How are you planning to spend your day?

Yesterday I left my house by car for the first time in days. The whole experience was surreal. Within the confines of my home, although life is chaotic, its actually pretty safe and normal. Outside everything feels different. I met some amazing people doing some amazing things. But the experience made me realise the importance of looking outside myself. So I thought on a Saturday I could introduce you to a friend of mine each week and the situation they’re in right now. First up is Hayley, a good friend, whose kids go to our school, she is one of the strongest people, I know.

To the wider society…


I am a 33 year old woman with 5 young children under the age of 9. I have progressive liver cancer which I have been fighting for 2 years. Up until the Corona Virus I was a sociable and active young female making the best of a bad situation trying to come to terms with having to eventually say goodbye to my children (although we didn’t know when)

This virus has petrified me. I can not explain to you how frightened I am of becoming ill. Of my children becoming ill. Of anyone in my family becoming ill. I fear that this would wipe me out.
I will die on my own alone, without being able to say goodbye to my babies.

So to all those that think they are being clever by going out to buy bread. DONT. You need milk? THERES MILK AND MORE. You want to bake? Brilliant HAVE A FOOD DELIVERY.

Just stop leaving your houses. Please, I’m genuinely begging you. If you don’t self isolate people like myself will die. You will rob 5 little children of their mother because you wanted a chicken!!

Is that what I’m worth? A bag of salad? A punnet of strawberries.
I’m worth more than that to my babies but you have to help keep me safe. Please. Help me.

Kind Regards,
Hayley Davies-Bateman

Shortly after reading Hayley’s blog I was reminded again about the urgency of the situation, having read from this article. Incase any needs reminding please read here

Hosting a catch up with your children’s friends on Zoom

How to run a class chat on Zoom

Classroom: manage teaching and learning | Google for Education

Friday marks the start of the Easter Holidays and yet it feels anything but a holiday. We’re trying to think how we can mark that something is different. That school is finishing soon, but I’m not sure even where to start.

Whatever your feelings are on home school, Joe Wicks or daily timetables. There has been one thing that we’ve looked forward to most each day. And that’s our daily class chats on Zoom. I used to love pick ups, I work from home and a 98% extrovert. Pick ups were a chance to chat to Mums and Dads. Find out how everyone was doing. Get advice about the latest childhood illness or simply play in the park right next to school.

Nostalgia features high in my mind at the moment. A longing for the world that was. A hope that this is all a bad dream. That one day we’ll wake up and it will all be gone. For now though its real, and we’ve decided to “try” and carry on as normal whatever normal is. last week we started doing virtual pick ups – class Zoom chats.

From Monday to Friday we do a class wide Zoom for my daughter in Year R. Most days 3 or 4 come and it ranges from 10 minutes to 60 minutes. At 4.30pm my eldest daughter has a Year 3 girls chat. Most days 3 to 12 girls come along. This call can last anything up to 90 minutes.

The later calls can be completely hectic. The girls are often so excited and end up talking ten to the dozen. I sometimes listen in and they’re catching up, chatting about their days, changing their screen settings* so that they’re flying in space or walking through grass. If it gets too big I put them in breakout rooms for 10 minutes at a time. I then recreate the groups so they all get a chance to chat with each other*. The other night after everyone left the room, my daughter and her friend ate dinner and played Pictionary with the whiteboard*.

Just to give you some context about me 2 weeks ago I occasionally used Zoom once a month for a work call. My family friends think my new found love for Zoom is hilarious. Since then thanks to self isolation. I’ve hosted daily School catch ups, a day long conference for 130 women, an evening conference for 350 and a church service for 80. I’m no expert, I just love people and community and I believe we’re stronger together.
I’m writing this because I think that any parent out there could host a classroom chat. Its really helped my girls, particularly my eldest one. She loves her friends so much and this is a lifeline for her.

