Online Options for Churches Responding to COVID-19
As events unfold and we head into spring in B.C, there is a rapidly changing landscape for churches to navigate in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting risk assessments worldwide and in our province. As a Conference Office, we are carefully considering the health and safety of our church leaders and their members, given the wide spectrum of demographics and diversity in size and style of meetings. With this in mind, and with the situation continually evolving, we see that some of our churches are looking at options for moving their meetings to a smaller setting or cancelling them completely. In an effort to continue teaching, discipling, and mentoring through our current challenges, churches may consider engagement with their congregations in an online format.
We have compiled a few tips, links, and suggestions for those churches that are looking for a place to start, or for those that are looking to get creative and to expand their current online presence. This is by no means and exhaustive list and we would welcome feedback or additions through comments or email.
*we will be updating and adjusting this post as we come across new ideas or resources.
- Churches who are considering online service options, should note that worship music sharing online in this format requires a different CCLI License. If you plan to stream or to include worship music portions of your service for online use, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- When planning online service options, captioning your content may make it more accessible. We use a great transcription service that can provide fairly fast transcription for audio and video at a reasonable cost ($10 per hour of content, pay as you go).
- Those members of your churches who are in the highest risk group (such as the elderly) may need assistance with basic needs such as groceries or medication. Consider dedicating time you would have spent on weekend prep or meetings with people, to calling and connecting personally with these individuals or forming teams to connect with them in helpful, low risk ways.
Ideas for Online Engagement
- Record your sermon in whatever video method you have available. Upload the video to a free/paid Vimeo or You Tube account. Embed the video on your website or share the link. Congregations can watch at their leisure on Sunday or through the week.
- Share recorded sermons on various social media platforms.
- Provide a response mechanism (such as a Facebook Group), so that people can engage their thoughts prayers and conversations as part of the online worship experience.
- Send out video or audio of a sermon along with sermon notes, questions, or other interactive content to keep members engaged.
- Dedicate a mobile number where community can text their questions to.
- Pastors or leaders can host Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, or Face Time meetings for live engagement, prayer, or discussion (be aware that not all users will have Google or Facetime)
- Provide online giving options or permission congregants to stop by the church or mail their giving individually.
Helpful Links for Live-Streaming
Getting Off The Ground With Live-Streaming
Here are some basic things a church would need to start live-streaming their sermons:
- Good internet (Good upload speed): What is the minimum you can get away with? Many of the Shaw packages have very small upload bandwidths. 5mb/s UPLOAD bandwidth would be right at the edge of doable, 10 is better.
- Camera with audio feed: Embedding the audio to HDMI.
- Encoder: Something that takes the HDMI Camera feed and converts to it to Data (USB or Network output)
- Streaming platform. Facebook and You Tube both have free platforms that many have tried and struggled with. This is one area that is probably worth paying for a service. For example, a Vimeo Premium account which includes live-streaming.
- Website or somewhere to view streamed video. The paid platforms will allow you to ’embed’ on a website. The free (or cheap) ones do not.
The least costly for the best performance is probably something like this:
- Camera with audio input
- Black Magic ATEM Mini switcher (USB-C output)
- Streaming platform. Vimeo Premium is $95/month when you pay for a year.
- Church website (you will need access to the backend and have a knowledgeable person that can embed it for you)
- If there are churches that for some reason couldn’t make this happen, you could also get a phone tripod and do a Facebook or Instagram live stream right from a phone. The audio wouldn’t be stellar but thinking realistically about churches with minimal resources, this is an option.
*Thank you to Northview Community Church for providing this quick list