Most of us can't leave our homes. We're not allowed to visit friends, go to school, even going to park has it's restrictions. A lot has changed, is still changing, and it's not always easy to process why. Especially when you're a kid.
How can we as a church show up?
We need to step away, for a moment, and consider the bigger picture. Our relationship with Jesus, and being a part of the church, isn't intended to squeeze inside an hour on Sunday. So our content and our resources shouldn't either.
Consider taking your content and spreading it throughout the week. You don't have to eliminate your family experience on the weekends, but give families the ideas and resources to integrate their faith throughout the week too.
Just like you’re taking adult services online, pre-elementary and elementary aged children can also have online experiences. You can take pieces of your lessons, and make them digital. Tell a story, sing a song, it doesn't have to be done perfectly.
If you're not a large church with a video team and the ability to mass produce professional online experiences, we have great news. YOU DON'T HAVE TO. You probably know the names of each of the kids in your ministry, you can facetime them (with parents permission of course). You can hold a zoom call for everyone at once, and connect with them as one group. You can write letters back and forth. Kids love snail mail! Don't feel like you have to put all your eggs in the online experience, there are so many ways to continue the purpose of your ministry.
If you do want an online experience without having to make one yourself, the LifeKids team from LifeChurch is creating full-length video services that include interactive elements, pauses, and worship that can be streamed online. (These experiences will be relevant for children from ages two through six grade.)
These videos have no Life.Church branding and use license-free music. CLICK HERE for LifeKids resources.
We need to shift our focus from re-creating the weekend experience (which so much consists of interacting with other same-age kids) and resourcing parents to include their kids.
Consider creating a Facebook group for your kids ministry to post videos, share updates, and ask questions.
One of the biggest ways you can show up with your families is by providing practical and useful resources for parents.
So many parents are trying to balance working from home, being a teacher, and being a parent. It’s really tough.
Step into their world by becoming a trusted source for quality and helpful information. Ask your parents what they need and either find or create resources to help them during this time. Take the time you would spend preparing rooms or creating lessons and funnel that energy toward resourcing parents.
Here are some ideas of things you can do to resource and equip them through the week:
Working remotely is being forced upon millions of people, and it's not all bad.
Many people in your congregation suddenly find themselves working from home, and it will be a big adjustment. In addition, thousands of parents are unsure about how they are supposed to do their job from home while being a parent at the same time. It’s a strange new world for a lot of people.
And you might be facing this challenge yourself.
Many churches are encouraging staff members to work from home. While there are some challenges, it’s a good thing.
Let’s talk about some ways to make it work for you.
There are so many tools and services that make it possible for a lot of people to work from home. Here are some of the most popular tools.
- Slack – This is the #1 work messaging platform and it works great to stay in touch throughout the day.
- Basecamp – This is a project management and communication tool. Many people like the “all in one” nature.
- Microsoft Teams – Chat, file-sharing, video calling, plus the Office Suite built right in.
There are plenty of others: Asana, Trello, Monday.com, and the list goes on and on. The bottom line is there are tools and services to help you manage nearly every aspect of working remotely.
Experiment quickly with a few tools but go ahead and make a decision. A lot of tools will work for you and the sooner you start mastering some, the more effective you will be.
Psychology of Working From Home
The biggest challenges in working from home are not choosing the right tools but developing a new pattern. Many people in your church are struggling through this. You might be facing it, too.
Church Fuel began as a remote company and working from home is in our DNA. Here are some best practices we’ve learned first-hand along the way.
1. Set a schedule.
Even if you don’t have to be “in the office” at 9am, determine a schedule and stick to it. Work/home boundaries can be tough when it’s all the same thing so start with your schedule. Run your morning routine, get dressed, and go to work just like you’re working in an office.
2. Create a work space.
Whether you have a home office or find space for a desk in the corner of a room, create a space that’s dedicated to your work. Not only will this help you reinforce your routine, it will help others in your house understand when you’re at work and when you’re at home.
3. Get support and buy in from others in your home.
If you’re working from home and there are others in the house, you need to help them understand and support your work reality. You need boundaries so you can focus on work and not get distracted with laundry, entertainment or projects. But others need to understand and support your space, too.
4. Stay connected.
One of the toughest things for people leaving a traditional office environment to work from home is the feeling of isolation. This is a very real thing.
Remember, the people in your church who are affected by a change in work location are also struggling to stay connected with people. They are more isolated, which means they need connection to their church community even more.
Examples of Tools for Remote Work
Check out the insanely practical tools that churches use to manage ministry teams remotely.
(What about you? Find and share mode ideas online at covid.church)
Our lives have changed rapidly, and with that so have our methods of living. But it’s not all for naught. We are forging new ground to go be the church outside of our own church walls. To bring the church to people, right where they are.
When the news about COVID-19 began influencing large gatherings, all churches scrambled to figure out what to do when they couldn’t gather in person on Sunday.
That realization quickly extended to other ministries too. We need to consider how we can continue not just our adults services, but also our students. And we need to create new opportunities for students to stay connected.
