Florida Conference helped many small churches bridge the technology gapConference News Missions and Outreach
The pandemic forced many congregations throughout the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church to quickly reinvent themselves. Often, that meant investing in technology to stream live services and improve the lighting and sound in their sanctuaries.
The problem was that many small rural churches didn’t have the finances to buy the necessary equipment. To alleviate that burden, the special Bishop’s offering at Annual Conference was dedicated to providing those churches with money they could use to help with that cost.
The offering netted $27,524.05, and it didn’t take long to see the overall need. The Conference received more than $86,000 in requests for computers, upgraded digital cameras, microphones, monitors, and software. Leaders suspect that's just the tip of what's needed throughout the Conference.
“Churches that may not be as connected to the information that is available may not have known about this opportunity,” Conference Director of Congregational Vitality Janet Earls said. “The need is probably triple.”
While the need remains great, those churches that did receive help say it made a difference for them. For instance, Trinity UMC in Lake City received $5,000 for improved live-stream equipment, including upgraded lights and sounds.
Trinity UMC member Penelope Bellamy is without a teleprompter (left), but with a teleprompter (right), she becomes more engaging to the online viewers.
“We are delighted to receive this grant to expand our reach beyond the walls of the church,” Pastor Pamela Green said. “Although we are a small rural church, this equipment allows us to reach throughout the world to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ.
“We are very grateful to the Conference for enabling us to reach out to a wider audience in need of hearing the gospel of grace and inclusion. While we may not see them in person, we never know where the ripples of our message will go. We just know someone will hear it who needs to hear it.”
Pastor Green said the church streams its services in a nearby prison, where about 400 people regularly participate in online worship.
“This allows the light of Christ to shine into dark places such as the hearts of those who experienced losses of any kind and our brothers and sisters who are incarcerated,” she said. “Without this necessary equipment, our message would remain within our four walls.”
Riverview First UMC Finance Chair Mike Plett said his church ordered a new camera and projector with its $1,000 grant and a new projection screen with money from another source.
“We’ll probably have all that in place in a month or so,” he said. “We’re trying to make it possible for a single person to do our live-streaming and recording, and we want to improve the quality of what people see on the screen.
“We’ve got people that come in from New York and one group that comes in from Miami. We have a time of prayer concerns at the beginning of the service. We use YouTube, so people can enter their information through that platform, and we can relay their prayer requests. One of the people in New York recently had lung surgery, and we prayed for him.”
Although the grant money has been exhausted, the Conference continues its work to provide smaller churches the assistance they need.
Earls launched Worship Warehouse last year to help churches that needed music and other items for their services. She just expanded that site to include a tech swap, a place to buy, sell, or trade technology equipment.
“We’re doing the best we can with what was donated, and it will help those churches who received the funds. It will give them a leg up,” Earls said.
“We also provided recommendations on where to find the funds, fund-raise, and where to buy the equipment. We gave them some excellent resources.”
Wayne O. Little of Little Chapel United Methodist Church in the Santos area of Ocala put a $5,000 grant toward upgrades that included a Dell Desktop Workstation, final cut professional video editing software, a PTZ Optics Camera for live streaming broadcasting, and broadcast and microphone improvements.
“Expressing our faith by helping others is what Little Chapel Media ministry is all about,” he said in a letter of appreciation to the Conference. “Our prayer is to continue to find ways to connect and stay connected with the Santos community and the world.
“The purpose of our ministry is to provide excellence in sound so that the word of God, music, and announcements are heard with clarity and excellence. Our media ministry team is also responsible for all audio recordings. It is our earnest desire to empower the believers to deepen their relationship with God through the power of technology for praise and worship and prepare them to hear the word being taught.”Joe Henderson is the News Content Editor for FLUMC.org
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