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In this article, we’ve put together a primer for building up and deepening your church’s online worship experience. With just as little extra effort, you can take a video message and turn it into a stronger discipleship opportunity that is tailored to your worshipping community.
Meeting in-person is the ideal experience for worship, but there are times when it isn’t possible. However, that doesn’t mean that worshipers have to entirely miss out on the chance to grow together as a church community.
So whether you’re looking to expand the capabilities of your present online worship presence, or you’re starting from scratch in a hurry, this article is here to help you get your head around ways to bolster your presence and create greater impact for your congregation.
1. Create Video Sermons/Messages For Your Church
The pastor’s message can remain the centerpiece of your church’s discipleship in an online environment. The pastor’s weekly message can still help frame discussions, inspire, encourage, and do all the spiritual work needed for a healthy congregation. In fact, many of the ideas in this post are based upon the assumption that a video sermon is a working component of your online worship plan.
Producing videos can be a technical topic, and the intention of this article isn’t to cover those topics. A quick Google search can reveal countless articles on this topic. However, if you haven’t yet attempted a video message, the following are just a few ideas to help you or your church get oriented to the topic.
You don’t need to be technically savvy to produce videos, and much of the software and programs needed to create a video sermon is free to use. Additionally, most smartphones take sufficiently good quality video (especially at closer distances). The addition of a lapel microphone that works with your phone will improve sound quality drastically.
Additionally, you don’t necessarily need to replicate the entire experience of the “pastor speaking from the pulpit” for effective videos. Videos can be made from the pastor’s office, church library, home study, or sitting on the couch at home.
Your videos can be as highly produced as you like, and no doubt many pastors will enlist the help of their worship and technical team to produce videos. However, you can easily produce serviceable videos with nothing more than a smartphone.
If you don’t know how to edit videos and will need to do so, be sure to plan ahead for that process, either by learning how to through online tutorials or enlisting help.
Your videos can be posted to the church Facebook page or to a Youtube channel and linked to there. Viewers do not need to have Facebook or Youtube accounts to watch videos in those environments.
Here are some tips for producing better videos of the pastor’s message.
- Have a pleasant, but non-distracting background for your video.
- Do have a quiet environment for your video without distracting background noises.
- Do soundchecks before recording to ensure that everything sounds fine.
- Sound is more important than the video, so do everything you can to ensure you have good quality sound. Even if you have to use a microphone with earbuds, that’s preferable to bad, distant sound that no one can hear.
- Dress for your recording environment. If you’re recording a video sermon from your couch, you probably don’t want to be wearing the same attire you’d wear in the pulpit.
- Make sure there is enough recording space on the phone (if using) to record. You should have at least 5GB of free storage.
- Don’t hold your phone or move around for longer videos. A handheld video is fine for a quick message (less than 3 minutes), but it gets fatiguing for viewers to watch a long video with lots of jarring movements.
- Do use a tripod or find another way to stabilize your phone/camera
- Silence all background devices or anything else that will make a sound before recording.
- Don’t wing it – prepare, have notes.
- Make sure you know where the camera is on your phone and look at it often.
- Be natural on camera. Practice ahead of time and make test videos if you need to.
- Don’t do a live video unless you’ve practiced and are comfortable with the process. There’s no do-over with a live video.
- Don’t dwell excessively on how “weird it feels to be talking without a congregation present.” You want everyone to feel comfortable watching, so be comfortable with yourself.
- Don’t talk too long – make your message more concise. If you’re used to speaking for 40 minutes during worship, you may find that an online audience won’t respond as well to such a long sermon. Keep your message direct and stay on topic.
2. Create A Marketing Campaign For The Sermon And Other Ministry Opportunities
Just because you have a Facebook page doesn’t mean your congregation will even see the video in their feed! To have the best success in getting your congregation to engage with online worship, try the following strategies.
Utilize your church email list to promote online worship. Use the communication methods that you have in place to raise awareness of online worship opportunities. Make reminders part of your weekly communication, and don’t be discouraged if there is low initial response. People need time to adjust to new ideas! Send emails previewing online worship early in the week, and then send another directing people to the video and other resources as soon as it is made available.
