Churches in most places on the planet have had to social distance. I work for an organization that helps start churches. I also attend a church. So I’ve been very interested in how the church has innovated during this time. Below are some observations on how I see the church adapt.
STREAMING: ONE-WAY COMMUNICATION
Open up Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram on a Sunday (or any day) and you’ll see a ton of “Person X is live” notifications. The majority of churches I follow stream prerecorded messages to Facebook and YouTube.
It’s good work! They have engaging intros, bands in boxes for the music, and passionate sermons from lead pastors. Those attending the church join the stream and post in the chat. Neighborhood churches have visitors from out of town all the time. I attended a service in Mexico City yesterday. Church hoppers have added pages to their menu now!
For example, The Bridge Church hosts a killer Facebook Live service. They’ve got pastors in the chat, members hosting watch parties, and visitors from all over. You don’t have to live in the neighborhood to attend this Brooklyn, NY church service.
Something to note about streaming is that it’s one-way communication. Sure, audiences can chat with each other and invite friends by sending a link. But isn’t chat the same thing as texting in church? And I want to see the people in the pews!
One way to do this is to have small groups meet after the service to discuss and pray for each other.
The benefits: super low barrier to entry. If you’re in a watch party on Facebook, the platform will invite people to church with you. The stream will continue to build views over time, and anyone can share it. Social media platforms are favoring live content right now. Use those algorithms!
The challenges: A low barrier to entry can mean low engagement. People like the anonymity and they dip in and dip out, and you can’t use views to determine a successful stream.
GROUPS : TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION
If you have a phone, tablet, or computer and an internet connection, you can gather people to worship the Lord. Zoom Pro (paid) and Google Meet (free) are the most popular platforms. I prefer the Google Meet experience and the quality of the recorded sessions. Get a Zoom Pro account if you want to gather larger groups and then break out for prayer or discussion. You can also stream the session to YouTube Live or Facebook Live if you want.
My church provided a guide and sermon video and small group leaders used it to host group meetings. In this model, a visitor would need to receive an invite from a friend. Visitors would be unlikely to wander in from a listing on a website. Apps like Facetime and Houseparty make it easy to start up a smaller group and invite friends.
Since we can’t visit each other in person, let’s check up on each other. A “how are you” text usually turns into a longer conversation and opportunity to pray.
Church databases are now tools to make sure everyone is cared for with a call or message. Nothing beats a good phone tree!
Some churches use this as a time of exile. They mourn and acknowledge that this isn’t normal, and hope that love for each other increases during this absence.
In each of these scenarios, we all are ministers of the gospel and our development is crucial for the growth, expansion, and health of the church. We need to continue to meet together. May the Lord continue to bring people to mind who we can contact and ask the questions “How are you holding up?” and “How can I pray for you?”