Kids just don’t really get what’s happening do they? They keep asking if swimming lessons are on still or if they can go and see Nanny and Doris the dog. The other night they were talking about the Coronavirus and my eldest asked when it would stop. My youngest replied its up to Boris, he’ll decide. Our kids are isolated, out of routine and confused. As parents we’re isolated, out of routine and confused. et I believe we’re stronger together. Here are some comments from my lovely friends this week…

“Really lovely to hear the girls chatting and laughing together”
“They were so cute together tonight” Jo
“They all need it you did an amazing thing keeping them all connected, obviously thank you to all the people that made Zoom” Zoe
“P was shy but keen to join again tomorrow – I am sure she will find her voice soon”

So here are some top tips for running a class chat on Zoom
1. Download Zoom for free on any device here. If possible use a laptop, but you can access it on all devices
2. With the free package you can host a 40 minute call for free for up to 100 people. Apparently once the meeting finishes you can just click the same link again and you get back to the room
3. Set up a whataspp chat with clear instructions
4. Schedule a call (daily, weekly) and set the function to recurring. Then you don’t need to set a new link each week and saves any confusion.

5. As long as you don’t publish the link on social media (for safeguarding purposes) you don’t need a password or login
6. If there are too many kids in one room, then create breakout rooms

7. Don’t be nervous about using this, my eldest is already more confident and competent than I am

8. If your child is nervous ask the host to put them in a breakout room with a couple of friends for the first one

Here are some fun things we’ve done so far…
1. Pictionary with the white board setting or you could do it with paper
2. Twister – everyone has a twister board in their house but moves at the same time
3. Birthday Disco – alternate between dancing, music and chatting
4. Show and tell – every child brings something to the call to talk about
5. Fancy dress – every child comes dressed up as a character

6. Charades

7. Change the background settings, there are some fun backgrounds in Zoom our favourite is the one where it looks like the child is flying

I’ve got two girls, who are young, but friends of mine have done this with all age kids, with boys and girls. We’d love to hear your stories of ideas for fun things you’ve done with the kids on Zoom. Please send your comments.

Often the calls are total mayhem, but to be honest that sounds like my life anyway. Remember those pickups in the playground, kids racing around on scooters, starving hungry and desperate for a wee. Right now anything is better than nothing. I have really valued chatting with parents each day (albeit broken conversation).
We’re starting this a weekly Year R parents Zoom. Its on a set night each week, anyone can drop in and stay for as long or short as you like, starting 7.30pm. Bring your own drinks, I’ve no idea who will come but we’re definitely stronger together, so I’m giving it a go.

Its important to remember GDPR issues, don’t publish the Zoom link, set passwords as you set up the call. Set up a private event to invite parents too.

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.

Writing in to the Void: the battle for online witness – Guest blog post by Philippa Wilson

Social media and I have a complicated relationship. From the outside, people might say I love it; I’m a frequent poster- of things that make me laugh, of cookies I’ve enjoyed eating, of thoughts I’ve been encouraged by, of reviews of books or TV programmes I’ve watched, of friends I want to “big up”. I also blog fairly regularly and have done for about five years- about depression, about the Rwanda genocide, about being dumped… 

But I also frequently feel quite a strong hatred for social media. Does that sound extreme? It’s definitely me.

Last summer this was brought home to me in an acute way when I got ill, ended up in hospital and posted about it on social media. Not many people got in touch to ask how I was, and when I got better, I had to work through a lot of anger and hurt about this. Granted, I was emotional anyway having gone through the fears and anxieties associated with time spent being in hospital and in pain, and on reflection I can see that there were probably a whole host of reasons why people didn’t get in touch. But I also felt at the time that it showed how consumerist social media is… who cares enough about me to follow me, but not to send a message to check in with me when I’m in hospital? Why are we following people of we don’t engage with their content? It was a mystery to me- and it has made a difference to how I use social media now.

But this tension, between connection and disconnection, exemplifies my battle with social media.

 Social media seems like this incredible opportunity to connect with people, trusting in the Sovereignty of God. I have a deep thirst to communicate and connect, I really want people to hear about Jesus and I am naturally a very open person (quite often people thank me for my bravery, but I don’t feel brave at all- I find NOT being open much harder!).