Students' lives have been significantly affected during this time – nearly every environment in their lives has been disrupted. School, friends, work, and church are all completely different than they were a few weeks ago. If this is tough for you as an adult, it is exponentially more difficult for a teenager.
It’s important to provide a sense of normalcy.
Here’s Kenny Cambpell, co-founder of Stuff You Can Use: A Youth Ministry Community…
To be honest, “adult” church is actually way ahead of kids/student ministry when it comes to live streaming. 99.9% of youth ministries haven’t started live streaming until this week whereas adults have been doing it for years.
Kids/youth ministry online is new. There’s some people like Tj McConahay who have been killing it on social media (TJ specifically is great with TikTok), but those are more like bonus material. Doing kids/youth ministry 100% remote is new territory.
But we’ll be keeping our eyes open and paying attention to what people are doing in the Stuff You Can Use Facebook groups, and sharing all the new ideas that will be popping up in the coming weeks.
Examples of Live Streaming in Student Ministry
Check out the insanely practical ways that churches are using technology for student ministry.
Most of the livestreaming advice that applies to church services will also apply to your student ministry. But there are a few student-specific pointers that will help you serve students better.
Download Josh’s guide here.
Other live streaming options for students include…
- Google Hangouts
- Instagram Live
Staying Connected to Students
If your student ministry has small groups, it’s not a huge jump to shift them online meeting using a tool like Zoom.
It’s one of the more popular video call solutions and has been helping people work remotely for years. But it’s also a great tool for online small groups.
Right now, they are extending their free trial, essentially removing their 40-minute limit. One of the cool features of Zoom is breakout rooms. You could have a large group teaching time and then split students up into their respective small groups.
Relationships, more than programming, have always been the driving force behind student ministry. As great as it is to provide an online service or digital gathering, it might be more important to stay connected throughout the week. This just might be one place where student ministry is ahead of adult ministry.
Brian Lawson shares some great ideas….
- Send students personalized text messages. Let them know that you have not forgotten them and that even when they feel alone, they are never alone.
- Call your students! Yes, call them. It seems weird, and it may be awkward, but give them a good old fashioned phone call.
- Use Google Hangouts, Skype, or Zoom to video call several students at once. Most of these services are free and can have 10+ people on the call. Why not play a game with them? Pull out the classic games and conversation starters like Two Truths and A Lie, Never Have I Ever, or Good Thing, Bad Thing.
GroupMe is a great way to stay connected to students outside of events, even during times when you can gather. Many students already use this for school, sports, or church.
Cameron Pedicord and Jonathan McKee have some great ideas for how you can help students grow spiritually and stay connected during this time.
Here are some good ones:
- Post a short devotional video every day. Make it fun. Give a tour of your house. Show them that you actually have toilet paper.
- Jump on Zoom or some other meeting app and take a small group through one of our free YouTube discussions (yes, these each have small group questions and scripture) or free Music Discussions (yes, Billie Eilish, Bieber, Mercy Me, For King & Country… they all have scripture and small group questions, and they’re all free).
- Challenge your students to read the Bible in a month. Send a group text with comments about what you read.
- Have your musically inclined students spend time writing new worship songs. Post them to YouTube and share them with the group.
- Video Game Tournament. Ask your students… they’ll tell you how.
- Short Story or Book writing competition. Seriously. They have nothing else to do. How much Netflix can one student actually watch?
- Binge watch a Netflix, Disney+, Hulu show and discuss. Did you know we have a Bible discussion posted for every single episode of The Walking Dead and Stranger Things?
- Coffee Time: Everyone brews a cup of coffee at home and hangs out virtually. Video conference and share your secret coffee recipe.
More than ever, students need caring adults to lean in and facilitate connections. Students already live their lives digitally, but this is a new opportunity for the church, and a new opportunity for your ministry.
The church has left the building. We’re no longer able to gather as a family, which makes our connection to each other more difficult and significantly more important.
When it’s not considered safe to gather in person, it’s time to get creative, utilize technology, and be the Church outside of the building in new ways.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.
Live Streaming Best Practices
Live Streaming is one way to broadcast your church services. If your church is starting from scratch with live streaming, we’ve put together the things that you’ll need to know. If you’ve been livestreaming for a while now, you are still probably considering new ways to engage people in the new dynamic of “church at home.”
Although people can’t hug and smile at each other as they would in person, you still want your livestreaming church’s experience to be edifying and engaging.
Live Chat While Live Streaming
Most live streaming services have a chat feature that makes the online service interactive. Have staff or volunteers log into the chat and respond to comments and questions and ask questions to engage the online audience.
Comments and questions to engage a livestream audience:
- Let us know where you’re watching from today!
- What were your biggest takeaways from the sermon?
- Remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and share your notes to encourage someone!
The chat feature is also a wonderful way to make sure that the service is accessible for everyone. For example, one church set up tech support to help senior adults get set up to view the service. Another sent snail mail to every household with instructions on how to watch their service on multiple platforms.
Change Up Service Times.
