The coronavirus is creating a lot of uncertainty globally as we enter a season that no one has ever experienced in their lifetime. With self-isolation and the restrictions on gatherings, the coronavirus is changing the way in which society functions. Gatherings of people may be restricted and we may enter a time where people are staying home for extended periods of time.
These restrictions will change what church looks like. Whilst we pray that the virus is stopped, this time gives us as the church an opportunity to reach others and share the faith that we have in Christ. We can continue to do this in a number of ways.
Live Streaming your Sunday Service
You already stream your services?
Great! Your church already streams its services each week and you know the software and tools that are used to do this. Keep in mind that your system may need adapting if further restrictions prevent you from going to the physical church building. We recommend having a plan to take your camera and hardware to the minister/vicars home each Sunday to run church online. Send an informative email to your church to encourage them to tune in to your stream. There will be people who have never used the streaming services before as they attend regular services with you - be sure to signpost to them how to get involved.
You have not streamed a service before?
If you do not stream your services each week then it is quite simple to do so. You should record a live sermon at the time when your normal Sunday Service would start. If you have a computer with a camera or a smartphone then you will be able to stream a live video of your Sermon. We have guides on how to do this using YouTube and Facebook Live - both of which are free and accessible platforms.
Here are a few pointers to consider, whether your church already streams or you have never done this before:
Preparation & Communication
- Do your best and let God do the rest. For some viewers it may be their first time watching a church service online so remember to smile and invitational.
- Be comfortable: if that means standing in front of the camera, do that. Or if you would prefer sitting at your desk with a cup of tea then set it up that way.
- Don’t focus on the number of viewers you have: We recommend you cover this on your monitor so you don’t see it. This way you can focus on delivering your message. (You may have people watching the video after it has been streamed than watching it live)
- Talk as if it was the whole congregation were to hear the message: As you are talking, picture some of the people in the congregation that could be watching you.
The content doesn’t have to exactly mimic your church service format, there will be things that look different. People haven’t travelled to get to the service so it shouldn’t be so long. There are a number of things you won’t be able to do in the same way, such as corporate worship.
Prayer: don’t forget to pray during the streaming as you would normally do.
Communion: If you would normally take communion then include this in your service, allowing viewers to particake at home. If you are going to do this, communicate with viewers beforehand so that they can have bread and wine ready.
Worship: This takes a variety of forms on a Sunday Service depending on church style and preferences. Whilst it would be ideal to include worship within your online church by playing music, there are copyright and licencing restrictions preventing churches from streaming most songs. Check out our guide on Live Streaming and Copyright.
Giving: If you take an offering during the service then mention that viewers can give online.
Set up a page on the church website so that the video appears within this page - that way viewers can find it easily and return to the same place next week. Send this link out to your congregation so they know where to access the video from. On this page you can also have links for giving and information that will help during the service.
Staying in Touch throughout the week
We’ve mentioned about showing the Sunday Service online, but online video can continue during the week. You may have congregants who are on their own and will value a daily video blog from the minister for encouragement. The church has an opportunity to be the centre of the community and a regular video could be used to encourage people stuck at home. Consider if you are able to do a short encouraging video/ Facebook Live at the same time each day.
Stay in touch with vulnerable members of your community.
As a church you may have made plans for keeping in touch on a 1-2-1 basis with those who you have identified as being vulnerable and on their own. This may be different to how you’ve done this before if people are restricted in their movements so consider a plan for communication over the next few weeks/months. A phone call will always be a first option, but if someone hasn’t seen anyone for a while, a video call makes it even more personal where possible.
Regular Email Communication
You might want to consider sending out a regular email to your church with an encouraging word. Software such as Mailchimp or iKnow Church mean you can easily communicate with people. Ensure you have everyone's correct details on your database, while you have the chance at your next gathering, encourage people to update their details so that you can remain in contact.
As part of this communication you could include:
- An encouraging message; Point people to Jesus and encourage them to contact you if they want to know more about following Him.
- Links to your recent online video and information about tuning in to future live videos.
- Prayer Requests from those who are happy for this to be shared.
- If appropriate, share how you are doing being restricted at home - you could make this fun if appropriate. This is a way to bring joy to people’s experience of being in isolation.
- Include stories of what others are doing who are restricted to being at home.
- Links to the latest official advice from the Government.
In all your communication, make sure that you point people to the one true hope. God is the comforter above all else and Jesus is the hope we can trust and depend on. A lot who receive your communication may know this but it may also be seen by those who do not yet know Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
There is much uncertainty over businesses and jobs but practically speaking, your church will still have bills to pay. If people aren’t able to meet physically, online giving becomes even more important. If you use iKnow Church then make sure that your giving platform is set up so people can still give to the church.
Encourage Church members to reach their neighbours
It’s not just about the church leaders staying in touch with people. Christians all over the country can use this as an opportunity to get to know their neighbours and caring for those in need. It is times of national crisis when communities do come together to support and look after each other.
As the world may seem dark, it is a chance for the Light to shine. People are searching for answers that only God can provide.
Encourage your church members to set up a WhatsApp group or Facebook group for their street where people can stay in contact online to check up on those who may need help. Our friends at Neighbourhood Prayer Network have written a page on how individuals can keep connected with those in their street. Read their article here: http://neighbourhoodprayer.net/coronavirus. Perhaps your church members could share communion at their home with small groups of friends or community members. Encourage your church members to pray for those in their neighbourhoods and support the elderly and vulnerable around you. Many will be alone during this isolated season.
Other upcoming events
Postpone rather than cancel events, enabling you to maintain momentum and give hope that the season will soon pass. If you're charging for events, postponing to a later date will reduce your administration as you won’t need to handle refunds and going through a new booking process.