What About Online Church?

Bryan Haley

Online church is a viable way for your church to build community. The live stream doesn't have to be an afterthought—in fact, it's an essential tool for ministry!

Show Notes

Episode Summary

Your church’s live stream can be more than an afterthought—it's a vital and essential tool for building community. Use your online church service to build community online for people watching from home. Here's how to make the live stream part of ministry.

Mentioned in This Episode

Transcript

Jeanette:

We've talked a lot recently about building community among your church online, but there's one area of online ministry that we haven't discussed, and it's low-hanging fruit. Your church's live stream can be more than just an afterthought. Today, we're talking about how to use your weekly online service to build community among your congregation.

Bryan:

That's right. Hey church communicator, welcome to the Church Juice Podcast. I'm Bryan Haley, the producer, and I'm joined as always by my awesome co-host, Jeanette Yates. And we are here energizing church communications.

Jeanette:

Yes, we are, there you go. You are energized today.

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

I like it.

Bryan:

It's Friday, well, when we're recording this. It's good.

Jeanette:

Yes, the weather is starting to change a little.

Bryan:

Ugh, I hate that part, but it's sunny here. Yesterday, it was all gloomy and rainy and cold. It's at least sunny. So I'm good with it.

Jeanette:

We've dropped below 70, a couple of times. So we're really enjoying it down here in Florida. Well, the hoodies are out, we got the uggs on. I mean, we're going all out for the 65-degree weather.

Bryan:

So after we wrapped up our episode last week, we kind of realized that we missed this whole opportunity. So why don't you talk about what we're going to discuss today?

Jeanette:

So we've been talking about engaging in group discussion and connecting with people outside your church, through other Facebook groups and Zoom and all of this kind of stuff. But we realized that where this all started was when we were talking about churches flocking to online, when COVID kind of shut us all down and everything, and how people started doing their worship online. And we kind of said, yeah, so people are doing your worship, but what else can you do? So we kind of just jumped right off of that. But we wanted to circle back to worship time online because you can do more than just share your service online, and have that be it. That can be an opportunity to build community. So we want to talk a little bit about how to do more than just send your live stream sermon to Facebook Live and YouTube. What else can you do, to actually connect with people during worship, when you're worshiping online?

Bryan:

Yeah. So there's a lot of areas that we can build community in that online space, in that live stream space. And I think that's really what we want to talk about today, because, like you said in the opening, that is such low-hanging fruit. People are already doing this. If you weren't before COVID, you're doing it now. So how do we use that tool that we're already using to build community? And I think we're going to touch on just a few things today that are really easy to do, and are really long-term sustainable things that churches can do.

Jeanette:

I think the first thing that you want to think about when you're exploring ways to make the worship service for your online attendees to be more community-building, is to make sure that they're not just watching a TV show.

Bryan:

Right. It's very passive, the way that a lot of churches do it, or the way that you watch anything. You have your bucket of popcorn or your cup of coffee, whatever, and you're just watching, you're consuming the content, which I think is something most churches, if not all churches are trying to avoid, is that consumerist mentality. So let's not enable that with live streaming. Let's battle against that. Let's engage people in the service itself.

Jeanette:

So there's a couple of things that you can do, that are fairly easy to you break that up a little bit. And I think the first thing is, pay attention to your camera situation. So if you have one camera that's in the back of your auditorium and you're showing the entire seating area and the pulpit or the stage is there, and it's almost like a bird's eye view or a looking from the back of the room to the front, that separates your online viewer from you, as a pastor. So we want to have a way for the camera, if you only have one camera and it's way back, you might need to have somebody working it so they can use the zoom and get closer to you.

Jeanette:

Of course, multiple cameras is also great to have multiple angles. Because even when you're sitting in a church, you are seeing multiple angles as the person moves as well. And so I think having just your camera work, can be one way. And I think the second thing to do is actually speak to and acknowledge both your in-person and online attendees.

Bryan:

If you're not speaking to the people that are watching online, or the only thing that you're referencing as you speak are the people that are in the room with you, then you're not engaging those people that are watching at home. So speaking to the camera, looking at the camera, those are all good things to really engage with your audience, who's not there in person. But find ways to include, as you are speaking, or as you talk about, if it's your first time today, these are the things you do, make sure that you're including ways for people that are watching at home to be included in that process as well.

