As we wait out the departure of the COVID-19 epidemic, most of us have a slew of emotions that are running through our minds and hearts – especially when we think about the future and when the entire world will come out of this long dark tunnel of despair, anxiety, and uncertainty; as we look at the different countries throughout the world and see the countless high cases of coronavirus and it’s accompanying death toll, one has to ask: what are churches doing to provide hope and consolation during this time – or, better yet, how can churches continue to shepherd their flocks and show that a Higher Power is available to give people hope and consolation during this dark period of life? Since most people worldwide are being quarantined and are forced to stay at home for protection against the virus, we would love to give worship leaders some tips on how they can use the quarantine to the max to reach people worldwide with their messages of hope. You will find various ideas below so that you can shepherd your people and lead all who you reach to tranquility as we await the calming of this storm.
There are various options available to facilitate each worship service:
1). With a free Zoom account, worship leaders can have an interactive service that involves everyone; the free option allows for up to 100 participants and up to 40 minutes per session – with the pro option (usd$ 14.99 per month) allowing up to 24 hours per session and, the business option (usd$ 19.99 per month) allowing up to 300 participants for up to 24 hours per session. various perks apart from those mentioned above include: (1) the opportunity to share laptop and computer screens with all those connected, (2) the opportunity to hear from all those involved, (3) the availability of being able to share ideas, and (4) the privilege of muting microphones and/or shutting off cameras to prevent distractions when necessary.
2). The link for free account sign-ups is found here: https://zoom.us/signup. Joining Zoom meetings is rather easy; participants can use their own web-based platform, they can download the zoom application on their devices, or those who don’t have high-speed internet can call into the meeting via cellular or landline phones. please note, though, that those calling in will only have audio - so worship leaders should keep this in mind when planning their services.
3). if anyone is interested, it is suggested that, after signing up for an account, they take a look at the getting started page – found here: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/categories/200101697?mobile_site=true – for multiple tutorials and guides.
2. Facebook Live (only available from a created Facebook Page)
Facebook Live is a viable option for worship services if leaders would only like to project their services - without including participant interaction; there are different benefits and disadvantages using this method:
1). It can be used as an alternative to Zoom or other platforms that are unfamiliar.
2). It is one familiar option for those who are on Facebook and/or who are familiar with the congregation's page.
1). For those who don’t want to use, who hardly use, or who can’t use Facebook, this could be an inconvenience.
2). Since only the broadcasting person is able to participate, this means that he/she will need to provide the appropriate worship music and everything else that is needed for the service.
Reverend Greg Johnson – from Anne’s-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Lincoln, Massachusetts, United States – has created a video tutorial and guide on using Facebook Live for worship services; it can be checked out at the following link: https://www.stanneslincoln.org/live.
3. Other Streaming Platforms
Other options include but are not limited to: Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Cisco Webex Meetings, and Mevo.
As worship leaders, you have the chance to make the most of your virtual space by getting others involved and also by communicating to them:
1. If using platforms that include options for one-on-one and group interactions, delegate all necessary roles to specific people with experience in those roles – for example, have one person or multiple people lead worship by playing instruments from home in synchronization for the worship music – and, then have one person do the preaching, one person do the praying, etc. Make sure to keep in mind that you'll need people experienced in the tech side of things also to make sure that the platform you're going to use is running smoothly.
2. Make sure you have everything ready to go before starting so there are no hiccups during the service; get your practice in so that you're not stumbling on the day of the service – and, get your entire team to run through the service on the platform that you'll be using at least a day or two before so that you can make sure that everything runs smoothly on the appropriate day.
3. Communicate the details to your congregation before-hand – whether it be via e-mail, via WhatsApp, or phone calls; the goal is to get everyone informed and involved. You may do this multiple times and in multiple ways to ensure that everyone gets the notice. It would be best to do this one week to four days in advance.
4. Make sure that you have the entire service team in communication as well; have everyone meet together in advance multiple times before the service and also using the platform that your service will be on so that your leadership team will become familiar with the platform. It is good to get practice in and to also get your team comfortable.
5. Consider every element that you normally include in a worship service and how you're going to incorporate that in the service; you need to realistically consider your music options, the amount of time your congregation stands and sits, God's greetings, praying, confessions, responsive readings, the Lord’s Feast – or Eucharist, singing, benedictions, etc. How are you going to get each element running smoothly? The possibilities are endless.
6. Always have a back-up plan in case something goes wrong; think about what may or may not go wrong in the service – and, think about how you would take care of that situation. Please keep in mind that the worst that could happen would be that a very important person at a specific time during the service could lose internet connection; always have someone who could take charge at the moment if necessary.