Ways Congregations Can Improve Their Virtual Presence to Members During This Time of Crisis
By Scott Thumma, PhD, Director, Hartford Institute of Religion Research and Co-Chair, Faith Communities Today
This article endeavors to offer simple tips and creative ways to minister to your congregation virtually during this trying time. Your building may be closed, but your ministry shouldn’t be during this time of great need. A wide range of innovative options are featured below.
Before you begin streaming services, here are some aspects you should think about and plan for:
- What to present
- The whole service?
- The sermon only?
- Formal or informal?
- Casual or professional?
- How long?
- Copyright – both use and streaming license
- What mode to use
- Prerecorded Video
- Facebook Live
- Does it need to be presented live?
- Pros and Cons
- Wi-Fi considerations
- If live and you don’t trust the stability of the available Wi-Fi, use a wired connection if possible
- What platform to use
- What do you currently use?
- How technical are your people?
- How to get the word out
- Your website
- Try to give the service/sermon a longer life – post it, send it out, make it available
- What equipment to use
- Think about the picture you are presenting
- Proper camera placement
- Phone/tablet horizontal recording
- Record close to the subject
- Keep the background simple
- Interesting but uncluttered
- Have good lighting
- Have natural lighting if possible
- Not overhead
- 2 light sources in front
- No backlighting
- Make sure to see what the shot looks like before recording
- Have quality sound
- If possible, use an external microphone
- Consider background noises, echoes, reverb
- Listen to the sound before recording it “for real”
- Have the speaker talk louder than normal
- Improve your presentation
- Don’t fidget
- Directly address the camera
- Rule of Thirds
- If recording a video – EDIT IT!
- Remove dead air, pauses, mistakes, and unnecessary bits
- Simple editing of a video is easy
- Software recommendations include Camtasia, iMovie, Corel Video Studio, Nero Video, Adobe Premiere
- What other virtual ways can you deliver what the Sunday service would accomplish?
- Prayers and concerns
- Financial support – online giving, auto bank deductions
- Christian education
- Coffee hour
- What other ways can you do the work of the church virtually?
- Spiritual support
- Pastoral care
- Communication of news, events, information, and comfort
- Interpersonal connections
- Zoom (40 minutes, 100 participants)
- Facebook Live
- Private Facebook Group
- Google Chat
- churchstreaming.tv (serious setup and costly but currently offering 90 days free)
Recording Quality Video via Phone
Our FACT 2015 study showed that 31% of congregations use online giving and if the congregation uses it at all, giving is increased by an average $114 per person! If online giving is emphasized by the congregation a lot, per capita giving increases by an average of $300 person!
- 10 Ideas for Church Financial Leaders Amid the COVID-19 Crisis (UMC Discipleship Ministries)
- AgileGiving (Agile Technology)
- 5 of the Best Church Online Giving Platforms (Outreach Magazine)
Recommended reading: COVID-19 Lockdown: Creating Live-streamed Worship in 3 Days
- Webinar: Coaching for Faith Leaders on Improving Virtual Presence (led by Hartford International University faculty, with apologies for missing the first few minutes of the session)
- How to Take Your Church Virtual (Fast): The Ultimate Guide to Church Live-Streaming During Crisis (information from a company, but a good concise resource)
- Getting Started With Church Online (an hour-long webinar about taking your congregation online with great tips and information)
- 8 Cardinal Rules of Running a Virtual Meeting (helpful tips on running online meetings; note: contrary to what the author recommends, you should encourage participants to mute themselves when not talking)
- Coronavirus and the Church (a nice collection of resources, link and information from the UCC)
- Resources for Christian Leaders During the Coronavirus Pandemic (a good collection of resources from a Mainline Protestant perspective)
- Spirituality in a Time of Quarantine (from a Catholic perspective with many good ministry tips)
- Coronavirus and the Church (from a conservative Christian perspective but with a number of good resources about using existing online platforms)
Inspirational and Informative Stories
- As COVID-19 Leads to Canceled Religious Gatherings, Faith Leaders Embrace the Digital (a nice summary story about going digital that serves as a reminder you are not alone!)
- Christian Love in a Time of Coronavirus
- Preparing for COVID-19: Add Caring for the Vulnerable to Your Coronavirus Checklist
2015 Faith Communities Today Report on Congregational Technology Use
An analysis of our findings related to congregational technology use from the FACT 2015 study.
Virtually Religious: Technology and Internet Use in American Congregations (2010)
This report, based on the FACT 2010 study, described technology use by religious groups, identified the factors that either aid or hinder its use, and highlighted positive outcomes for the congregation that embraces the use of technology in all its forms.
The report also speculated beyond the Faith Communities Today data to suggest several reasons why all congregations should intentionally develop their technological ministry capabilities, no matter how large or small, technologically adept or unsophisticated.