This week, we’re continuing a series that we began last week about online worship services, focusing on stories from churches that made the transition from in-person to online last year. You can see last week’s post for more information about the equipment you may need for pre-recording your services versus live-streaming. As always, you can check out our recorded webinar for more information. 

Case Study #1: Oakland Hills Community Church

When COVID-19 suddenly forced Oakland Hills Community Church to transition to online services, they began by recording services on an iphone and uploading them to YouTube. They also decided to embed the YouTube links in their website (with WordPress, you can use a specially designed block to do this). 

Each Sunday, they created a webpage with every component of the service embedded in order.

Eventually, they organized each Sunday’s videos in playlists for a more seamless service. This also allowed some church members to watch their Sunday Service from YouTube on their TV. 

For their hymns and worship songs, OHCC decided to find pre-recorded YouTube versions of their favorite songs and add them to the playlist. 

At first, OHCC recorded their services on an iphone in an auditorium, but the sound quality was very poor. Eventually they started using the church recording system and a microphone, and melded the video and sound using iMovie. Their other big problem was that when they recorded a High Definition video for better quality, the enormous upload time was unsustainable. To solve this problem, OHCC compressed the video in iMovie (1080P with low quality was still a good video, but with one third of the upload time). 

When OHCC found out that they would likely be broadcasting their services online for the near future, they decided to invest in some tools to improve their quality. With that in mind, they bought a Canon VIXIA HF R800 to record their videos. They also bought a $300 capture card because they plan to start live streaming their services. OHCC says that pre-recording is good for now, but live streaming is the eventual goal. 

Case Study #2: First Baptist Church Woodstock

Josh Belokonny and his family moved to Woodstock at the beginning of the pandemic so that Josh could work at the 19,000-member First Baptist Church Woodstock as the Lead Director of Production. Josh is also the owner of SparcSound, a small business that does church technology consulting. 

All that is to say, Josh and the team at Woodstock already had most of the skills and technology necessary to transition to entirely online services. In fact, they were already live streaming their services. For the shutdown, they made sure that their live streamed and recorded services were easily available and started brainstorming what else they could do for their church community. They added midweek devotionals and encouragements to their website and Facebook group. 

Josh shared that the downside of live streaming a service is that it is high stress: there is no editing or second takes. That said, Josh is convinced that there is something special about knowing that thousands of church members are all worshiping at the same time, even if they have to be in their separate homes. 

As far as technology and recording advice, Josh said that switching between a couple of cameras is very helpful, so purchasing a switcher might be the most important investment for your church. He recommended a few specific tools and ideas that you can see on our webinar.

Josh also pointed out that churches should think carefully about what is next. Does your church want to continue live streaming or recording the same way, or what should you try or do differently? Make a plan for what’s next, and think about your priorities. Where is this going?

Case Study #3: Lebanon Church of the Brethren

Lebanon Church of the Brethren is a tiny little country church, with an average attendance of about fifty people. Very few of the members had ever been on a video call or knew much about technology.

To start with, the pastor set up a Zoom call and preached from his living room. In order to make the service accessible to all of the members, regardless of technological experience, Lebanon sent out an email with the Zoom link as well as a phone call with instructions on how to call in for those who weren’t able to join from a computer. 

Although the pastor originally preached live, Internet connection issues forced a compromise. He recorded his sermon earlier in the week and played the recording on a live Zoom call on Sunday morning.

The most important thing the church did was to start a time of sharing and fellowship after the main service. One of the church’s deacons called on each person or family and they shared an update on what they had been doing and what they needed over the past week. Members laughed and joked around with each other, and that time of community fellowship kept the church together until they were able to meet in person again months later. 

Lebanon’s solution wasn’t perfect. Internet glitches, poor video and sound quality, and loneliness were common. But through phone calls, letters, extra newsletters, video calls, and creativity, Lebanon made it. After several months of Zoom call services, Lebanon is meeting in person with first Zoom live streaming and then recordings for those who are still unable to attend.

In Conclusion

COVID-19 presents challenges for churches around the globe. We hope that this blogpost and the post from last week are helpful for churches still meeting online. No matter if your church is a tiny country church or a big city mega-church, there are ways for you to stay connected until you can meet again in person. We hope that these blog posts and our webinar will give you some new ideas.

Photo by John Price on Unsplash

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