Rejection is part and parcel of being a writer, so it is good for me to learn resilience. Self-doubt is also a standard experience for a writer, and from what I can tell, a standard experience for being a woman in ministry. Every time I post and get little engagement (quite a lot!), I think- I wasn’t good enough, interesting enough, I’m not loved enough, am I really saved? Is this why I am so ineffective? I have to work hard to put the breaks on those thoughts! Thankfully, I have a few friends who have been unbelievably supportive to me in my writing and who have spurred me on to carry on posting and carry on writing even in my (frustratingly frequent) spells of bitter discouragement.

Similarly, powerlessness is part and parcel of being an evangelist. Every evangelist is utterly dependent on God’s power, and it is good for me to depend on Him to get his word to places that I can’t reach. I also have to remind myself that the spiritual battle is a standard experience for witnesses; of course the devil wants to discourage connection. Whether I am witnessing online or elsewhere, I have to remember that the kingdom of God doesn’t grow in impressive statistics, it grows quietly- but it does grow.

All the same, every time I blog I will share it on Facebook (some response), Instagram (rare response) and Twitter (shouting in to the void). If I believe that what I’ve written is worth hearing, I’ll put it out there, on the off-chance that it reaches someone, somehow. I often remember a story Roger Carswell tells about a man who found part of a Bible verse on a bus ticket and it led him to Christ. And it makes me think, “you never know…” 

Nonetheless, I still struggle with a backlash of disappointment nearly every time. 

So, what’s the way forward?

For me, I still need to work out how to navigate my impulse to connect and encourage with my impulse to withdraw and self protect. I still need to learn to go on finding Jesus to be my fullness and my source, to see my writing as an unconditional gift to the world, an overflow of being complete in Him.  It’s hard, because I often feel like a product (and not a particularly effective one!) and I often feel alone (I think this maybe a standard experience for evangelists too- it’s so much easier when people open doors for you!). I need to stay prayerful that God will open a door for the gospel: 100k shares won’t make any Christians without the Spirit at work. I need to remind myself that every Christian who ever lived has been imperfect, that every effort to witness is fumbling and unworthy of the message, and that every Christian is made fruitful because they’re in Jesus, the true vine. I need to remember that my job is to get the word out there- God’s job is to make it effective. I need to remind myself that God is God of the algorithms too. I regularly pray about my social media use- that I will be creative, thoughtful, effective, self-forgetful (as you can tell, there’s a long way to go on that one!) And that God will reach those who need it.

A friend recently gave me a helpful image too, of a commanding officer. He gives commands, and the soldiers obey. And that’s that really. If Jesus commands me to write, then I need to obey. The results, where it gets to, who is reached are ultimately His job. My job is to be obedient to His call, and that means being humble enough to put stuff out there, even if it’s ignored. 

But I also think that, as I’m writing about it, I may as well talk about ways readers can help.

I have a responsibility to protect myself and not put it all out there if it’s too much, but I also have a responsibility to treat online humans like humans. If someone tweets you and you’re not an actual Rockstar, you can probably acknowledge that somehow. People are for relationship too: it seems weird to me to be interested enough in a person to observe, but not to invest (but I’m aware others think differently on this!). 

Secondly, there are plenty of people who have read my blog and told me they like it, but I am frequently frustrated that this doesn’t translate into online engagement. This isn’t just because I am a feedback junkie (I am!), but because I want people to be reached- and it’s just how the algorithm works- to get a larger audience your current audience needs to engage. And if you want your work physically published, then it helps to have a larger audience. 

It’s perfectly possible plenty of people read it and don’t like it (several publishers have said they won’t publish!), and obviously that’s okay too. I’m really just speaking here to the folks who say they do like it- and I suppose more largely speaking in to how to support women in ministry. Evangelists cannot open all the doors themselves and this is all the more true if you are female! 

This is particularly true if you already have a ministry- people are hesitant to read anything that other Christians don’t deem sound, and that’s fair enough. But if people trust you, you have power to let others in. 

