I have a few pet peeves. Drivers who don’t use their turn signals, cashiers who don’t say please and thank you and pastors who tell me they have online services when in essence all they do is video their existing in person services.
What are the differences between on-site services and on-line services? Too many churches simply video their existing services hoping that it will be sufficient to satisfy an at home audience. That doesn’t work. The on-line service itself must be created specifically to be experienced online, not just a rebroadcast of your in-person service.
Here are some differences between on-line services and on-site services.
On-line services need to be considerably shorter. On site services I have been involved with tend to run between 1 hour-1hour 15 minutes. Typical on-site services may include a welcome, upcoming event announcement, a call to worship, three hymns or praise songs, offertory words, special music, prayer requests followed by a pastoral prayer, scripture reading, a 20-30 sermon, another hymn of invitation and possibly communion, an occasional baby dedication and baptism.
On second thought, a service that has these many elements will probably last closer to an hour and a half. Because attention spans are much shorter online, digital services should last 30-40 minutes max. (You heard right, 30-40minutes max.)
Here is a template to do a streamlined online service:
Welcome: You should continue to do a greeting at the beginning of your on-line service welcoming those who have joined you on-line. Keep it short, letting the viewer know what to expect in the next half hour and praying briefly for God’s presence throughout the service. If you will be having a communion time, alert your viewers to press pause and gather a piece of bread and grape juice.(That’s right, your on-line service is pre-recorded so it can be played at the convenience of the viewer, not when you gather in your church building)
Announcements and prayer requests: During your welcoming words, scroll script at the bottom of the screen as to where viewers can access detailed announcements, leave prayer requests, and comment on the service. Whatever you do with on-line announcements, they are to be completely tailored for online consumption, online engagement, and online attenders.
Videos: If you purchase pre-recorded videos (ala Skit Guys) near the beginning of the service would be a good place to show one.
Worship music or hymns should be reduced to just one number and the lyrics should be projected on the bottom of the screen.
Your message can be basically the same as you preach on Sunday morning only shorter and shot differently. The preaching pastor should be sitting instead of standing and speaking directly into the camera. It is much more intimate as if you are having a conversation with the person watching. A second camera angle to cut to for a short time every minute or two will help to keep your viewer engaged.
In your online service you are not broadcasting to a congregation but rather facilitating the worship of God, the communicating the good news of Jesus Christ and the fellowship of his church, with one person viewing on a screen in their home. Remember with an online service, the goal is not to try and get people to transition to physical attendance, but rather to get one person to fully experience your service and consider it as their church home.
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You’ll learn this and so much more from my experience of tripling a declining congregation and growing a new church plant to over 1200 in weekly attendance.