Meaningful online worship. Some would say that’s an oxymoron. The only meaningful worship is the church gathered. The purpose of this article is not to argue the merits of online worship. But to establish the reasons for online worship and to offer some tips to making the livestream a meaningful worship experience.
A few Sunday’s ago I joked from the pulpit about those who were engaging via the Sunday morning livestream of our worship service. “Shame on you,” I said, “for watching in the 70-degree comfort of your living room!” You see, the temperature in the worship center was a chilly 60 degrees!
The Importance of Worship Livestreaming
The truth is that we are incredibly grateful for the technology that allows us to engage with those who can not worship in person. These days it is a welcome and necessary option. Weather. Covid. Out of town. The reasons for not being able to attend in person are varied.
Is online worship the same as in person? Of course not. There is something to be said for being in the room with fellow believers. Lifting our collective voices in praise and prayer. And experiencing the preaching moment with all of the dynamics the room presents. Online worship is not intended to take the place of in-person worship.
But in this ongoing season of Covid and cold weather, I am glad we have online worship. During the month of January, the attendance patterns of the church I serve varied wildly from week to week. In person worship ranged from 71% of total attendance down to 57%. In other words, as many as 43% of our total worship “attendance” came from online participation of those who could not attend on a given Sunday.
The worship livestream is important because it keeps people engaged. It is also a way to reach new people. One pastor reported that 82% of their first-time guests watched an online service before deciding to attend in person. For this reason, it is important to have a quality production. But the conclusion is the same. Online worship can be a vital part of your church’s overall ministry.
Tips for a More Meaningful Online Worship Experience
A few days ago, a pastor-friend shared some tips for those who worship online. I shared these with our people. Maybe they will be helpful to you, as well:
- Get up (if you are able)! Don’t lay in bed and expect to participate meaningfully in worship.
- Get ready! Eat some breakfast. Make a cup of coffee. Get a shower. At the very least, brush your teeth and hair. Change out of your pajamas. OK, this one may be asking too much!
- Gather your family. Meet in the same room together, if possible.
- Get rid of distractions. Turn off ringers. Put away any unnecessary devices. Be intentional about focusing.
- Pray! Ask God to bless you and those who will be leading, teaching, and worshiping online with your church family. Pray that God would speak, that we would listen, and that our response would honor Him.
- Grab a Bible. Whether it is a physical, paper copy or a digital copy, have your bible ready to open and read. Grab a notepad and pen, and be ready to jot down notes and takeaways from the sermon.
- Participate! Just because you are not in the worship center doesn’t mean you should be silent and inactive. Sing, pray, listen, respond, and even give to your church. Most churches that offer a livestream also offer online giving.
- Let your church know you are there, and invite others to join you. Your church leaders could be very discouraged by not meeting in person. Let them know you are there praying, worshiping, and joining in the service by commenting or messaging on the social media platform or website. Share the link to the service on your social media and invite others to worship with you. You would be surprised to know how many people will watch, simply because you personally invited them!
- Respond. If you made a decision or have a prayer need, let your church leaders know. They would be glad to help you and pray for you.
- Celebrate! Take joy in knowing that the Spirit can speak to you and others through the online service. After the service, share what God has done to encourage and challenge you through this time of worship. This will make you more grateful and ready to gather with your church family again soon. One way to share is to post the link to the livestream on social media with a specific comment about something that impacted you from the service.
One final tip. Consider assigning a staff member or a volunteer to be the official online “host.” They can engage with those who worship online through the chat feature, take prayer requests, etc.
Rob Paul is a church revitalization strategist with over three decades of experience serving established Southern Baptist churches in pastoral ministry. He has helped churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to experience revival and revitalization by God’s grace and for His glory. He is currently serving as the senior pastor of Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. To find out more about Rob Paul Ministries and the work of church revitalization, visit Church Revitalization Resources.