CORONA VIRUS: HOW TO BUILD A VIRTUAL CHURCH SERVICE DURING THE OUTBREAK

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The first option churches have for hosting their services in a way that prevents the spread of COVID-19 is to convert their service into a virtual service in order to prevent physical contact between members, staff, and visitors.

Hosting a virtual service means that the church staff would still produce the Sunday service itself, but it would be a congregation-less service. Instead of hosting church visitors and members in the church building, church attendees would tune into a live-stream of the production and participate digitally.

Let’s delve into all the details of hosting a virtual service.

HOW TO HOST SUNDAY WORSHIP VIRTUALLY

The two primary components of hosting a virtual service are:

• the production of the service;

• the publication of the service.

The production of your Sunday service should include all of the elements of your normal service, but the visual elements should be physically organized so that all “stage events” are now in direct line-of sight of your video cameras and audio equipment. Instead of the “stage” being central, now the viewpoint of the cameras becomes central. Your set design can no longer rest on the assumption that people can see and hear what’s going on in the building—they can see and hear what’s on their computers.

That requires a different physical strategy for your church production. Besides that, your basic church service plan can remain the same.The publication of your Sunday service to a live-streaming virtual community environment requires more technical aptitude.

There are several fantastic software products that enable your church to live-stream your service to video platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, including Dacast, ChurchStreaming.tv, SundayStreams, and vMix.

If you’re a larger church, you likely already have the A/V production gear to live-stream your service. If you’re a smaller church, don’t try to use tools above your paygrade. Go with something simple that produces an aesthetically pleasing video and audio product. For example, instead of purchasing an advanced DSLR camera with a zoom lens that makes the sermon look cinematic, use a simple plug-and-record camera with live-streaming capabilities. Save the big purchases for a season when you’re not under the pressure of COVID-19. In summary, produce a service without your congregation present and live-stream that service for your congregants. We’ll get to best practices for communicating the details of that to your congregation further below.

If your entire church is logged on to watch the service, you might as well give them an opportunity to touch base with each other and to fellowship meaningfully with other believers.One fantastic tool for this is ChurchOnlinePlatform.com. This tool offers video live-streaming services alongside community interaction capabilities. Your members (and visitors!) can log in, watch your service, and experience a virtual coffee hour as they sip their Nespresso lattes in the comfort of their own homes! If you’re concerned about your church’s budget, remember that you’re saving money by keeping everyone home for the Sunday. You’re saving money on coffee hour, power, facilities, maintenance, and a host of other invisible budgetary items that accrue when hundreds of people use a building for an event.Whatever tool you use, it’s important to supply your congregants with the capability of interacting with each other so that the church experience can feel participatory, and so that the digital format of the service more accurately reflects what the church is supposed to be.

HOW TO CONTINUE SMALL GROUPS VIRTUALLY

Your church app is the best way to continue small groups. Use this to manage church events registration, group chat, food need updates, prayer requests, scheduling changes, and resource sharing. Keep them engaged throughout the week, and communicate to your church the best procedure for small groups. When it comes to meeting with the actual small group, Zoom and Skype are fantastic tools. They each enable everyone in a small group to hop into a digital meeting room and experience the full fellowship and encouragement of other believers with none of the risk of encountering or spreading COVID-19. This also enables those who test positive for COVID-19 to show up to events without feeling guilty.

The church should be mission-minded in this regard—this is not merely an opportunity to keep those in your congregation physically safe, but to proactively include those who are ill into the events of your community without them feeling left out or guilty.

HOW TO TAKE THE OFFERING DIGITALLY

Taking the offering is the easiest part of the virtual service. If your church is already set up with digital giving, then your church is in an ideal position to take up your church’s offering. If your congregants have already set up recurring giving, then you’ll be in a much better position. However, you don’t want to miss an opportunity to help more people to start giving. More than that, you may want to take a special offering during the service.For both of these, look no further than Tithe.ly Giving. It works seamlessly right on your church website.

The giving form can easily be embedded or sent as a link through whatever digital giving platform you make. More than that, when it comes time in the service to give, all you need to do is direct people to their church apps to give—whether to the general fund or for a special offering. Most church giving solutions require that you take viewers away from your site. But if you’re live-streaming the service and people are interacting with each other, you don’t want them to be distracted while they’re giving. You want them to remain engaged in the service. Tithe.ly is one of the few (if not the only) digital tool that enables you to do this.

Other areas to explore are the mobile money services and bank accounts. Though It’s easy to downplay the mobile money services , rest assured it is one of the effective ways to receive funds especially if you are living in Ghana.

HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY COMMUNICATE IMPORTANT INFORMATION

The most important part of your church’s approach to COVID-19 is your communication strategy. If people don’t know what your policies are, they’ll assume there aren’t any. This could result either in people showing up to church without taking the proper precautions or people choosing not to attend church because they feel the issue isn’t sufficiently addressed.

The first thing you must do is communicate to your church that you have a policy, but more importantly, which channels you will be updating with the latest information about your church’s policy on COVID-19.

You should ideally be publishing these updates on every channel as often as you have them. This includes:

• the church website

• the church email list

• the church text marketing list

• the church app’s push notifications

• the church’s social media accounts

Core to sustaining your church’s attendance during the COVID-19 scare is communication. The first thing you should do is, as a leadership team, draft an official statement regarding all of your best practices for attending the service safely, and distribute that statement to as many outlets as possible.

In order to cement these ideas in peoples’ minds, it’s a good idea to show a video before the service explaining exactly how you will practice the entire order of worship in a safe way. Ideally, you will have this video produced before Sunday so that you can send it to your church to watch Saturday night .

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