Bryan:

I see churches a lot of times just throwing their live stream up there and forgetting that it exists, forgetting that there are people on the other side of the camera lens. So an easy way for you to engage people that takes little effort, if any, is really just to involve them in different parts of your service. Interact with them, talk to them. So I think that's great.

Jeanette:

And one of the things I read that I thought was a great idea was, instead of just having the same announcements done the same way for in-person and online like they're just listening to what you're saying if you have the capability to have a different set of slides come in for your online attendees. Like you may say, pick up the information on your way out of the door, but that's not going to help somebody that's sitting. So you could have another set of announcements that say, if you're interested to learn more about this ministry, we've posted something in the comments for you, or something like that. So I think that's another way to make sure they know, hey, we know you're watching and we want you to be involved in this new ministry or this new small group that we're doing, or whatever.

Jeanette:

And then I saw this today and I was like, ooh, this is a good one. So what if you reached out to some of your attendees that are watching online and say, hey, we'd love to invite you to pray during worship. Could you just record a quick prayer, and then we'll use it as part of our online worship. And then maybe the people in the service are listening to that person on the stage, but then your online worship can see somebody sitting on their couch, just like they are, praying with them. And so I was like, oh, that's such a great idea, to make it seem not so different.

Bryan:

I know for my church, we found, so we really did this especially in the Advent season last year, involving people from their home, for the lighting of the candle, like those types of things. And our worship director said that she found so many more families willing to do it, because they could do it from home, they could do as many takes as they needed. There was a much lower barrier, rather than standing in front of a crowd of however many people. So you might be able to widen your perspective audience when you do that. So that's just one really good way to involve people that are at home.

Jeanette:

Exactly.

Bryan:

And before that, you were talking about different slides that you can have, and tailoring that, which I think is really good. Like the more, you can create pre-produced content and tailor that for the audience, is really good. I was reading an article a few weeks ago that was talking about different podcasts and how a lot of podcasts, even our own, will end with, hey, if you're listening in Apple Podcasts, leave us a review. You know where people are listening, so you can actually tailor your podcast or whatever to the different feeds if you wanted to. You can get specific that way.

Bryan:

The same thing for your live stream, you can tailor your content that you're producing for that audience. So you know that they're at home, so why don't you create a different announcement video, or create those different slides and make it specific for people at home? How do they get connected? How do they engage with the community, the church community in a broader sense, besides Sunday morning from the live streamer, from the chat? I think those are all really great things that we can do. And I just mentioned chat, so why don't we-

Jeanette:

I was going to say, let's talk about chat a little bit.

Bryan:

Why don't we dive into chat, because that's another piece of low-hanging fruit that people can really engage with if they're not already, and really build their ministry, their online ministry through the chat features that are available?

Jeanette:

Well, I think it's really important to think ahead of time. As a pastor, you're writing your sermon, you are hoping to create some sort of response. You want it to be thought-provoking, what types of thoughts are you hoping you provoke? And I think that can lead to a series of questions that you might ask, as part of being interactive. And then maybe you even weave those into the sermon. So I ask you today, dah-dah-dah-dah-dah, or when I hear this scripture, I think of this, what do you think about? You could direct those to the people and say, hey, and if you're watching online and you're at your computer on your phone, drop in the chat, what you're feeling about. And that gives something, hey, that's special just for people watching online.

Jeanette:

Instead of like, oh, how do we take this in-person experience and put it online? We're saying, let's think about the online people first for a second. And creating those ways for them to have a conversation. And I also think, and this kind of bleeds into our next topic, but we can kind of circle in and out of chat and volunteers, but having people who are serving in ministry, in the chat for your online. Just like you have a greeter team, an usher team, just like you have people in your in-person services, you want to have a greeter team in your online services. But then also, have chat facilitators. Again, which is not an in-person, if anything, you're trying to limit the chat going on during your sermon in-person, but online, it's a great way to keep people engaged and connected in what they're hearing and seeing as part of the sermon part.

