How do we translate worship from in-person to an online experience? Some people who would never walk into the doors of your church, are watching your worship online. The way we tell the story needs to change.
Worship leaders from across the Dakotas Conference spent time with Jason Moore, who leads Midnight Oil Productions, learning how to make online worship great.
During this season of the COVID-19 pandemic, worship leaders needs to consolidate the story, re-imagine it, make it appealing, and invite people in new ways to connect deeply with God. Worship online is still worship. It may be different, but it is always worship. Here are ten ideas that Jason shared in a recent webinar.
1. Consolidate—The same thing that happens in-person does not always translate well to a screen. Consider doing online worship in about 30-45 minutes. Nona Jones, a social media specialist for churches, lists 30-35 minutes as the optimal length for online worship. Being in a room feels different than being online. Create moments in 3-4 minutes segments that highlight big ideas or key experiences. Share the moments throughout the week on social media. These should be stand-alone ideas or thoughts. Be shorter in length and broader in scope. For example, invite people to more in-depth experiences throughout the week– a Zoom group, home connection, or socially distance study group. Invite people to a week of faith experiences. “We used to invite people from one Sunday experience to another Sunday experience. Now we need to invite people from a Sunday experience into a Monday experience,” Moore says.
2. Adapt— Look at the material in a whole new way. Jesus talks about putting new wine into old wineskins. Telling the old story in a new way is not about changing the Gospel, it is about adapting the way we present things. Move from monologue to a dialogue. Use online worship as a time to interact through chat, prayer requests, texting, and other ways. Be authentic, get close to the camera, and be yourself. Adapting may mean that everything is not perfect, but you are sincere. Visualize who is on the other side of the camera.
3. Interact and engage people.—Refocus roles like not just having greeters in-person but having someone available to interact with people online if you are currently meeting online and in-person. Here are some ways to promote online engagement:
4. Electronic giving—Announce and teach people how to give an offering electronically. Post ways to give in the chat. Teach people how to give electronically through a video.
5. Offer communion— Communion especially needs to include online worshippers. As you gather for in-person and online person worship, consider having an online worship leader that can walk people through the process of communion. The leader will tell people how to do communion online. The online host can greet people at the beginning of worship, moderate chat, take prayer requests.
6. Re-imagine worship—Think about the placement of the camera. The viewers online want to see the expression on the face of the worship leader. The temptation is to go back to pre-COVID and simply have one camera with a wideshot of everything or no camera at all. Pay attention to your context; make people feel comfortable. Consider the pace, space, and try to make it natural. Make it visual. Moore says, “Jesus was a master of teaching. The lesson of the mustard seed is an example. We learn 65% of the time with visual cues. Use the images around you.” Here are some ways people are re-imagining worship:
8. Embrace limits, dream big— What are the opportunities that are in front of us? Embrace the limits of this time and take advantage of those limits. This is an opportunity to try something new. “This is a Guttenberg Press moment for the church,” says Moore. “Keep changing things up and trying new things.” Take the lead and model what needs to happen.
9. Build community— Connect with others beyond worship on Sunday. There are three groups of people in a congregation. Those people committed to doing everything that happens with the church will continue to show up and be active. Disconnected people are those who have dropped out; now is the time to connect with them. People who are seeking God is the third group. Seekers are open to God during times of uncertainty, like now. Relationships building ideas: tell stories on Facebook Live, use inviting language, writing a personal note and send it—low tech, high touch, creating busy bags for kids and senior, holding online Bible study, hosting a Zoom coffee, or sharing a hymn of the day on social media.
10. Guest readiness—Hospitality is vital online and in-person. Church websites are your welcome mat. Your website needs to have the time and where to watch worship. Show you are paying attention and care by keeping your website up-to-date. On your website, have a welcome video and photos of the people that will be part of worship and small groups to make new visitors feel comfortable. During worship, be personal, greet and welcome people to worship, tell them your name and role.