Responding to COVID-19 in our Churches
The Coronavirus pandemic in the US has impacted people’s health, communities, relationships, sports (NBA Season, NCAA tournament cancellations), and so much more. One of the ripple effects that we, the collective body of Christ, felt was that many of us chose not to meet in person at our physical locations. This impacted the church of Christ as a whole, but this is really just ONE way that COVID-19 is affecting God’s people. There are other areas that we as a church need to be mindful of and think about as we encounter and respond to this pandemic that is facing us.
I want to just start off by challenging myself and all of us to hear the words God has said to us in his word.
“Fear Not!” Isaiah 43:1 says, “Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!”
This is so comforting to know that no matter how crazy the situation around us gets that we are His and that He has told us not to fear. He has called each of us by our name, we are His and nothing (not even COVID-19) can change that. I think before we do or act in any way, we have to remind ourselves that our God is still in control even though everything around us seems to be crumbling.
Through this post I would like to help you and your church in your response to COVID-19 by providing some resources, links, and tips that would be helpful in serving you and your church during this time.
The words, “For such a time as this”,have been ringing in my ears this past weekend. This virus seems like a defeat. Outward appearances would indicate that the enemy has won by making the church have to meet online instead of in person. What I have been pondering is what if the technology developments of today, that allow for live streaming, propel the church into a revival of our day?
What if we as the church are seeing that God has prepared us to be the hands and feet of Christ no matter if we are in person or online? I think as we take to the online platforms of our day and age for this moment, God is giving us the opportunity to use what has been corrupted by our culture for so long, as a platform to display the glory of Christ and His bride, the church.
OK so now is the time, but how do I go about streaming? That is probably the biggest question for the church who has never streamed before. Here are some basic tips I would suggest you look into and research as you begin the process of determining your church’s online presence.
- Research and know your licensing status. Make sure you research what licenses you and your church currently have. As you begin an online experience you have to have licensing that allows for streaming rights for your music. If you don’t have those licenses then don’t show that part of your service so that you aren’t fined or flagged by Facebook, Periscope, YouTube, or receive a bill in the mail from a record label.
- Engage in extra planning and discussion about your online event. Since you will be presenting content online for your people you want to make sure the content is clear, easy to engage with, and thoughtfully prepared. If you are going to go online with cameras make sure they are decent, focused, and colored correctly. If you are doing audio, make sure people can hear and understand your audio recordings. If you are doing a fun livestream with audio mixed for the stream, think about what the end product will sound like. Do some testing this week and make sure that people can see and hear clearly.
- Have a backup in place! It is going to happen. Inevitably, things will happen. Your stream can get cut off, internet goes down….. prepare for the unexpected. Have a way of getting your content to your church if your main method fails. This is important because this is the only touch point you have with your church now and you want to make sure you are able to engage with them.
- Continue interacting with your church, even through digital means. Today with Facebook, Periscope, YouTube, and online church platforms there are ways for you to interact and serve the people watching your stream. Don’t just post a stream or video but have members of your church actively engaged in serving the online audience just as if they were in the church. You may not be able to show where the restroom is and get them coffee, but you can offer to pray for them, sign them up for your news, get them connected to community, or just be an engaging voice on the thread
SO, the question really is how does your church connect during this time? I think there are multiple ways this happens.
1. Choose the method of distribution. There are so many options here. I am going to break them down by cost:
- FREE – Facebook, Periscope, YouTube, Free Online Church
- Cost Effective options ($200 per month or Less) – Boxcast, Streamhoster, VIMEO
- High Quality Options with Amazing features – Living as One
2. Decide how you want to deliver the stream to your church.
- Create a custom landing page for your church online to watch and engage. Life Church created an amazing platform that is entirely free to churches. It offers the ability to put a chat in the stream, load notes, schedule times for the services, access the Bible. It is, in one word amazing!
- Share your stream on your Church App or Website. You need to do some research on how to do this if you are using a free service as those links don’t stay set each time they change. You will need to research how you want this to happen and if it is possible.
- Using social media only – if you choose this route make sure you have someone to monitor this as you want to engage with people during the stream and also you want to make sure you can handle any issues that might arise during the stream.
3. For some information on the technical how to’s, such as gear and audio, here are some helpful links:
- BlackBar has this great video with practical ways to set up live stream on any budget
- LIVING AS ONE also has a great how to article here
- If your church is looking to start streaming or you have been using an iPhone for awhile check out the MEVO – a great, cost effective camera that can capture a couple different shots and lets you switch from a phone/iPad app.
- If you are looking to switch a couple cameras but don’t have money for a high-end solution here is a great cost-effective option. The Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini HDMI Livestream switcher
4. Content for your stream
- With how quickly this has come upon the church there will be an increased demand for digital ready content for your stream.
5. If Streaming isn’t an option, then a good old “record a message and rebroadcast” or even a podcast can be a great solution.
- Here is a free eBook on podcasting 101 so your church can start it this week
It’s times like these that communication couldn’t be more important. The tendency is to communicate across all your platforms and you risk that your people aren’t going to know what’s happening.
- If you have social media and email marketing, make sure that all your platforms clearly articulate what is happening.
- Use personal video on your stream from your pastor or leader to directly communicate any changes. I thought this was an awesome example of this from ANDY STANLEY this past weekend. .
- OVER COMMUNICATE. People hate feeling like they missed something or are disconnected because they were left out. If you think you haven’t communicated it enough, keep communicating. If you feel tired of communicating, you might be getting closer to reaching everyone.
CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENGAGEMENT
- Use social media to engage. Something I have seen recently from a lot of church pastors is using social media to connect with their people throughout the day and week. Whether it is a morning devotional or an afternoon check in/challenge, find ways to simply and consistently engage and pour into the people you lead and care for.
- Check in personally by text/GroupMe/email with your team. Normally you might prefer to get lunch or coffee like me but use what you have to reach out and check in with where your team is at.
As a church we have an opportunity to still reach people. While we can’t gather together physically, I am praying that God opens doors for us using technology and that we as a church still find ways and methods to build community and share the gospel with those in our lives that need it.
I want to also take a minute and share some other great resources from others who have some great knowledge and wisdom for us today. I hope these other articles help and give you more understanding as you seek to make decisions for your church over the next couple days and weeks.
COVID-19 & Your Church | Justin Dean
SALT U – 14-day trial / $14
Managing Your Church’s Communication During Coronavirus (COVID-19) | Darriel Girardier
The Ultimate Coronavirus Guide For Churches | Ryan Wakefield