How to get your church together online – building community in a crisis

This weekend for the first time (all via a conference app). We hosted the Passion for Evangelism conference for 130 women and on Sunday our service at Southampton Lighthouse Church for 80. I’ve been so inspired by the potential of online church that I’ve started writing about my experience.

Some have commented that being online together would never work for their church. For this reason I wanted to write up how we did it.

On Sunday we had around 80 guests. The majority had never used Zoom before, many were over 70. Guests entered the service by the app through their ipad, laptop or phone. Two used a simple number to phone in (no app download needed, yes surely anyone can do that?). We as a team have learnt many lessons. The best experience is on a laptop with no distractions. Yet, we live in unprecedented times and any form of online church is better than nothing.

My pastor has moved to live on the Isle of Wight to care for his elderly parents. He phoned in to the call with a number because he doesn’t have a laptop. He wrote and said this…

“Many thanks Nay, I’m on the IOW, so I listened in on the phone, you were really clear. It was a very good service and a great way to keep in touch”.

If we work on 50-70% of the population getting COVID-19. Then we need to plan for services knowing that at any point 50-70% of the service planning team might also be ill. So we’re going to be extra prepared. Yesterday we ran a service with 7 people; speaker, host, musician, 1 tech host, 3 tech co-hosts. So if we work on the 70% statistic then we need this size team…

If you have a team of 7 then 5 will get COVID 19 at anytime. This leaves you with 2 to run the service online.

If you have a team of 14 then 10 will get COVID 19 at anytime. Then this will leave you with 4 to run the service.

If you have a team of 24 then 15 will get COVID 19 at anytime. This will leave you with 7 to run the service.

So multiply all your teams by 4 inorder to care for your church.

Here are some top team tips for churches starting out using a conference app like Zoom. Get Zoom, if you want any convincing. Then I’ve written here on why we need to build community not just transmit messages.

1. Build a team. We need to be prepared to not rely on one or two people to lead our church now. So for each essential role, have 3-4 people trained up and ready to lead every sunday. That means having; spare speakers, worship leaders, tech hosts. Or being ready to change the type of meeting to a small group Bible study.

2. Have a Tech Zoom Host, this person needs to be in charge. Its a new role, imagine someone who is half way between your visuals team and your MC on the stage. Make the most of all the excellent tutorial videos at Zoom. Or join us here for our next Zoom for churches training session. We’ll have a Q&A panel looking at growing your church in a time of crisis with a focus on; services, worship, small groups and tech.

3. You’ll need a team of co-hosts. Jobs for co-hosts include; visuals, ppt, notices, muting people, spotlighting, welcoming. We had two co-hosts dedicated to be available to phone people who were struggling to get in. This is essential in the early days. This is also a great way to serve the elderly. Its important to work hard and invite those most isolated to join us in a time of unprecedented fear.

4. Welcome team – On arrival at church we have a welcome team. For many it can be quite intimidating to use something like Zoom. Some people like arriving early. So we’ve decided to open the meeting 30 minutes before the service starts at 10.30am. 10-10.30am we assign early arrivals to a small breakout room. Optimal conversation happens in groups of 5, so keep them small. so we’ve redeployed them to become our online welcome team. On arrival into the main room we have technical welcomers (TW). The TW are their to check the audio and visuals of new guests. The Tech host then assigns them into a breakout room. In each breakout room we have a welcome breakout room welcomer.

5. Breakout room welcomers. Their job is to arrive early for church (10am) and to sit in a breakout room and chat. They are there to be friendly to anyone that comes into their room.
6. Love your pastor, host, and worship leader well today. “Studies show that up to 70% of communication is non-verbal. For the communicators and those listening we need to rethink how we communicate. We need to rethink how we express gratitude to those leading services.

Love your pastor, host and worship leader well today. With screen fatigue and busier lives than ever before. We need to rethink how we express gratitude to those leading services.

7. Feedback with the team afterwards. Its so hard speaking into a camera that the team need verbal encouragement and praise. You can change your settings to save the entire group chat. Then afterwards copy and paste it. Edit this and send it to the team involved in leading. Encourage feedback during the service, encourage guests to use the chat function. Here is an example from our service yesterday.

From Rich to Everyone:  10:54 AM

You’re doing Amazing!

From Mollie’s iPhone to Everyone:  10:54 AM

well done guys! Praise God

From Bekah to Everyone:  10:54 AM

so encouraging, thank you!!! 🙂

This can then be used for encouragement to the team. It is a great way for the guests to get involved in the service. This can be helpful pointer for anything to improve. Create a WhatsApp group for those leading the service. then you can communicate during the service

How can you make your future services sustainable? Please send your top tips of what your church has done to build communities.

“Love God, be family together & reach the world around us for Jesus”.

Published by Nay Dawson

Hello and thank you for reading my blog. I'm married to Jon and live in Southampton with our two girls. I work with IFES Europe as their Regional Training Co-ordinator, training staff and students across Europe. In 2019 I set up Passion for Evangelism a network of creative, public female speakers. I'm a Trustee for the Cowrie Scholarship Foundation raising essential funds for disadvantaged Black British Students. I'm also a Trustee for Friends International helping welcome International students to the UK. In response to the war in Ukraine I helped set up Ukraine Connect matching refugees and hosts across Europe

One thought on “How to get your church together online – building community in a crisis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: