If local church congregations were still on the fence about producing online church services or livestreaming Bible Studies, the 2020 coronavirus crisis has put all doubts to rest.
Local churches everywhere have moved to online church worship experiences as many congregants stay at home at the direction of local and federal government guidelines, including the Centers for Disease Control. If your congregation is new to online church or you’re looking to polish your live stream experience, check out the tips below from an expert in this space, teammate Chiquita Lockley.
7 Tips for Online Worship Experiences
As a Creative Director in the Faith-based space for over 15 years, I spent the last two weeks fielding calls from churches that are now shifting to social media to reach their congregations due to coronavirus quarantines.
For those pastors who may be new to streaming or veterans who may need a refresher, take advantage of these tips before next Sunday to implement an amazing online worship experience for your congregation.
For larger churches, tighten the camera shot to a mid or close-up so that the space doesn’t feel so large and empty. In smaller churches, start with a wide shot, pushing in to a mid-shot so that the stage doesn’t feel claustrophobic to the viewer.
If you keep the scale of the space in mind, whether large or small, you can create an online environment that makes your congregation and visitors comfortable. If you’re using Pipe & Drape, remember to put some distance between the speaker/singers and the drapes (I recommend 3-4’ if possible).
Additionally, remember that you don’t need to yell into the microphone. Your at-home audience can hear you ;-). Finally, make sure the pulpit is adequately lit. Here’s a fairly inexpensive 3-Point Lighting Kit option here, currently on sale for under $200.
2. Choose Key Personnel.
The government is currently recommending that we gather in groups of fewer than 10 people. Give thought to who represents your essential personnel. For example, I recommend: Pastor, Keyboardist, 2-3 Singers, Camera Operator, Media Graphics Operator, Minister, and Security or Deacon.
Please keep the CDC recommendations in mind to ensure there is a 6’ distance between each person. This means that you probably won’t be able to have a choir, and you should make sure your Praise Team members aren’t standing shoulder to shoulder.
3. Increase Bandwidth.
If you are not accustomed to having heavy Internet traffic to your website, this sudden increase may cause your website to crash. Call your Internet service provider to explain that you’re expecting more traffic. Request an increase in bandwidth during the hours of your service.
Find a stable live stream host, and troubleshoot before Sundays. There are many options, including Facebook Live, Instagram (which only allows 1-hr intervals), YouTube, Periscope, etc. You also have the option of embedding your video into your church’s website. Be sure to test your “Donate” button to make sure it works. I like to troubleshoot by Wednesday, which gives two business days to make any adjustments needed before Sunday service.
Send clear communication noting the service times and websites where your online church services will be held. By mid-week, and each day following, you should post ONE consistent flyer across all of your social media channels pointing your congregation and visitors to your chosen platform(s) for Sunday’s service. An hour before the service, post again – particularly in Instagram and Facebook Stories, which reach your followers in real-time. [Need a recommendation for social media graphics? I recommend JP Designs Art and Fostered for your graphic needs.]
6. Prepare a Second Location.
In the event that the state or the federal government adds additional restrictions to the quarantine, you will need a location that the pastor can access easily. This will likely be a dedicated space in the pastor’s home.
A simple setup may consist of a tablet or phone, a tripod, and a backdrop of some sort. This backdrop can be a wall-mounted TV, a bookshelf, artwork, or even a wallpaper-covered 8’x8′ foam set piece.
The number of social media outlets to which you’re live streaming determines the number of tablets/phones needed. For example, a simultaneous live stream on Facebook and Instagram requires two devices and manual start/stop [unless you purchase a program like Wirecast by Telestream, which allows for simultaneous output to multiple host sites. $599*].
7. Reach Out & Touch.
If there was ever a time to stay in touch with your congregation, the time is now. In addition to online Sunday worship experiences, it’s a good idea to check in with words of inspiration to help them stay strong during this time of uncertainty. A weekly video post allows your members to connect with the pastor or ministers in a meaningful, relevant way.
Hopefully, these 7 tips for your online church experience will help you onboard your team and church family to new and/or improved online worship services. During this season, it is imperative that we make responsible decisions regarding the people God has entrusted to us. To that end, please follow the CDC guidelines and prepare as best you can for online ministry.
And always remember – Faith Over Fear!
Chiquita Lockley is live events producer and director of the forthcoming documentary, Eggs Over Easy: Black Women & Fertility (2020). She holds a BA in English from Spelman College and an MA in Film Studies from Emory University. Having spent the last 15+ years working in Faith-based television and media, Chiquita authored the book Creative Worship: 86 Tips for Establishing a Dynamic Worship, Media & Production Team.
Note: These tips first appeared here. No compensation received for any of the recommendations.