Over the last few weeks, we have entered into a new reality of how we ‘do church’. Buildings, welcome teams, church bulletins and handshakes are temporarily being substituted with alternatives as we embrace the opportunities and challenges of doing church digitally to limit the spread of coronavirus.

My past week has been a hive of activity resourcing the local church and working with other church communications teams, creating resources, learning from each other, and sharing best practice. Our desire has been to discover what God is making available to us all in this time, and through this I have observed five things that I think applies to every church.

Every church can have a digital presence

It’s never been easier to have a digital presence than it is right now. Most churches are already using social media and have a website, but now with the ability to film using our phones and go live to our church with a click of a button, we can speak directly to our community instantly through the internet.

  • Explore live options, such as YouTube, Facebook and Zoom, all of which have both desktop and mobile options, allowing you to use the camera in your computer or phone.
  • Experiment with them, watch some tutorials, and familiarise yourself with your chosen option. 
  • Buy a tripod if you decide to use your phone.
  • You don’t need to do a live broadcast if you’re not comfortable with that format. You can also pre-record something and upload it when you’re happy with the content. 
  • Using social media, emails and your leaders, communicate with your church and share the live stream or pre-recorded messages.

Keep it simple and sustainable 

Do what you can do and do what you know you can do for the next few months. 

  • There’s no need to complicate it. You need to be able to sustain whatever you start doing, so be kind to yourself. 
  • Share the load and invite other leaders in your church to help contribute to what is being said.
  • Remember that something is better than nothing.
  • A full-length sermon might not always be appropriate. Prayerfully engage with the preparation and settle on a format and length that works for you, your personality and your church.

The church is not closed it’s never been more open

The pattern of the church meeting together has been disrupted for the last 2,000 years, whether it’s from persecution or from pestilence, and although the church may have to function differently for a time, the mission of the church remains unchanged; the tools and environments may differ to our usual methods, but we must continue to care for the vulnerable, share the message of Jesus, and be a light on a hill in this ever-changing situation.

Create messages, videos and live streams that are not just for the church; be mindful that they will probably be seen by a friend of someone from your church. Social media is social by its nature, so let’s not presume it will only be seen by our community, otherwise we’re losing the potential it has to serve us.

  • When you’re going live or recording yourself speaking into your phone, know that you are speaking into your church community, but that you might also have visitors’ and people with no faith watching you.
  • Acknowledge this and welcome those people, being careful to make your language accessible to everyone watching.
  • Use this opportunity to share the hope we have in Jesus and give an invitation for people to respond.
  • Invite people to join your digital small groups. Community and connectivity will be craved in this season.
  • Consider starting a digital Alpha. The world has time on their hands and a lack of hope in their hearts. This could be one way that God will use your church in this season.

Embrace the difference between inspiration and imitation

All of us need to be reminded of the difference between inspiration and imitation, especially in this season where it’s never been easier for comparison between what we are capable of doing and what other churches are doing. It is important that we recognise this and stay in our own lane’. You might have seen other churches already live streaming multiple times per week, whilst youth pastors are on Instagram Live every day; this is wonderful but it doesn’t need to be your model. Be inspired by creativity, but don’t feel the need to imitate activity.

For your church:

  • Prioritise authenticity in how you communicate online in this season.
  • Help your church to hear familiar voices and see familiar faces.
  • Start at a level that is sustainable.
  • Let your church know when to expect to see you (day and time) and where to find you (Facebook Live, YouTube, Zoom).
  • Don’t feel that you need to be filmed from within your church building. One home to another is how the world is communicating right now and your church will appreciate seeing you at your kitchen table, as they watch from theirs.
  • Know the difference between times to preach standing up and times to be seated and conversational. Your community needs teaching and they need pastoring. Consider a midweek short thought for the day’ and then a Sunday sermon. These two touching points might be a helpful sustainable rhythm for you.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel

You might be agreeing with the principle behind this but are unsure where to start. In this season, we all need to lean on each other’s learning. There are some great free resources that are available to you as a church leader, which will help you stay connected. These include:

  • Guides on how to live stream and self-film.
  • Equipment lists and user guides.
  • Webinars that talk you through all this and show you practically what to do.
  • Resources for digital ministries.
  • Guides on running digital small groups.
  • Tools to help your church love their neighbours, with ideas, artwork, templates and downloads.

We have made all of this available, free of charge, for every church around the world, which we hope will serve you well. You can find these resources at covid​.churche​shand​book​.co​.uk

What the enemy meant for evil, God is using for good, and He’s using us in this. We are in a new season for the church. For now, gone are our gathered environments, but instead we have scattered servants with digital ministries and our doors are open wider than ever before. Let’s prayerfully engage with these alternative methods and embrace the opportunities.

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