By Pastor Casey Taylor
Millions of churches are embarking on a new ministry frontier thanks to “the corona crisis.” Social distancing means no in-person worship gatherings so churches are turning to online options, especially live stream worship. Live stream worship definitely fills a need but it’s…weird for many people. How can we worship well online? Here are my tips.
What would you add?
1. WORSHIP, DON’T WATCH.
We gather to worship, not to watch. Words matter. The people on screen? They’re only there to help you worship, not get your eyeballs on them. A teacher once compared pastors and other worship leaders to docents, the people who guide you through a museum to make you go “OOH!” at great works of art. You’re here to go “Wow, God!” While we’re on the subject, “worship” is the whole service, not just the music: sermon, prayers, offering — all of it.
Be fully engaged in the worship service. Drink your coffee but don’t try to multitask. Minimize distractions and temptations before you gather for worship. Prep like you’re actually “going to church.” Take notes! Show up on time. Say a prayer.
Yes, sing out loud! I know how hard this will be for some. Let’s be honest: some of us don’t sing much when we’re in a normal service (I’m looking at you, men). Guess what: God doesn’t care! God calls us to make a joyful noise. What better time to get over your inhibitions on singing? Also, if you’re a parent, your kids are watching. If you think it’s weird to sing out loud, they will, too. So get over yourself and let loose.
4. BE SOCIAL…IF YOU CAN
If you live with a spouse, children, or roommate(s), gather together. This is especially true for parents and kids. Don’t let everyone wander to their own corner of the house with a separate screen. If you can, watch the stream on your TV (Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick — all let you watch YouTube and other sites on your TV). If you know someone who lives alone and you can safely share a living room for an hour, invite them over!
5. GET THE KIDS INVOLVED.
One of the positive side effects of the “corona crisis” may be unlearning the lie that only “The Religious Professionals” can help our kids be disciples of Jesus Christ. WRONG! Studies show again and again that the most important people to shape the religious beliefs and practices of kids are…parents (especially dads). Encourage them, sing with them, help them follow along, take notes together, talk about the message and scripture reading after the service. BONUS: Nobody cares how squirmy your kid is because nobody can see them!
6. TALK ONLINE.
The best online worship gatherings are intentionally social. Pastors and worship leaders should welcome people frequently (by name, when possible). “Tom in Urbana just joined us! Welcome!” Comment in the live chat or comment section. Greet other worshipers when they chime in. Your church should have what I call “Virtual Hosts,” or online greeters, who engage people who comment on your live stream’s comments.
7. INVITE, INVITE, INVITE.
It’s never been easier to invite someone to worship! No rides to schedule and no hang ups about “going into a church building.” Just invite your friend to worship via screen with you! Your church should easily create a shareable social media invitation card (Canva.com is a free and easy to use media design website). Or you could text. Or (gasp!) call.
I would love to hear what you would add to this list!