The same rules don’t apply in the livestreaming world, and your streaming times don’t have to be the same time as your normal church service times. You can choose your livestreaming times based on when your audience is online. Most streaming services have audience insights and for using Facebook live, your page’s Facebook Insights can help you see the most popular online times for your audience.
KEEP IT SIMPLE. Don’t overthink it. Most smartphones can do this.
It’s important to know your congregation and try to anticipate needs and questions. But don’t overthink it—most of this can be done from a smartphone. No matter how simple your setup (even if you’re streaming from an iPhone on your desk), people will appreciate the sharpening and consolation of a sermon and the ability to connect with others.
Getting Started with Live Streaming
Big Principle #1: You don’t have to replicate, you can innovate.
Too many churches are trying to reproduce everything from their in-person gathering online. It doesn’t work and it’s a mistake to try.
At least for most churches.
If you’re new to services online, don’t try to recreate everything. An online service can become something new, something fresh.
You can show pre-produced music. Or you can downplay music and corporate worship.
You can share an informal message from home rather than a polished sermon from a stage.
These things are not better or worse…they are different.
And it’s okay to be different.
Big Principle #2: Start where you are.
It’s easier than ever to show up online, and you don’t need fancy equipment and expensive tools to go live online.
Some good news in a time of widespread distress: there’s no shortage of options for live streaming your church services and continuing to share the real good news about Jesus.
Examples of Live Streaming Options
Check out the insanely practical tools that churches use to live stream.
Church Online Platform – This streaming tool is a free resource from Life.Church that includes features for real-time chat, live prayer, chat moderation, and more.
Facebook Live – Streaming through Facebook Live is a simple option and a great place to start if you’re new to livestreaming. While it does have its drawbacks, such as the difficulty embedding a replay onto your website and the pressure to pay, it's a simple tool that most everyone is already using.
The best way to get started is easy and free, right? These are not only free to and easy for you to use, they’re easy for people to watch as well.
Before you throw up a camera and start live streaming everything that you would normally do in a worship service, there is one major topic to consider first: music.
Christian Copyright Solutions provides many churches with the licenses they need each week. Did you know that each of the following may require a license by law?
- Playing pre-recorded music
- Performing songs live in person
- Projecting or printing song lyrics
- Live Streaming any / all of the above
A lot of churches assume that if they have one of these licenses, everything is covered. This isn't the case. For example, many churches use CCLI to cover their in-person worship music. CCLI also has a live streaming add-on license that you’ll need to check into if you plan on going live, since that’s what we’re talking about here.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what they are along with links to more detailed information and action steps (in their own words, since this is all specific legal language).
The WORSHIPcast Streaming License covers more than 25 million secular and Christian songs across all genres from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, including holiday and patriotic music.
The CCLI Streaming License covers more than 300,000 Christian songs from the CCLI catalog. If your plans are only to stream Christian music, and your church already has a CCL Copyright License, the CCLI streaming license is a good fit. If your church or ministry plans on streaming any music outside the Christian genre, you will need WORSHIPcast.
If you plan on streaming just your worship services, the CCLI streaming license has you covered. For streaming worship services, special events, and guest performances, your church will need the WORSHIPcast license.
Don’t Forget the Lyrics
Need to show lyrics? This feature is only available with the CCLI license and only for the titles in the CCLI catalog. There is no blanket lyric streaming license for secular music available currently. Neither license allows you to stream sound recordings.
A Quiz For Your Specific Needs
CCS has put together a super-helpful quiz and also free guide to help you make any decisions for your church.
Royalty-Free Music Libraries
Additionally and for a limited time, One License is offering a free one month license to help ease the transition period for churches dealing with COVID-19.
Examples of Worship and Music
Check out the insanely practical ways that churches have adjusted their worship for streaming.
- Skip the licenses and create a Spotify playlist that people can play in their own homes before and after the preaching or teaching.
- Skip the fancy and go for a more casual and stripped-down “living room” feel for musical worship. It may also help people feel less self conscious about singing along from home.
- Don’t feel like you have to pretend that things aren’t “business as usual.” Pastors can and maybe should address viewers at home. It may even be a good idea to rework the setting for worship services. Whether more traditional and formal or modern with more stage production, ask yourself if it’s helpful or hurtful to continue a “stage” presence.
- Some churches are incorporating at least one more kid-friendly song in the worship set. Remember that whole families will be worshipping together, maybe for the first time!
- Hunter Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL incorporated more scripture readings, prompting parents to read their Bibles aloud. What a beautiful example for their kids!
- Bobby Smith, a modern worship pastor in the Atlanta area promoted a #HouseChurchJF hashtag, “collected the different posts of people worshipping all around, and compiled them to build a sense of togetherness in the midst of dispersion. Pretty cool to see so many people dig in.”
Ideas and Best Practices
- Use a tool like Typeform to ask a question or two before people actually enter your live stream. It’s a great way to gather information and serve better.
- Don’t forget about the people who show up early. Have something playing in the background before the service officially starts.
- Make “eye contact” with viewers by looking at the camera to build a sense of connection.
- Avoid creative but unnatural camera angles that remind viewers that they are spectators to something happening somewhere else.