Church Meetings When You Can't Attend
There are many reasons why a member of your church may not be able to attend a Sunday service. How can we still serve them and enable them to stay part of the church family?
It can be hard when someone can’t attend a Sunday service. Maybe they are unwell and don’t want to affect others, maybe they are away for business or on holidays, or maybe they are unable to attend due to poor mobility or other infirmities.
As church leaders, we want to make sure anyone who can’t attend a Sunday service can still benefit from the blessing of preaching from God’s word, intercessory prayer, and sung worship – even if they are not present.
Technology can help greatly in this, but there are other ways to help too.
Whenever God’s people are separated physically, they can still join in prayer. Let us pray for the recovery and health of those who are unwell, and for strength for those who are otherwise not able to attend.
You might consider sharing a prayer list with your church congregation so the whole church can unite in prayer for the same things. This could be done via email or through an app like PrayerMate.
Church Service Planner
A new website has been developed to help share a common service plan online for your church.
Church Service Planner allows you to embed a text introduction or section, videos of music, live stream or sermon videos, and links to websites or online video platforms for small groups.
The website is free to use with no user account needed and could be a helpful way to share an order of service with your church to enable them to find everything in one place easily.
You could live stream the whole service, or maybe a condensed version including just the sermon, news, and prayer.
You only need a smartphone or a laptop to do this and, as long as you can prepare your congregation when it will take place, it can be an effective way of serving the church when they can’t attend.
Facebook and YouTube offer free ways to do this:
- YouTube Live Tutorial (can be viewed by anyone who has a link);
- Facebook Live Tutorial (good for watching together in community, needs a Facebook account to interact).
The CCLI Streaming Licence will cover you to use music performed as part of your service in your live stream and to use the lyrics to the songs too. You must already have a CCLI Church Copyright Licence too.
However, some live-streamed services have still had problems and have been removed mid-service for copyright claims.
The safest option with regards to using music in your live stream is to only use music that is in the Public Domain: a list of these songs are available on CCLI's Song Select.
If you don’t want to stream the entire service, maybe just the sermon, prayer, and church news would be helpful.
If using a webcam or camera phone to record video:
- Use a tripod or have something to hold it steady;
- Have the camera at head height and level facing (not looking up or down at the speaker);
- Ensure you have good lighting (natural light from a window is ideal);
- Try and use sound from an external microphone.
If you want to think more about this, there is a helpful article on the Gospel Coalition website about live streaming.
Sharing Audio or Video
If you don’t want to go live, you could simply share a recorded video or an audio recording in the same way.
If you plan to share a recording of an entire service - including sung worship performed by a member of your church - then your Church Copyright Licence (CCL), which includes a Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) right, will cover you for recording sung worship (as long as they are not for commercial use).
You could use Facebook, WhatsApp, or email to send a link to the church to watch or listen to after the sermon. This could also be done for corporate prayer or church news/updates.
Your church may also have an archive of video or audio sermons available. Maybe this is an opportunity to share a previous sermon series with the congregation.
Sung worship is a key part of Sunday services as we worship God and encourage one another.
It might be helpful as part of your normal ministry to share playlists with your congregation so that they can enjoy and learn the songs that are sung at church whilst they are at home. Maybe you could create a weekly playlist of what was sung that week or something that includes all the songs that are regularly sung.
In the internet age, it is helpful to give thought to how the church community could also manifest in the online world.
This could be by creating a Facebook group for church home groups, ministry groups, or even the entire church. Maybe a WhatsApp group would be appropriate, or another private forum platform.
These online communities enable you to continue the conversations at church throughout the week (maybe you could discuss the sermon topic or share encouragement and prayer requests), and also help those who can't attend physically to still be involved.
If your home groups or ministries are not able to meet physically for any reason, you could consider trying a Google Hangout, Facebook Video Chat, WhatsApp Video Call, Zoom Conferencing, or Skype Video Chat to include the whole community virtually.
Video or Phone Calls
When physical pastoral visits are not possible or are unsuitable, a simple phone call can make all the difference as an antidote to loneliness.
With today’s technology, video calls are ever easier too. Free platforms like WhatsApp, Zoom, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, or Skype enable this to work easily – as long as you have a good internet connection.
Sermon by Telephone
If members of your church don't have internet access or aren't comfortable using the internet to access sermons, you can use a service called Twilio which allows people to call a phone number to listen to a sermon, devotional, or other audio message. No internet required!
Find out more about Twilio, including instructions on how to use it, on the Switch On Network's article.