If you support a woman in ministry, or any evangelist- you can show your support in ‘likes’, comments and shares. I realise that we live in a world where ‘likes’ can become addictive, but this isn’t just about me ‘like’ hoarding (I won’t pretend no part of me wants affirmation). If you consider yourself supportive of a blog, you can literally support the algorithm. If you like the writing and have been encouraged by it, consider  ‘liking’ it publicly: I know it exposes you, and makes you seen, but the writer has made themselves vulnerable too…and it’s a way you can be a gospel partner- getting the word out a little further. Seeds are growy things, … but they need to be throwy things first. (By which I mean… get the word out there!) Think of it like inviting someone to an event, except with less awkwardness. If you share it with a comment about why you loved it, then your friends will be more likely to engage. And it may be, because you’ve liked it- or even shared it, your friends will see, and read, and be drawn to Jesus. 

That’s always my prayer, and I suppose that deep conviction that Jesus is always at work to bring people to him, is what keeps me, amid all the frustration, clicking “publish”. 

Jesus is always at work to bring people to him, is what keeps me, amid all the frustration, clicking “publish”.

Philippa Wilson blogs at A Certain Brightness, teaches English to Cardiff teenagers and is working on her debut novel.

Leading worship on Zoom – tips and tricks

Until a week ago, Zoom was something I’d seen ads for on the tube, but hadn’t really registered as something that would be relevant for my life, which is very far away from a corporate business world!

In the last week, though, I’ve attended two day-long conferences, planned and sound-checked a virtual concert, taught 5 music lessons, taken part in 2 Bible studies and had multiple meetings and catch ups, (including a double dinner date!) all on Zoom.

Safe to say, I am very much still a beginner! But I’d love to share some of the tips I’ve picked up on how to use Zoom well for music – this blog post will hopefully give you what you need to be able to use live music as part of virtual church gatherings.

Audio Settings

The most important thing to do is to change the audio settings for the person leading the music. Zoom’s default settings are for speech, so it will automatically get rid of any sound it seems as ‘background’, which includes most musical notes, especially long ones.

Make sure you’re on a computer rather than a tablet/phone to have these settings.

Then find ‘Audio Settings’ (at the bottom right on our computer, but varies), and click on ‘Advanced’.

Make sure that original sound is enabled (the box should be ticked for music), and also disable the first two drop down boxes.

There will then appear the option on your screen to turn off/on the original sound, so if the musician is also leading another part of the gathering where they’re just speaking, they can quickly change the settings back.


The other important thing to remember is for everyone else to be muted (you can get the ‘host’ of the Zoom meeting to do this). Obviously it is sad not to be able to hear everyone else singing with you, but this makes a big difference

  1. Because of the slight delay on the sound between devices and
  2. The audio on Zoom works better when it is not interfered with by audio coming from different sources.

Let’s pray for God to speed the day when we can sing together in large numbers again!

The sound still won’t be perfect, but it will work a lot better! If a church member has a mic that is easy to use as an input into a computer, that might be worth experimenting with.


It’s important that we remain above reproach in regard to respecting copyright law. Thankfully, CCLI have really swiftly responded to the needs of churches this week, and so the following are now available:

Streaming Licence

This is about lyrics. So if you are projecting song lyrics as part of your stream, you should make sure you’ve got one of these.

Limited Online Music Licence

This is about the music. If you are playing a song on your stream, you will need one of these, even if you’re distributing the lyrics elsewhere e.g. by emailing round a pdf.

N.B. if you are hosting a church gathering on Zoom where only church members have access i.e. there is no public access to it, you shouldn’t need these copyright licenses.

Also, all songs older than 70 years are free from copyright!

This link from CCLI has some more detail:

And here’s a helpful article for thinking about music and tech for live streaming a service from Music Ministry:

I hope this helps you continue to praise God together! Any questions, fire them in a comment and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Katie Lewis is a freelance musician living in Cambridge. She’s primarily an oboist, and especially loves playing Bach, but uses a variety of instruments both in music teaching and in church music.

