t the Answer
Life is busy. The days of the pandemic where everyone sat around at home all day looking for ways to connect with human beings are over. Part of your community has forgotten about the pandemic altogether, and the rest have found better ways to create meaningful community than watching a typical hour-long worship service.
People just don’t have that kind of attention span. An hour is a long time. People rarely sit at home and just watch something anymore. If you’re honest, you probably watch Netflix while scrolling Facebook or Instagram on your phone at the same time. That’s how people will engage your hour-long online church service…distracted.
It might be most difficult for families with young children. The kids are either running crazy around the house while their parents are trying to worship (slash scroll Facebook) or begging to go outside and play with friends.
It’s not easy. So where do we go next? Here are four ways to adapt for online worship. If you bought that fancy new equipment, you can use it for these as well!
4 Different Ways to do Online Worship
1. Spread your regular worship throughout the week
Instead of doing one, hour-long, online church service, take the elements of your worship service and spread them out across the week. Your week might look something like this.
Sunday: Sermon only
Monday: Prayer service
Tuesday: Highlight a way the church serves the community and tie it to offering.
Wednesday: 20-min live musical worship in whatever style you prefer
Thursday: 10-min responsive reading
Saturday: Morning kids’ church
You can still record it all at once if that’s easier. Then just break it up into segments and schedule them as Facebook or YouTube Premieres throughout the week.
2. Live Interactive Sunday Sermons
Instead of just talking to the camera for 20-30 minutes, turn your sermon into an interactive experience. Go live on Facebook at the same time every week and present your message in a way that creates opportunities for people to respond with comments, thoughts, questions, etc. Don’t be afraid of silence. Give people time to process and respond. Throw in some very easy questions in the beginning to help folks warm up to responding online.
Make your sermon a discussion instead of a speech.
3. Sermon Based Online Small Groups
Record a 20-minute sermon and publish it as a Facebook or YouTube Premiere. Then, invite people into Zoom small groups to discuss the sermon content and pray together once the Premiere is finished.
You could have set small groups with designated leaders and then a general group each week for people to join who haven’t signed up for a group.
Be sure to provide engaging questions for groups to discuss. Meet with your leaders every few weeks to find out what is working and what is not and adapt the questions and format.
Make sure the entire experience is under 60 minutes long (groups can go longer if they want of course).
4. Forget about Sundays for a while.
OK, I know that just freaked you out. Hear me out though. A lot of folks who have abandoned Sunday mornings are realizing why so many non-church folks are so protective of their Sunday mornings. LAZY SUNDAYS ARE AMAZING!
Instead of Sunday morning, do worship another time. Or at multiple other times. Do worship on Wednesdays at 8:30pm after parents put kids to bed. Do worship on Tuesdays at 6:30pm just after people finish dinner. Play around with it and see what connects with your community.
It’s time to get creative!
Whether you’re one of many churches who utilized special giving or grants to purchase live stream equipment or you’re just considering how to do church online once you’re back in-person regularly, be creative. Don’t just default to live streaming your typical worship service and calling that good enough. It’s not.
The ideas above are just that, ideas. Some might work for you. Some might not. Try and understand what your congregation and surrounding community need and want from you and find ways to provide it online.
Is your church doing online worship in creative ways? Leave a comment and let me know what you’re doing. Other churches can benefit from your creativity! We’re all on the same team here.
Check out this great article from Carey Nieuwhof, “5 Confessions of a Pastor About Online Church Attendance.“
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