5 models of online church

I’d like to introduce you to five of my friends all who live in my city bar one. 5 friends, 5 very different experiences of online church.

Matthew lives a 3 minute drive from us, he lives in a shared house and is teaching music online. He’s already suffering from screen fatigue. He says this about his church “It was lovely on Sunday to be able to connect with my church family over the internet. We had a service at 10:30 as usual but over Youtube, pre-recorded and edited in advance, followed by virtual coffee break over Zoom. It was reassuring to be able to see church staff and people I knew on the screen leading the various parts, and I enjoyed watching and singing together with my housemate. After the novelty of it wore off, it was fairly easy to focus, although sometimes the picture wasn’t terribly clear and there were a few distractions within the videos. Re-Zoom, I loved that we could be put in random small groups to chat, it meant getting to talk to people we might not normally speak to.” 

Rebecca lives a 6 minutes walk from us. She has a husband and two lively kids. On Sunday her church Livestreamed the service with facebook chat after, they ran their homegroups and youth by Zoom. They appreciated the chance to chat with others on facebook and grateful for the opportunity to relate with others/

John lives a 10 minute drive away away. He’s in his 80’s and pretty isolated. Hestruggles with his hearing and has slow, intermittent internet connection. His church ran Livestreaming only. He enjoyed listening, even though the internet was slow, however he’s feeling the loneliness and separation from his church family already and its only day 7 of Lockdown.

Sasha, lives a 10 minutes drive away from our house. She is in her 60’s has a phone but no laptop. Her church ran their whole service on Zoom. She said this afterwards “Nay I loved the service. I miss my wider family. Thank you so much for bringing us together. Next time I’ll definitely use a laptop to make it a better experience. I’m really looking forward to it already”

Sally lives much further away, she says this. “Lockdown came at a very tricky time for me. I was on the verge of exchanging contracts on a new house in a new area. March 15th I “left” my current church expecting to be moving imminently. And then I wasn’t! As it happened the church that I had ‘left’ decided to not have any form of meeting last Sunday (very sad for the church family as a whole). So I decided to join the zoom meeting of the church I had intended to join when I move! It was the most intense “first Sunday” I have ever had at a church. And yet, I have in the last week. I been able to join; a new life group, been added to a whatsapp group prayer group and have people in the church enquire about me and my move amongst other things! Instead of a Sunday with no fellowship, I met more brothers and sisters got to start being involved in their lives, and them in mine”.

So 5 people – four of which live in one city. The diversity of what church online looks like is enormous.

What we’re trying to advocate for @communityinacrisis is relational sustainable church through the use of conferencing apps.

We are advocating conference apps for church because unlike more commonly used livestreaming options they are sustainable and relational:

 1. Sustainable. You can have a worship leader in one home, a pastor in another, a host in another, all leading the same service, not needing to be in physical contact. And if one gets sick they can be replaced.

 2. Its relational, you actually get to see people, interact with them. 70% of our communication is non-verbal, so this will increase your feeling of connectedness.The resilience and sustainability of a church’s ministry and its ability to overcome isolation and loneliness is something we need to consider in a new way.

If we work on 50-70% of the population getting COVID-19 at some point then we need to factor this into our service planning. Read the blog post here on the size of teams you’ll need due to Coronavirus.

Our hope is that if Christians are well cared for they in turn can care for friends, family and offer hope to a watching world. 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. “So let us care for our church by preparing well. We’ve moved on from churches being run by a few people, we need to reconsider team leadership and grow our teams.” Read more here about expressing gratitude and supporting those that lead online services at this time.

My good friend Emma Wyatt came up with an excellent diagram to explain what we’re talking about. She is going to be writing more about relational church and small groups in another post.

But let me introduce the diagram to you. The blue box is life before and after Coronavirus. The diagram shows you the relationship between technology and offering genuine relationship in this time of crisis.

So how does this apply to us as we think about church in the coming months? Lets see if we can put my five friends onto this diagram.

Matthew and Rebecca’s church is somewhere between the yellow box and red box. They had Live streaming with the smaller groups on Zoom breakout rooms.

John’s church is the yellow box. He appreciated it and it was easy to use. Live Streaming alone though lacks interaction and community which is what we so desperately need.

Sasha’s church is  the red box. The church was fully relational (in a Lockdown sort of way!).

Sally’s church is the green box. No online platform, the doors are closing; no church, no homegroup during the lockdown.

Of course there are many good conference apps out there. Zoom is the one I’m familiar with. We all want to be moving towards the red box. Its worth using this to debrief with your teams after Sunday to ask some of the following questions. But before that, lets just read what some encouragements from our church last sunday after using Zoom for the first time.

Bringing the church service to our home has meant that mum has been able to be ‘at church’ for the first time since before Christmas.  Wonderful.  This is amazing.  Thank you.  Praise God.

Bringing the church service to our home has meant that mum has been able to be ‘at church’ for the first time since before Christmas.  Wonderful.  This is amazing.  Thank you.  Praise God.

Without internet access here, we listened in to the Sunday service by phone (no conference app, just a number). It was a great way to worship and maintain fellowship together and a new experience for Mum and Dad who normally can’t get out to church. As this crisis develops it is important that we keep   these links as a church fellowship over the coming weeks. I’m still praying for everyone each day. God bless”, Clive our Pastor (who has moved to care for his parents who have not internet)      

So here are some questions to think about

1. Where does your church fit on our diagram?

2. How sustainable is your church right now? If 50-70% of the population get COVID 19 – is your church leadership team prepared to take that hit on any given Sunday. A friend hosted her church service last week, this week she’s too sick and won’t be able to even join in online.

3. How relational is your church? Get some feedback from church

4. How could you move towards a High level of Relational opportunity in the coming weeks?

We’d love you to join us at our next Event – How to host churches by Zoom or if you’ve already done that join Beth Butler for Zoom for churches Tech with Beth Butler Event.

Published by Nay Dawson

I'm Nay, I live in Southampton married to the wonderful Jon, we have two girls, a cat and two Guinea pigs

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