@communityinacrisis recently ran a session on Mutli platform worship during COVID19. We were joined by Worship leaders; Katie Shaw from City Church Sheffield, Phil Moore from Cornerstone Nottingham, Olly Knight from City Church Canterbury, Sanjay Rajo from Lighthouse Church Southampton, Katie Lewis Professional Musician from Cambridge. If you’d like to request the recording, then sign up to receive it here.

Building a team for online church – God is at work in new ways

After leading our first ever Zoom church service I went away feeling happy. We’d gathered 80+ from our church together. We’d cared for those who found it a struggle getting online. We’d scrambled together a team and in the midst of crisis we built community.

We love our diverse International church. We have a high percentage of elderly folk from a South Asian background. We knew that if Zoom was going to work, we needed to work hard. Of course there were funny moments, much laughter and many mistakes. But I never expected the email I received a few hours later.

To put this in context. I’m passionate about raising up female leaders and evangelists. I’ve been praying and working hard for two years on a project called Passion for Evangelism. It’s strange to say, but the Lord is answering prayers in a way I never anticipated. The email I’m referring to was from our dear friend, a respected member of our church.

Dear Nay, as I’ve reflected a little bit on this morning. Two things impressed themselves on me quite strongly: 1. It’s wonderful to see a ‘generational shift’ taking place at church. Which is such good news for the future of Kingdom ministry in the church. The leadership, spirituality and confident assurance of the team, all come from a big shift down in the generations from a year or two ago. This is exciting and deeply encouraging. It poses the question for those of us nearer my generation. How we encourage and support you well as you take the reins more and more.

2. Secondly the majority input (at least in numbers) were of women. I’m certain that if we listen to the prompting of the Spirit. and release the God-given potential and gifting of our women, who are passionate in their love for Jesus, the church will flourish in new ways.”

So as you think about growing your new team to run online services. Be encouraged that the Lord is at work in fresh ways. I’ve written here on how to get your church together online. But I wanted to go into the details of building a team and what that might look like.

Like any service you need a team but in this season you need a bigger team

If we work on 50-70% of the population getting COVID-19 at some point then we need to plan this into our services. Potentially at any point 50-70% of the service planning team could be ill or looking after sick family. It maybe that someone’s work changes last minute or they’re struggling with suffering, anxiety or depression due to the current situation. I’ve lost count of the number of people who say they are now busier than ever before. 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.

On Sunday we ran a service with 7 people; Speaker, Host, Musician, 1 Tech Host and 3 tech Co-Hosts. Working on the 70% statistic…

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 in order to care for your church.

So this week we’re going to be extra prepared and aim to recruit a team of 24. 7 of those will be put on the rota once a month with 17 on standby every week.

The document below shows our new team roles and job descriptions with a sample running order. Have a read of it now, what do you notice that is different?

You’ll see we had a shorter sermon, breakout rooms at two points, short testimonies from a key worker and a mum at home. You’ll need to rethink the structure of the service to adapt to being online. According to recent Zoom training by Intervarsity staff

“Its 10 times easier to tune out during online calls than in person”.

One way to prevent this dynamic is to make the meeting as interactive as possible. Change the learning style/engagement every 15 minutes. Encourage participation through the group chat. Encourage guests to respond visually with the interactive white board. There are some excellent resources here written by Intervarsity staff.

This has implications for the length of sermons, notices and singing. Make use of the breakout room function you’ll need to enable it in your settings. Group conversations work best with 4-5 people, so keep your groups small. There are many interactive functions for group discussion too.

By breaking into small groups, you not only keep attention but you encourage participation. We had a short sermon with small groups afterwards. Most of the groups worked really well. We thought it was important to check how they were going. So one of the co-hosts visited each room for 20 seconds to check everyone was ok.