Post to church social media with specific posts to promote online worship. Create or find graphics that highlight what you’ll be posting and talking about and add text that specifies when and how people can participate in online worship. Make sure to post as soon as the video and other resources are made available.
Directly ask the staff, leadership, and others to like and comment on videos. This is VERY important. Social media algorithms are always changing but this is a steady truth, they reward posts and videos with likes, and they will hide content that people do not like or watch. So your message may not even be seen in people’s feeds if you don’t have enough interest, even if people in your church follow your church’s Facebook page.
3. Create Study Guides For The Congregation To Process Video Sermons
Providing a guide will give your congregation a tangible means to process the videos. If you’ve provided sermon notes in the past to the congregation, then your guide can be based on that and expanded. The guide doesn’t need to be fancy – you can create one in any word processing program.
After creating your guide, you should save it as a PDF file, which can be easily opened and read on any device. This PDF file can be shared via email as an attachment, hosted on the church website, or hosted and shared from a cloud server (like iCloud or Google Drive).
A good guide should include:
- Key Scripture from the video sermon.
- The main Biblical interpretation points from the sermon.
- The primary inspirational and encouraging points from the sermon.
- Processing questions to help readers apply the sermon to their own life. Avoid “Yes” and “No” answer questions – frame questions in such a way that the reader has to form a response.
- Take away points or ways to apply the Scripture to your life.
In addition, you may want to include other elements to your guide, such as a Scripture reading plan for the week that supports the sermon, prayer prompts (ideas for things to pray about), or a guide for a prayer practice or spiritual discipline that accompanies that supports the sermon.
Get creative! What would help your people better understand the message and process in their own home environment?
Create Worship Music Playlists
Music is the other key component of in-person corporate worship. However, replicating live music, especially if your church is not meeting together, might be nearly impossible. But this doesn’t mean that your home worshipers can’t have music as a valuable part of their experience at home.
Virtually every worship song created is available on Youtube or Spotify. So whether your church has a contemporary service, a traditional service, or a blend between the two, you can find music to share with your community.
You can tailor the song selections to fit your message, or provide other encouragement.
Both Youtube and Spotify allow you to create playlists, which can be shared weekly along with your guide and video sermon. This is also a great time to introduce your church to new music and songs that aren’t done in your church.
Be sure to encourage your congregation to listen to the music. Ask them to create time and space in their home for worship and to look up the lyrics (if not available) to process the songs.
4. Help Your Congregation Form Virtual Meet-Ups To Connect With One Another And Share Group Discussion.
A group discussion around the message could be as simple as asking your congregation to post thoughts to your church FB page, or it could be as involved as helping people organize virtual meetups through Skype and Facetime. Additionally, individual Facebook private groups for these groups can be created to help people process together.
A well-constructed sermon guide may be all your groups need to process through the sermon, or you could create a separate study guide.
If organizing new groups, it’s best to keep them smaller in size, to allow more space for interaction and less crowding.
Additionally, all groups should be reminded to stay on-topic and avoid argumentative discussion that isn’t constructive.
5. Organize A Book Club And Arrange A Digital Meeting Spot And/Or Time
Is there a book or other resource that might be helpful for your congregation with your sermon series? You can augment your discipleship efforts by asking everyone to read a book that helps solidify the ideas you are presenting. Many books can be found in e-book format, which provides instant accessibility.
Are There Any Ideas That Might Fit Your Congregation?
These are just a few ways you can bolster your online presence. As technology and social media changes, more and more ideas will come along.
The most important thing to remember when developing your online ministry presence is that intentionality beats flash and production. Give people quality ideas to work with, don’t worry about perfection, and focus more on the ministry and encouragement than the technicalities.
For some churches, developing a stronger online presence in worship might feel awkward at first, but your people will come to respect the effort to share the Gospel despite limitations, circumstances, and any other issues that might prevent your community from gathering together as a whole.
Hopefully, with these tips your sermon or message will be better received and you will help your congregation grow even when you all can’t physically meet.