It was so great to see so many churches exploring new technologies. As we continue to pray for the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and churches try and find the way to continue to provide support for communities around us, we thought it would be good to share how we did things this past Sunday. We are all trying our best to figure out how to use and leverage these different technologies, so this is just to share what methods that we’ve used. If you’ve got ideas be sure to share them as well!
Here’s what we’re using at the moment. But we’re always on the lookout for new ways and ideas. Hopefully this will give you an idea on some of our thought processes as we went through this.
For many of us, Sunday Services are our opportunities for congregational worship. It’s the place where we join together to learn, worship, serve and pray together. There’s something special about a local congregation gathering together for corporate worship and expression.
When we move to an online space, the main challenge is trying to figure out what it means to gather together. Since we are no longer able to come together in a physical space, we considered what being together meant. How do we keep the sense of “gathering” even without being together? The similarities would be mutual conversation before service and after. Opportunities for instant prayer and response to God’s Word.
For us, if we are separated by geography, the sense of gathering can still be experienced by joining together at the same time. It allows for simultaneous listening. But simultaneous listening, is less important if there is no sense of corporate coming together. So we tried to consider how do we still maintain a place for “meeting” and coming together for congregational worship, prayer and hearing God’s Word. And in doing so allowing individuals to respond.
Our Sunday Service
- Prerecorded Content
- recorded by speaker in his house
- Minimise people contact
- Maintain clear quality
- worship sets prerecorded by individuals in their homes
- lyrics can be added to the videos
- Service Order
- 15 minutes before and after service open for chat
- Creates the relational congregational space
- Shorter sermons (~20 minute sermon, ~20 minute worship)
- 15 minutes before and after service open for chat
- Editing & Upload
- Edited on Final Cut Pro X
- Uploaded to YouTube, as unlisted. Published to link straight after service
- Broadcast to https://bcec.online.church using the free Church Online Platform
- This site allows for embedded livestream
- Can have live chat during service
- Can have instant private chat prayer rooms
- Other Points of Interest
- Being pre-recorded can still take away from the sense of being live. But we feel that some of those negatives might be minimised with the Church Online Platform
- YouTube is more flexible with pre-recorded streams than they are with live streaming. To Live Stream from Mobile devices (iphone/ipad) requires a minimum of 1000 subscribers
- FaceBook allows streaming from mobile devices. But FaceBook’s is less accessible than YouTube
The most challenging decision for us was whether we should use weekly prerecorded content, or whether we should broadcast live. The internal discussion revolved around whether prerecorded still creates the live atmosphere. In the end when we looked at what created a sense of congregational atmosphere, an actual live presentation mattered less than the gathering together to “watch” or “share” something at the same time. In the same way gathering a group to watch a film, or a prerecorded event can still provide the same live engagement, regardless of whether the content itself is live.
In addition, we felt with prerecorded content, we could deliver something that also had more opportunity for asynchronous viewing. We could create a different type of Sunday Service that could also be “caught up” later.
Finally, with prerecorded content, it allows the opportunity to draw from the community in terms of worship, and prayer, without having to be in the same geographical location. As the government increases social distancing measures, we felt that making sure we limit our physical contact with one another is important.
The challenge of worship
With worship, because we have different worship leaders, who have their own instruments, it means we are able to have them self record and submit different songs, which we then combine together into a worship set.
We believe this will still allow the variety and different people within the church community to share and lead the congregation in worship, as well as contribute to the encouragement of the body.
We also believe we could later combine two videos with different instruments to create a multi-instrument mix.
The last question was whether churches could legally stream worship and music, and whether any of the many many licenses CCLI requires covers it.
In short: If you perform a song, and stream/upload it onto facebook or youtube, their performance license will cover it. However, if you use any tracks from original artists you would need a specific license for it. Or if you stream directly to your own website, you would need a license.
This link explains it well. Live Streaming Worship Music and Staying Legal (UK) — Belong Songs
Other Sunday Services
We know different churches are doing it in different ways. And we think that’s great! Some churches are opting to divide into small services, so people can all see each other! Great idea for keeping people in touch. Other churches are broadcasting live from an empty church using free software such as Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) Open Broadcaster Software | OBS to switch between the preacher and the lyrics.
How is your Sunday Service operating at the moment? What are some challenges to keeping connections? Could you join an existing Sunday Service, and then focus on the community aspect of your congregation?
Community — LifeGroups, Small Groups, Home Groups
The second challenge facing churches, is how to keep the small community groups running and growing. And there are a variety of videoconferencing solutions out there. Creating an Online Small Group is a useful way for people to remain connected and still have Bible Studies.
There are definite challenges — new social cues for discussions, technological challenges (feedback, background noise, poor quality), distractions (doing other things online)
There are also new benefits — distance is no longer a factor, greater convenience
Here are some that our church is using. They have different pros and cons.
- Zoom Video Conferencing, Web Conferencing, Webinars, Screen Sharing – Zoom
- It’s free for 40 minute meetings
- Good quality
- Unlimited 1 to 1 meetings
- Up to 100 participants
- Can have breakout video conference rooms
- Whiteboarding and screen sharing
- Paid Zoom
- £11.99 per host
- Host can host one meeting at a time
- Want two simultaneous meetings, it’s another £11.99
- Google Meet / Hangouts Meet
- It’s free for an unlimited amount of time
- Up to 100 participants
- Screensharing, but no whiteboard
- Quality, layout and interface not as clear as Zoom
- Above average quality – Good audio
- Google Meet for GSuite
- If your church has its own domain name, and is a registered charity, they can apply for use of Google’s GSuite apps
- Google Meet for GSuite provides better quality and the ability to record a meeting
- Some churches have been using this for a long distance speaker and translator, recording the call
- Users from the domain name can start their own meeting
- Skype Skype | Communication tool for free calls and chat
- Poorest quality of the above options
- Up to 50 participants
- Screensharing, no whiteboard
- WhatsApp (Encrypted Chat)
- Video chatting for 4 people
- Very good group messaging
- Widespread adoption
- Can have broadcast text message groups
- Video Calling for 30 people
- Apple Devices only
- Popular amongst Mainland Chinese
- Not secure
With small groups and online groups, these are very important, because a smaller group can take better care of each other, especially in this time of social distancing. Because people are more easily slipping through the gap, helping groups to be actively aware of keeping in touch with another is vital. In particular for the emotional, mental and spiritual well being.
All forms of communication above are also good platforms for prayer. We have discovered that even text messaging prayers (asynchronous) is still powerful and effective.
What tools have you tried using? What are some of the pros and cons that you’ve experienced? What are some challenges you face going forward? What is the focus of the groups?
During this time, we thought it’s a good opportunity for us to experiment and consider how best to engage and reach out to the world, and at the same time, how to keep people spiritually growing. When we held our last service in church, I was quite emotional, because I knew this would be the last time we would gather for a few months. But when I joined into the service on Sunday online, I felt a great unity and joy to still be worshipping together with brothers and sisters.
There are a few other things we’re trying out during this time as well. We’re using this opportunity to create more online content. Including a new Sunday Evening Scripture live event, and maybe a few other short form content as well.
But we’re also trying to see how we can create new opportunities for social action, and looking out for those who are vulnerable and in need. We are all in this together!
We don’t think any of our methods are the best, but just sharing what we’re trying out during this time. And we definitely want to encourage others to keep trying their own ways of doing it. There is no “right” way to do this. We know, without a doubt, that it’s the Spirit who is doing the work, and we just have the privilege to walk alongside him.