When you split into small groups you can do this in a few ways. 1. Pre-assigned 2. automatic or 3. manual (all the info is here). For me as a 98% extrovert Its great fun entering a room, you have no idea who is in there! For those who are more introverted I have some more thoughts, but will save these for another post. Please keep the groups small so that everyone can chat. For those who struggle in this setting, you can opt not to join a group.

Zoom has some excellent resources to help you.

1. Online tutorials are here – watch these first

2. FAQ section is here

So do these groups work? Why is actual interaction better than just transmitting a message online? Here is some feedback from friends at church about the breakout rooms.

“Thank you all I really enjoyed that, especially enjoyed the discussion”

Wonderful time and great opportunity to talk to two others I’ve never chatted with before! Thanks guys! Be blessed and positively ‘infectious’ this week”

Great to have an opportunity to reflect on what has been shared in the service. Such a helpful way of engaging with the talk and helps for the message to stick in our heads.”

COVID 19 is changing us as people. Online church is changing our relationships. In this space of change and uncertainty there is an opportunity to build community in the midst of a crisis.

We all now face physical isolation. Yet as believers WE ARE NOT ALONE. We have the Spirit living within us an ever present help in times of trouble. Once again, as at various points in the church’s history, we are a scattered body (1 Peter 1:1). Isolated, yet not alone. Afraid but full of joy. There are so many opportunities we have now to build community and offer hope.

A time of crisis reminds us of our fragility and brings a new awareness of how things can change in a ‘twinkling of an eye’. When it feels like the end of the world we can remember that the church since Pentecost has always lived in the last days. This is the time during which according to the prophet Joel:

“Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17).

So let us continue to meet together in such a way that allows the voices of men and women, young and old to be heard – and all the more as we see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).

We’d love to hear how you have done online church services. How have you encouraged participation, discussion, interaction in your church? Please send us any comments so we can learn from each other.


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”.

Social distancing and the church

Calculate the stats and Imagine the impact on your church If 70% of your church get Covid-19 and 8% or 70-79 years and 14.8% of 80 year olds die?

Friends that run churches, recording services and worship times together, encouraging acts of kindness in the community. Please read this article and some of my thoughts.

According to this paper “Fear not, Sneer” by Mirjam Schilling, Joel Gamble and Nathan Gamble

1. We’re infectious before we know it
“COVID-19 has an incubation period of about 5 days (though up to 14 days). That means that we are unavoidably a week behind in knowing how many people currently are infected, who will soon become sick and contagious. So there will always be a delay between the decision to take action and the situation actually improving.”

2. Between 50-70% of us will get it
“Without interventions, SARS-CoV-2 will keep spreading until about 70 percent of the population has been infected, at which point “herd immunity” begins protecting the other 30 percent. If everyone adheres to public health advice (wash your hands, self-isolate if you’re sick, avoid unnecessary travel and so on), it is possible that less than 50 percent will get infected. Even so, we must prepare ourselves and our communities for the possibility that 70 percent of us will eventually become”

3. The fatality rate is worse for those who are older
“In one study the fatality rate for COVID-19 was shown to be 8.0 percent in those 70 to 79 years and 14.8 percent in those aged 80 years and older”

Friends that run churches and are still planning services in team we need to model this. As teams come together to record services or encourage kindness in the community. We need to ask if we really need to record services together anymore. We need to do this in love by keeping 2m apart at all times, sneezing into our arms, washing our hands, self isolating if ill.

Please take extra care and question whether you really need to meet as a team to deliver your service. Please take extra care when showing acts of kindness, remember Covid-19 can live on surfaces and a single cough can produce 3000 droplets, so offer contact free, sneeze free delivery. Please be a carrier of Good News not of Covid-19.

Lets learn from the younger generation and start growing our community online. I think we could have even deeper and better fellowship through this time.

#Zoommynewbestfriend #strongertogether #flattenthecurve #carriersofgoodnewsnotCovid19

In a crisis people sing

A woman sings from her balcony Italian government continues restrictive movement measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak, in Rome, Italy March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

We’ve seen reports of people singing from balconies and porches across Europe: songs of courage and songs of hope. 

