Workshop can help churches enhance online worship experienceChurch Vitality
The pandemic gave many challenges to congregations throughout the Florida Conference, but it also presented an opportunity. As churches throughout the state curtailed in-person worship and offered online services instead, an unexpected thing happened.
They began to reach people far beyond the boundaries of their city, county, state, and even their nation. Even when in-person worship returned with social restrictions, the online audience continued to grow. Many churches report their online services draw significantly more worshipers than in-house.
Online services already attracted a significant number of viewers, but that trend accelerated rapidly after the virus caused havoc throughout the Conference.
"We started measuring online viewing about three years ago because we saw it was here to stay," Conference Director of Church Vitality and Leadership Development Janet Earls said.
"With the onset of COVID-19, it forced almost all churches to have a virtual presence. It's also a major stressor for churches, which is why we're offering tips, help, and hope."
With that in mind, the Conference is offering an online workshop designed to maximize both worship experiences.
This 2.5-hour workshop, Earls said, will delve into strategies for creating powerful transformative worship where no one feels like they're an afterthought.
It will be offered on February 19 from 10 a.m.–12:15 p.m. and February 25 from 6:30-8:45 p.m. A Q&A will follow both sessions.
The cost is $10, and participants can register by following this link.
Jason Moore, a media specialist in Ohio with Midnight Oil Productions, will lead the workshop. For a preview of what to expect, click here.
"We have to learn how to tell our story in a new way. It's not a new story, but we have to tell it in a different way," Moore said. "It's like when you take a book and make it into a film, you expand the audience in a new way, but the film may not be exactly like the book.
"It used to be that people had to come to our building. Now we're taking worship to where the people hang out online. It's kind of leveled the playing field. It doesn't matter if you're a megachurch, a small church, or a big-box church with many bells and whistles. What you do in front of the camera is more important than the camera itself."
Either way, the challenges are the same.
First, create a service that speaks to online viewers without sacrificing vital elements of in-person worship. And the next is to present it online compellingly and appealingly.
That requires pastors to adjust.
"Some of us went about worship as we have always done and just put a camera in the back of the room and turn it on," Moore said. "You don't need a lot of fancy cameras, but speakers need to be closer to the camera so viewers can see expressions. See the passion worship leaders have, and pastors have when they preach.
"And I believe we have the chance to move from monologue to dialogue. In traditional worship, one person would get up and deliver a monologue, and people would listen. But online, we can ask a question like, 'Who is Jesus?' People can react in chat. Worship becomes interactive."
It's a lot to think about.
"We have to reimagine worship. We have to be mindful that you have a captive audience in-person, but online, you don't. Online, if things don't connect or make sense, all you have to do is close the window and scroll down to the next thing," Moore said.
"What they're finding is after 40 minutes, people won't watch. The people you know will watch, but you're trying to reach an online audience. We have to think about many things differently, and length is one of them. You need to leave them wanting more."
The reward can be significant. The message of Jesus can reach a wider audience.
"While authenticity is more important than being slick, it's important to be prepared. You have to put in the work. In the same way, you have to rehearse your sermon and music; you have to be prepared. Talk through their plan, walk through their plan, and then finally pray through their plan. The Holy Spirit is their most important team member," Moore said.
"Remember what I said about the book and the movie. If we learn to tell our story online and tell our story in a compelling way, people may read the book."
Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for flumc.org.
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