Bryan:

Yeah, absolutely. And it's a great way to build out your volunteer team too. That's an easy way to involve people who are at home, whether they're home-bound or just choosing to be at home. That's another way that you could build out people who are looking for ways to be involved, but maybe they're not up for running the soundboard or greeting people or whatever. This is just maybe a lower entry space that you can easily get people involved and keep people engaged, that are watching.

Jeanette:

I love that you're mentioning that, because I have a good friend, I think I've talked about her with you, I don't remember on mic off. But her name is Becca, she's home-bound, not completely, but she can't often get out to church because of some health concerns. Her husband, though, goes to church every Sunday to play in the praise band, but she gets to serve with him as part of the online volunteer team. And so it's a great way for them to like, we're still serving together, we're still a couple serving together, but we're not together. And I just love it so much. And like you said, it's such a great way to pull people in as well, is we value you as a member of our church. We'd love for you to serve with us, by being an online volunteer.

Jeanette:

I mean, I think that's a very powerful gesture to the people who can't, for whatever reason, get onto your campus, to let them know they're still a valuable part of your community. But back to the chat, I was kind of focusing on the sermon there, but of course, you can also be doing the chat during the worship time. During the prayer time, yes, of course, when you're on campus, you're bowing your head, you're closing your eyes, you're praying along. And maybe you do that at home too, but you could also use that chat as a time to say, how can we pray with you? Have your volunteers pray with them. Write out a prayer in the chat that's like, this is what I'm praying for you, the online guest right now. And do some of that as well. So there's other times during the service, besides just the sermon, where you could be engaging in that chat feature.

Bryan:

Absolutely. And a great way to involve volunteers in the chat portion, is to make them part of, I mean, we talked about this a little bit, but make them a part of your Sunday worship volunteers. So give them the rundown of the service, let them know what's happening. I've even seen churches that are more liturgical, that will even give their chat moderators, whatever they're called, the background of some of the hymns they're singing or scripture references to the songs. And really, ways to engage people throughout the music, hey, this is really what we're talking about here. Or this is what is going to connect to later in the service. There's just tons of ways that, if you really think about your live stream as a ministry, which I think most churches will say that they're doing, then let's make it a part of the ministry. Let's enfold it into the rest of what we're doing and find ways to serve people well.

Jeanette:

Exactly. And I also was thinking about too, you can use the comment section, that area, to do this, but you can also, like I just mentioned before, invite people, and this could be done with in-person and online, which is kind of cool that you're kind of doing it for both, is instead of, post your questions in the chat or in the comments, you can say, get out your phones, get out your phones and text me your questions. I'll be answering some of them at the end of the sermon. And that's a great way so that your in-person and online can do that. So I thought of that as another way to kind of engage everyone in that.

Bryan:

Yeah, that's really cool. Have you seen, because obviously, you work in the texting industry for churches, have you seen churches do this?

Jeanette:

Yeah, we do have some and they actually do it all the time. Some churches are like, every week we have people texting in their questions. Or sometimes the pastor, it's almost like quiz time, I'm going to ask you a question, you text in the answer. And so we do see it fairly often and it's kind of neat because the pastor has his iPhone or iPad there and he can actually see the answers coming in. Sometimes they do a little quick screenshot and put it up on the slides or whatever. So it's really kind of neat to see how some churches are doing that on a weekly basis.

Bryan:

Yeah, that's really cool. I remember talking to someone and I've been trying to think for like 10 minutes who it was, and I can't about it. But on an earlier episode of the podcast, they were talking about how their pastor will kind of engage people, ask people that are watching like, "Hey, what do you think about this? Throw it in the chat." And they will somehow, I don't know how the technology here works, but somehow they actually see the chat from the stage while they're preaching. And so they can literally engage with the people who are chatting, without any sort of moderator there, just kind of actually interacting. So there's ways to do this and ways to do ministry, both online and in-person well. The barrier there is really thinking about this digital ministry as a ministry. And so I think that's really a hurdle for a lot of churches, but when you overcome that, there's huge potential there. And using your live stream for online church is a huge way to build community.

