Online Church Is Moving to Where People Are

July 16, 2020

“We have to think strategically about how we are in ministry,” stated Rev. Theon Johnson, III of Downs Memorial UMC during the CNUMC Wednesday webinar on July 15, 2020. Johnson was one of three guest speakers asked to reflect on using online worship for the long haul in light of continued restrictions due to the pandemic. “We can’t be in ministry with a smart phone generation with rotary phone ministries.”
 
“What does it mean to develop a ‘front porch’ that invites people to experience  a similar level of relationship albeit virtually?” asked Johnson who presented the same question to his church’s ministry team. “How do we reframe our systems that have so relied heavily on our ability to actually touch one another, to replace those, with mechanisms that would allow us to arguably make an even greater touch and even greater impact by moving across multiple digital platforms?”
 
Panelists discussed the opportunities presented to churches during this difficult time. A time, noted Johnson, that is an opportunity to do something different, to be innovative.
 
“We are constantly learning,” said Tarence Sang, Communications Team Lead at Downs Memorial UMC. He asked churches to take more risks and “start playing” with technology and to reach out to those who do it. He encouraged churches to collaborate with other churches.
 
“This is the time frame to take the risk. There is no right or wrong formula out there,” stated Toua Yang, Communication Associate of the California-Nevada Conference. “There is nothing pre-packaged for this … keep doing it until it works for you and for your audience.”
 
To begin a digital ministry, Yang emphasized the need for the right mindset—willing to risk and make mistakes. Next, a church needs a device to use such as a mobile phone, computer, or iPad. Last, churches must decide on a communication platform such as Zoom conferencing, Facebook or YouTube livestreaming.
 
Yang noted that the conference has given all clergy a free Google account that offers access to Google Meet as an alternative to Zoom.
 
All the panelists agreed on the need for good audio equipment first. To improve the audio equipment, churches may consider adding an external microphone. Later, churches may seek to improve their visual equipment by upgrading their webcam or cameras.
 
Proper lighting is an inexpensive way to improve the visual content of media. Tips included wearing light colored clothing, working in a room with white walls or curtains to reflect light and adding a light source in front of the speaker.
 
High speed internet and strong upload bandwidth were discussed as well as different editing software. For more details, watch the webinar at cnumc.org.
 
Next week’s webinar will feature the guest speakers Rev. Motoe Yamada Foor and JB Brayfindley who facilitated the birth of the new online Children’s Worship sponsored by the Los Rios Pentecost Circuit. The webinar is meant for those who regularly watch the series as well as those who have never seen in but are interested in children’s ministry. Participants will meet Mort (in person) and the creator of Susan’s Holy Zoo.