For many of us today we’ll be sad that we can’t meet in person. For years we’ve left our home around 9.45am to arrive at Lighthouse church. On arrival we enjoy a warm embrace and a chance to catch up with old friends. The strangeness started last week when I could no longer hug people on arrival. I felt the need to show my affection some how, so I took hand gel and offered it to anyone I met. 

I’ll miss teaching kids: hearing their stories of the video games they’ve played, their fun facts from the week. I’ll miss singing in a room with 100 people. I’ll miss the plentiful snacks and chat after the service and the offer of prayer and support by friends. 

But today is a new day. We won’t be leaving our house to go to church and this makes me sad. Psalm 121 reminds us that when God’s people on their annual pilgramage faced insecurity and dangers from every side they sang. When they felt vulnerable, fragile and unsafe they did not cover their mouths with fear, instead they sang against danger.

So today I’m joining my church through an online video conferencing facility and we as a family intend to sing in the face of danger. We love our church and we love the way people are warm, hospitable and welcoming. Today we’re working hard to make that happen online. We’re starting the meeting early at 10am because “some” people like to arrive early at church. Half an hour before the meeting starts we’ll open the call. When people enter, we’ll say hi and split them into small breakout. Each room has a designated welcomer assigned in each room. 

To make the meeting run well we’ve got a technical host and a team of co-hosts. We’re going to create small rooms for people to pray and discuss questions. We’re going to offer support for those using the App for the first time. 

Once everyone is in the call, we’re planning on having our service as normal. We’ll sing, hear from God’s Word, pray and listen to testimonies. We’re experimenting with doing discussion groups. Research shows that optimal conversation happens in groups of 5, so after the talk, we’ve got discussions for the groups. We’ll aim to keep them small so they have a feel of intimacy and care. 

One of the things I’ll miss is the after service chat, tea and encouragement. We’re going to leave the Zoom call running after the service. We’ll encourage guests to go and make a cup of tea. Then come back and chat with anyone remaining on the call. If too many join in we’ll assign them to breakout groups again.

There are of course some draw backs and fresh challenges, but we’ll be working on those in the coming weeks.

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. 

Imagine giving a talk to an empty room. Or, imagine speaking to a room of babies, wondering if they’re understanding anything you’ve said. 

Friends that have spoken online recently have described the intensity of the experience. They said how detached the whole experience is for the speaker. So today when I’m listening I’m intending to use the chat function and non verbal functions in Zoom. By using this we can express by our words and icons what my eyes and body are saying. We intend to encourage the clap and high five function. We will also encourage guests to write in the chat.

A few weeks ago two women came up to me after the service I had hosted and said, “thank you for your words; they meant so much to me.” And you know what, it also meant so much to me; I’d chosen to be vulnerable on that day. So today after the service, please consider how you will encourage your pastor, worship leader, host. You can’t do it in person, but you can do it in other ways. Give them a call, a text, a Whatasapp video message. Thank them and encourage them. As the tech host I’ve saved the entire group chat and sent it to the team involved; this is a great way to encourage them!

We can be family together. In fact, if this week is anything to go by there is an open door for better and deeper community than we’ve ever had before. We can choose to go online, choose to be family together and choose to reach the world around us for Jesus.

God is opening a door for a new way of communicating. Doing church online with a conference app can actually change and enhance relationships for the better, it doesn’t just pass or transmit a message it helps create community:

“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”.

“Wonderful time and great opportunity to talk to two others I’ve never chatted with before! Thanks guys! Be blessed and positively ‘infectious’ this week.”

“Thank you for putting this together. I never thought that this could be possible. Awesome!” 

Psalm 121 was a song for rough and uncertain roads like ours. The refrain over and over again in these eight verses was that the Lord can and will keep them. The psalm was written because the long and lonely road to Jerusalem was dangerous — and because the long and often lonely road we face is dangerous too. Your world might have become very vulnerable and fragile over night. The Lord will keep you. So lets sing new songs of grace in this time of trouble.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.