At the Best Practices in Ministry conference in Phoenix I attended this past February, I went to a breakout session led by TJ Winters of Concordia Lutheran in San Antonio,TX, on How to Do Online Church. It was a fascinating session that helped me to see the value of having your church service streaming online for those who are homebound or home with a sick child or just had a baby or those who live in a different area of the country but like the services at your church.
Winters started the session by putting 1 John 5:13 on the screen:
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
John was writing this letter from a distance, and Winters said this verse declares that we are called to be online church to those at a distance, Winters said, to let them know that they have eternal life in Christ.
There are many ways to do online church, but one way is through Facebook Live. Other avenues for streaming your worship can be found at churchonlineplatform.com, where watchers can chat and make comments in real-time and where the church can customize how they stream their services and put up sermon notes and schedules. People usually find out about a church’s online services through the church’s regular website, through hashtags, through Facebook pages or through word of mouth.
There are a lot of technical components like lighting and cameras and sound systems that can make a difference in the quality of the streaming. Each church must decide for itself how in-depth it wants to go in this area of ministry and how much to invest in its outreach. For instance some churches only live stream the sermons while others stream the entire service, which can be more complex technically speaking.
For me, the impact of online cam down to two stories. One session participant said that her pastor said that if the only home watching the online service was a family whose child had cancer and could not attend because of the child’s fragile immune system, then it was doing its job. The other story came from Winters himself who said one Sunday a highly tattooed woman visited his church and said, “I’m from Virginia, but I have enjoyed your traditional services so much, I had to see for myself.” God is truly touching the lives of many through online church in unique, interesting and surprising ways.