Virtual Worship Ideas

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by Grady King and Doug Peters

In an environment where physical gatherings are discouraged (and even dangerous!) and many churches are cancelling worship assemblies altogether, how can the church continue to be the church? If gathering is an essential element of our faith, how can we “gather” when we can’t “assemble”? Since we will be in this “social/physical distancing” mode for a while, we need to learn how to equip church members for meaningful worship. Some may simply try to re-create the worship service of a few months ago, while others might seize this as an opportunity to spiritually form the lives of their members and guests in new ways. How can we maximize technology in creative ways to engage worshippers wherever they might be?

  1. Option One: Live Stream worship service in real time. All you need to do is plan a normal worship assembly and ask a skeleton crew to meet at the church building and safely lead the various elements (Welcome, Songs, Prayer, Sermon, Supper Comments, Shepherd’s Blessing, Testimonials, etc.). Be sure to maintain proper physical distancing recommendations as you record the service.
  2. Option Two: Pre-Record worship service and make available online on Sunday. While similar to #1, this pre-recorded option allows for edits and also removes some of the potential technical or bandwidth pitfalls churches have recently experienced on some live stream platforms offered a single time on Sunday mornings. The service could be made available all day or at chosen times.
  3. Option Three: Pre-Record various worship elements from a variety of people and locations and compile into an online worship experience. Without gathering in a central location, a preacher can record a sermon from home, others can record a welcome, prayer or communion thought and a worship minister could add links to worship videos. The various parts can be complied into a themed service (Welcome, Songs, Prayer, Sermon, Supper Comments, Shepherd’s Blessing, Testimonials, etc.) and made available on the church website on Sundays and linked through all normal communication avenues.
  4. Option 4 – Smaller churches may want to just send their members links to a recommended church that offers an online worship experience. Leaders may want to suggest members tune in to a larger church that has staff available to provide an engaging worship experience. They could even invite members to gather in smaller groups (prescheduled Zoom meetings) to follow the service where members can discuss the sermon, share their congregation’s information, visit, pray, etc..
  5. There are several Live Stream Options available to congregations who want to go with a live, local worship option. There are some free live stream options such as Facebook Live and YouTube Live. However, there are several other more specialized options as well. Here are links to some options:
  6. Learn some basic video recording tips. Even the best content can be diminished by poor recording. Whether a church has access to a paid tech crew and multiple cameras or just a single camera operated by the minister, they can equip their members for worship. Fortunately, we live in an age of technology where even a basic smart phone can provide very good quality video recordings. Here are two links to help improve your video recording:
  7. Provide an online “Connect Card.” No matter the type of online worship experience, it is imperative that churches provide a way for those visiting their virtual worship experience to connect with church leaders for prayer requests, member/guest needs, contact information updates, and response for next steps such as Bible study and baptism. A single click standardized online form could effectively gather the information in a confidential manner.
  8. Some churches have provided “Drive-In” Worship experiences. In some locations around the country, government and health officials have permitted parking lot gatherings whereby church members stay in their cars as they participate in a worship service broadcasted through a low-power FM transmitter and/or speaker. This format offers the congregation a measure of safe interaction and a limited sense of community. Leaders should ensure that all necessary safety protocols are maintained. These include such items as:
    • Every-other-space parking
    • Masked and gloved “greeters” offering a sanitary bag containing communion kits, children’s resources and a connect card, etc.
    • Instructions for all attendees to stay in their vehicles,
    • Worship team and preacher to model recommended physical distancing, etc..
    • Note: We recommend that leaders fully adhere to all local, county, state and federal government and health guidelines.
  9. Adhere to all CCLI and VCLI licensing requirements. Of all people, those who claim to follow Jesus and live by the ethics of the kingdom should take seriously licensing requirements when using copyrighted songs and videos. Here are some helpful links:
  10. Above all, remember that worship, whether in person or virtual, is an opportunity for Spiritual Formation. Churches will do well to ask questions such as:
    • How is this service transforming our members and guests?
    • What kind of disciples of Jesus will this experience help make?
    • Will this period of worship move people closer to God’s kingdom?
    • How can this be an engaging communal experience that leads toward loving God and others?
    • Does this contribute to the mission of God?

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