As our church members feel isolated, fearful, anxious, and uncertain, they need the truth of God’s Word. This brings us to our first component of the online education framework called “The Community of Inquiry,” which is the need to connect members to content. During this chaotic time, church leaders must help members engage with Bible reading, teaching, preaching, and thinking. Thankfully, in our technological age, there are plenty of ways to fulfill this task:
Livestream Service: Of course, live streaming your service (or at least the sermon), is the most obvious way to keep content coming to your members through your various social media platforms. Many members are already familiar with engaging with content in this medium, so it is a natural transition.1
Prerecorded Service: If you aren’t up for all the tech juggling while also trying to preach your heart out to a camera, a pre-recorded sermon may provide a bit more comfort for you. You can try and try again, edit, stop and start as you fine-tune the content to deliver quality to your people. Bonus if you can also prerecord your announcements and even songs (given you have proper licensing).
Podcast: Perhaps your church simply does not have all the video equipment needed to do either option above. A very simple way forward could be recording the audio and delivering it as a podcast format for your members. The drawback of this is that they don’t see your visual cues, but it’s a solid choice.
Manuscript: That sounds pretty ancient to some, but a good old fashion manuscript may be the ideal solution for those members who are not tech-savvy and won’t be tech-savvy by the end of this pandemic. You can email (if they have it), post it to the website (again, maybe a stretch), or simply mail it to them earlier in the week so they have it by the weekend. Include a bulletin, a copy of a hymn, and even a handwritten note for an added touch.
In addition to delivering your content from the weekly service, you may also consider some other ways to get your members to engage with content. Here are some possibilities:
Virtual Bible Study: Using a video conference platform (like Zoom), a live stream, or simply even a Facebook group, you can encourage members to continue to work through their small group curriculum together.
Bible Reading Devotion: You can equip your members to stay in the Word daily by texting them (or using whatever communication methods that work for them) the reading for the day and one or two devotional thoughts that might encourage them.
Other Resources: Through your various communication channels, you can also share articles, blogs, other sermons, stories, and prayer requests so your members are engaged with supplemental content throughout the week.
There are a lot of ways to get content to your members, so don’t get overwhelmed. Know your people and the ways that they prefer to engage with technology (or not). Just because another church is doing a live stream doesn’t mean you have to do it in the same way. Give your people content in the way that they need it and will use it, but don’t stop there. Our next two blog posts will address how to help members to engage with leaders and with one another as they build a community from a distance.
1 For livestream advice, take a look at this resource: Phil Thompson, “How to Live Stream Your Church Service: A Practical Guide.” The Gospel Coalition, March 12, 2020. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/livestream-church-service-practical-guide/
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