From Bakersfield to Crescent City and Sparks, Nevada, United Methodists seeking innovative and creative ideas for worship and congregational development joined together at the CNUMC Wednesday Webinar on August 19.
Panelists Rev. Kathleen McShane, of Los Altos UMC; Rev. Alan Jones, St. Marks Sacramento; Rev. Craig Brown, Executive Director of Congregational Development; and, Rev. Dr. Reginald Nichols, CNUMC Director of Leadership Development led the discussion in Zoom rooms with 65 participants about best practices and how to engage new participants.
“Our ways of how we create community has to shift,” stated McShane. Along with live feed Sunday services, Los Altos UMC has instigated daily videos via email and social media; reading chapter books to children online; and using an online 15 minute-a-day in-depth teaching model for Bible and faith-based studies. “I’ve learned that we are not only holding the church together—we really have to think of this as church now and move from seeing church as what we do in person.”
“We produce a worship video and stream it on Facebook and YouTube. We invite people to chat in the comments,” stated Merrie Bunt of Epworth UMC in Berkeley reflecting on how they encourage connection. She used the Zoom chat box. “A few virtual ushers help moderate the conversations.”
And, to increase participation of new participants, Bunt said the church offers an online connect card to collect contact info called “Next Steps.”
Bunt added, “We try to invite as many different people to contribute videos. We love seeing faces and hearing everyone’s voices. This requires lots of lead time, and a pro drop box account, and a high school senior who earns a stipend for putting all the videos together!”
According to Gloria Soliz of Bethany UMC in San Francisco, worship services are pre-recorded to allow for adding photos, video clips and music. Also, Bethany includes a live Zoom fellowship time for people to connect.
“We’re in a better spot than ever before,” commented Holly Hillman of Burlingame UMC, who listed ways the church has been able to connect with the community and included different people in the worship services. “Zoom encourages face-to-face meetings—I love Zoom!”
St. Mark’s UMC has been meeting with a local AME Zion congregation, collaborating ideas and sharing worship service videos as well as holding regular Zoom meetings together according to Rev. Alan Jones.
“My observation has been that the sharing has been much more intimate and self-disclosing than it would have been if we were meeting in person,” stated Jones. “And I don’t think we would have had the same turn out if we’d been meeting in person. Zoom is a real gift!”
Some other resources included in the webinar included Servant Keeper (SK), software to manage finances online, membership and more; Sermon by Phone, to communicate digitally using phones; and, a GCFA website for analyzing attendance.
SK Notify is connected to Servant Keeper but the company subcontracting the service to Servant Keeper is High Ground Solutions. They have options for people who aren't using Servant Keeper as their database. The website is highgroundsolutions.com.
Sermon by Phone in the August 6 Instant Connection. The full article can be found at https://www.umnews.org/en/news/churches-weigh-options-to-reach-seniors. I think the Sermon by Phone option will suit us for our needs better. Website is sermonbyphone.com.
Also check out this link https://get.tithe.ly/blog/virtual-church-live-streaming
Rev. Craig Brown explained how to count attendance from virtual platforms using a factor of 1.7. and shared this link for more information.
The panel thanked everyone for all the innovative and creative ideas about congregational engagement. If you have any other ideas, please send them to Rev. Reginald T.W. Nichols, Ed.D., Director of Leadership Development, reginaldN@calnevumc.org. Dr. Nichols will curate these resources and add some other resources and send the links to all of the pastors and leaders in the Conference in the next few weeks.
To watch this video and access resources available, visit cnumc.org.