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Online worship will become the new norm: 7 insights for moving forward

By: Mike Slaughter, pastor emeritus and global church ambassador for Ginghamsburg Church


Ginghamsburg Church Senior Media Producer Dan Bracken captures Fort McKinley Campus Lead Pastor Karl Penn covering community connections for online worship. Photo courtesy of Ginghamsburg Church.

I have been contacting pastors from around the country who have returned to on-site worship. The percentage of post-COVID attendance is astoundingly the same. Uniformly pastors report around 30% of post versus pre-virus attendance with the noticeable absence of young families with children and those adults in the most at risk groups. The virus is not going away any time soon.

  • Produced worship intentionally designed for those worshipping at home will become the new norm as the alternative to livestreamed worship from the in-house celebration. This means that you and I will be working on two different presentations and worship designs each week.
  • Shorter messages for those worshipping at home. (Check out my 14-minute message that I taped for First UMC Gulfport, Miss., for their online worship. This format will also give the opportunity to invite guest speakers from around the globe at nominal cost.)
  • Less is more — especially in the area of music. Much of the praise music sung in our churches is in a range too high for many of us, and it goes on way too long with multiple repeats. I have noticed that the best music, specifically created for those sitting on their couches at home, is much more acoustic in nature, almost coffee house in experience. I can sit with my cup of dark roast and take the music into my soul, and I don’t have to stand and sing! (Am I revealing a personal prejudice?)
  • Missional stories and connections are critical. We must find ways to move people from their couches to the places and people with the greatest needs. I recently stopped at one of Ginghamsburg Church’s food pantries to thank those serving people who have been unemployed and still haven’t received their unemployment checks. North Star Church in Cincinnati is doing an incredible job in engaging people to serve in their drive-through food pantries. Other churches are connecting with elderly people in their neighborhoods, asking if they need items from the grocery store.
  • Creative children’s ministry online alternatives will become essential as young families may be more reluctant to return. Many churches have already discovered this and are doing virtual Vacation Bible School and virtual camps.
  • Small home groups will become the nucleus of the missional movement. My home group has continued to meet by Zoom on Thursday evenings at seven. It has been great to see each other’s faces, share prayer requests and hear updates on each other’s families. Last Thursday evening we met face to face for the first time in three months in our leaders’ back yard – s’mores included!

This pandemic has given the church a timeout to reimagine God’s promised future. We can’t put the new wine of the Spirit into old wineskins!


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