By Bob Pritchett
Over the past year since COVID-19 began affecting our nation, the church has adjusted its routines, become more tech-savvy and learned the ins and outs of virtual gatherings. We saw a time when attending church virtually was a necessity. Many leaders quickly and successfully shifted their approach to offer discipleship, worship and care as their church walked through an unprecedented time as a community.
Even though steps are made that give hope for ending this global pandemic, many of last year’s adaptations won’t completely go away. Our way of life has changed in many ways, and the reality is that “church” for many people may never look like it formerly did.
Live streams are here to stay, so making sure your sanctuary is well-equipped to best serve the church body virtually is imperative to feel connected while not physically together.
When done well, live streaming allows churches to invite people to join from any location and grow the church body without geographical limitations. Taking live streaming to the next level can improve community and even technological functionality.
Here are a few tips to make sure your sanctuary is ready to go and members are continually engaged and have a sense of belonging.
Enable Live Chats
Human interaction is key to establishing a church body that is engaged and well-connected. One of the many challenges with ministering to congregants virtually is how to achieve community and discipleship. One way to accomplish this is to ensure your live stream platform offers the ability for interaction.
A live chat box during weekend worship services can create a space for viewers to comment on the service, share insights about biblical teaching and offer prayer requests. Ultimately, a chat function can help to build relationships with one another.
In addition, churches need to treat the live stream as its own service, rather than simply an extension of the physical gathering. By designating a church staff member to join the chat to moderate discussions and further conversation, the church can minister to the unique prayer and discipleship needs of those watching.
Providing this personal touch often missing in a live stream can make a huge difference in a congregant watching the service versus feeling as if they are part of the church.
Make the Experience Visually Appealing
Because we are bombarded every single day with content, viewers expect quality. This rings true for live streams. While you don’t have to invest in expensive, fancy equipment and gee-whiz technology, you do need to incorporate a few simple elements to help hold your congregants’ attention and enhance the only experience.
One way to do this is by including well-designed slides that incorporate scripture or guided thoughts for note taking. These simple elements help viewers pay attention and follow along in the service. Additionally, consider what viewers are seeing on the screen. Breaking up the visual monotony of a single camera angle can heighten viewers’ focus.
There are also ways to help congregants watching a live stream stay connected with the church by including elements like a virtual bulletin or prayer and connection cards. These resources can create engagement through the graphics designed and can even correlate with the church’s branding or sermon series theme.
Don’t forget that quality matters. Images need to be high resolution, and design fonts and colors should be thoughtfully chosen.
Finally, consider the aesthetics of the video. Keep the background behind your pulpit minimal and produce good lighting where the subject is the focus of the video. Also, keep in mind to wear clothing that contrasts with the chosen background and does not take viewers away from the message of the video.
Choose an Online Giving Platform
Just because congregants are not physically gathering together does not mean online giving will decline. There are simple ways to encourage continual tithing virtually.
Congregants are used to using their phones and computers for transactions. They pay their bills online, shop online and monitor their banking, so providing them a way to also tithe online is natural and convenient.
For at-home viewers, providing an online giving option is crucial to keeping them involved in the church mission. There are platforms that allow churches to incorporate giving buttons directly into a live stream.
Further, you can establish a text-to-give feature and display the number on sermon slides or in the live chat with concise instructions. Additionally, make sure to enable a “donate” button directly on the church website.
Most importantly, create a culture of giving by incorporating messaging about the mission and vision of the church and how tithes can help congregants partner with you in accomplishing ministry.
Make It Easy
Creating a live stream can feel overwhelming but today’s technology makes it easier than ever. Find software that best fits your staff and congregation without adding extra hassle.
Outfitting your sanctuary is not supposed to be complicated, and a good software should come with easy-to-use video tutorials, detailed step-by-step instructions and friendly, free support. There are several products available, including integrated products to help churches grow and simplify administration, worship and discipleship.
The benefits of building community through the church body are irreplaceable. In a heavily digital age, it is important to recognize the value of human interaction and make online experiences as enjoyable as possible for your church.
Bob Pritchett is co-founder and chief executive officer of Faithlife, a church technology company helping churches grow in the light of the Bible with more than 14 products, including Logos Bible Software and a suite of integrated Faithlife tools, www.faithlife.com.