Jeanette:

As we've been talking this whole time, pretty much this whole podcast, is this idea that the digital space is more than just a bulletin board or a random place to just have information stored. We, as churches, are called to go into the world, even the virtual one, I think, I'm no pastor, but that's kind of the way I feel about it. And so I think if we think of it as a ministry and we say, yeah, of course, yes, yes, online is a ministry, then what does that mean? Then how much are you going to invest in that ministry, like you might something else? And I'm not just talking about money, but some, yes, a little bit, that's part of it. But if we're really saying, this is a place that we can grow community, engage new people, which in an upcoming episode we're going to be talking about how to engage, not only the people that you already are kind of hanging out with online, but also new people. But how can we do this in a way, and it's going to take effort, time, intentionality, and a strategy.

Jeanette:

It's going to take the thought process. And you mentioned like, share with your chat moderator, the service, the order of worship and all this kind of stuff. And I was like, yes, that means you're going to have to know it before Sunday. So for some churches, that's like-

Bryan:

That's true-

Jeanette:

... okay, well that's the hurdle, that's the hurdle right there. But we get it, but we want to encourage you, the more you can plan ahead for that Sunday online worship, the more chance you have, the more opportunities you can create to connect with and engage more attendees.

Bryan:

Yeah. And there's so much here, we've talked, I don't even remember how many episodes now, like six or seven episodes probably, on building community online. And the reason for that is because we see this as such a vital area of the church, that is probably underserved in most capacities. So we want to help you see these tools and see how your church can adopt them. Not everything is going to work for every church or every ministry. But the idea here is that this is a space that every church is saying is a ministry. Most of them are not actually treating them like a ministry. So what can we do differently? How can we rethink what we do, or how we do, or why we do things, to help us build community, to engage one another between Sundays, what does that look like? And I really think that that's been our focus and that's really why we spent these last several episodes talking about this.

Jeanette:

So many episodes. Yeah, like you say, it's important and we wanted to hit the basics, but we also wanted to talk about some of the deeper concepts about community building online. So I think that's what we've done over the last several episodes.

Bryan:

Yeah. And there's so much potential, no matter what size church you're in, no matter where you're at, there is so much potential there. So I hope as you're listening, you are encouraged and challenged, but not discouraged by the things that we've been talking about. So next week, we're actually going to turn the page from this and start talking, as we close out this year, 2020 extended, basically, we want to take a look at some of the things that you can be thinking about as a communications leader, as a church leader, to help you set 2022 up for success in your ministry. So we're going to talk through volunteering and websites and all of those things, but this is a great time, in November and December, to think about or to spend time evaluating different aspects of your ministry. So we're going to do that. Yeah, I'm excited. Do you have any last comments as we finally actually close out this series?

Jeanette:

I just want to, again, encourage our listeners and anybody who joins us, when we're in the Facebook group, the Church Juice Facebook group, we hope to see people in there as well. But I just want to encourage you to not grow weary in doing good. Wherever you are right now, God has put you there. And of course, we want you to continue to grow wherever he has planted you in ministry. And of course, as we're talking, we think that one of those places is in the digital space and we're here to help encourage you and spur you along in your well-doing. So we want to hear from you, of course. I just wanted to just leave with a note of encouragement. Don't get discouraged. Technology is not that scary. It can seem like it, but you're not alone. And we're here to help.

Bryan:

Absolutely. Well, thanks for listening to the Church Juice Podcast. If you haven't already, make sure that you subscribe wherever you're listening today. That will make sure that you're always up-to-date with our latest episodes. And if you're listening on Apple Podcasts, it would mean a lot if you took the time to leave us a review. That helps other church leaders find the podcast too. By the way, we will continue today's discussion in our Facebook group. And you can find the link to that group along with show notes for today's episode, at churchjuice.com/podcast.

Jeanette:

Church Juice's podcast is a listener-supported production of Reframe Ministries, a family of programs designed to help you see your whole life reframed by God's gospel story. Church Juice is produced by Bryan Haley, with post-production by audio engineer, Nate Morris in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information about Church Juice, visit churchjuice.com. For more information on Reframe Ministries and our family of programs, visit reframeministries.org.