Online Church Services are a growing phenomenon. An estimated 5,000 churches are doing services online regularly, and necessary for the church to achieve the maximum potential in today's culture. If you haven't started an online church, check out these five questions you should ask before starting a church online.
Those of you in the midst of the It's very easy, though, to put the Online Services on cruise control. So much effort goes into producing the church service in the physical worship center each week that one can easily forget about those people watching online and how they will experience the service virtually. To that end I give you seven things you can do NOW to improve the Online Church Experience.
1) Don't forget about the online audience. - Let's be honest. The majority of our church services are designed for people who sit in the physical pews (or chairs) housed within the worship center. It's easy to get caught up in the rush of last minute changes and just worry about people in the building. Don't get caught up in the last minute struggle! Try this: assign one person on the creative/service planning teams and make their #1 priority the online service. This person now becomes the online service champion, questioning decisions in context of the online experience. Ultimately, the more attention spent on the online experience, the better that experience becomes.
2) Camera aesthetics are everything. - What are your cameras capturing in service? Are the images designed for people in the worship center. Or, is it designed to engage people online? In an online audience, the more you can show audience the more the online audience feels part of a movement. Showing audience can be tricky. Don't go 80's TV Evangelist style... but silhouettes of audience worshipping is powerful, as is silhouettes of people engaged during teaching moments. Consider more cuts quicker. Try camera pans, pushes or pulls. Ultimately, ask this question: is an outsider to the church going to be drawn in visually by what they're seeing in the video frame? Before the audience will give your audible message credibility, they will judge you visually.
3) Listen to your musical mix in multiple ways. - Mixing audio for an online environment is very difficult to do well. Some churches will take the board mix, essentially whatever audio is heard in the worship center is also heard online. Some churches have a separate sound board just for online service and someone mixes that service simultaneously. Whatever the process is, evaluate the mix often. Listen using cheap headphones. Listen on an expensive home theater speakers. Listen on a car stereo, or on a laptop. Basically however people will experience the mix, listen and evaluate. Flaws in the audio will pop up on the cheaper spectrum of speakers that might not be heard on expensive studio speakers. Realize the audience will be using all sorts of speakers to engage your service audio. Make sure the music is mixed well on all speakers!
4) What does "online" mean to your communicator? - Does he consider online the people who listen in the sermon archive, or people who are on vacation. Does his messages connect with people who live outside the churches circle of influence? Does his posture line up with yours? How does the teacher speak of online? Take the time to align your perspective and his, and if necessary help him create talking points that recognize those watching online.
5) Find more audience. Distribute to more channels. - Where is the online service accessible? If it's just on a web browser on your website domain, that's nice, but there's a huge missed opportunity here: Get the Online Service on Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Periscope, Twitch, etc. The more platforms the service is on, the more opportunity there is to connect with people outside of the church's normal circle of influence.
6) Who is the audience? Speak to them. - Is the audience primarily made up of people who normally attend locally and for one reason or another couldn't make it to church Sunday morning? Or are they people from outside the church's local reach? Are they watching from other cities or countries? If they are outside of your church's local reach, consider doing announcements just for them. Relationally connect with them on video. Record separate hosted announcements to use in the online broadcast. Have an online form that they can use to communicate with the church. Talk about giving opportunities and how the money is supporting ministry online. If the online attender is different than the normal attender at physical campus church. then communicate with them differently.
7) Realize that the online service is the front door to something, but what? - Chances are church services at the physical campuses are a front door to some level of ministry. Guests will attend the service, fall in love with the worship, the teaching, the culture of the church... and then connect the guest to a small group or service opportunity for community. So ask this question: What does the online church service connect first time guests to? What should it connect first time guests to?