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The Virtual Church Is The New Normal! Challenges and Opportunities

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

By Garry M. Spotts, M.Div.,

In the most challenging times, we must always turn to the Word of God for insight, inspiration, wisdom, and courage to shoulder up to the opportunities that present as obstacles. The word of God says this,

15 Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge. Proverbs 18:15 (New Living Translation)

The church, along with every citizen of the world, is facing down a crisis that endangers us on more that one side. Albert Einstein once famously said,

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

Einstein suggests that we are the source and the solution to most of our problems.

We must seek out new ideas, rethink existing approaches, and revisit forgotten ideas. We must use unique strategies because we are living in a different day, with a new reality, and as many say, we are learning to live with a “new normal.”

By all accounts, we have not seen the worst of the crisis, and by default, we have not seen the end of the evolving alternate reality.

Churches are turning to the internet to create and maintain a sense of community. They are working to retain the fellowship that could be lost if churches don’t meet in communal events such as worship services.

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash
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Using the internet is an excellent idea. It offers many options for churches and their members who will use their website or app to connect to the church and the pastor.

One of the challenges churches face is the absence of an online portal such as a website or an app.It is impossible to use what you don’t have. Churches have turned to Social Media outlets as alternatives to a proprietary Church website or app.

Two challenges that the church is facing

The first challenge is maintaining connectedness to members, and the second is maintaining the steady flow of revenue. We may conclude that one is not possible without the other. Connection creates commitment, which generates revenue.

Below are some options to consider as your church works to sustain relationships and to maintain income for the foreseeable future.

Alternatives to Gathering Church.

Many pastors have opted to stream their worship service via Social Media platforms such as Facebook or YouTube. Some churches already have live streaming relationships with streaming providers and continue to use those. Streaming is a good option for the following reasons,

  1. It displays in near “real-time” and may simulate the experience of sitting in the pew.

  2. Many streaming services save a copy of the live stream for others to view later.

While streaming is an excellent alternative to a traditional worship service, it also poses some challenges.

Internet traffic and capacity

Streaming may result in network lag. Network lag in streaming means that there may not be enough bandwidth for you to stream smoothly. Your connection may drop, causing your stream to go offline, or you may be unable to stream in high quality.

The increased number of streams could potentially slow down the traffic on the internet resulting in network lag. The person viewing your stream on their device could be as much as 2 minutes behind in your flow. While streaming may appear to be in real-time, there is a delay between the video sent from your camera and the video received by the viewers.

The video contains a large amount of information and consumes a lot of “bandwidth” or space in the lanes on the internet. Picture the following,

Each time you click a link on a website page, you are sending a command over the network to a server. The destination server may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away, yet within a few seconds, the document appears without any fanfare. A pdf document is a compressed file, meaning it is smaller so that it can travel faster across the network.

Video is much larger than a .pdf document. For example, this 25-page graphics-heavy document is 1.3mb opposed to 1 minute of video streaming at 1080p at 30 frames per second (fps) requires 150mb of storage. Streaming video is a useful tool, but it can be challenging without the right equipment and service to support it.

An alternative to live-streaming is to pre-record your Worship or Bible Study. There are real advantages to recording the event, especially since there are no members in the pews. Recording rather than live-streaming provides the church the opportunity to edit the video before it airs. Edit the video to make it a more robust experience with on-screen titles and text in the video.

Once recorded and edited, then the video may be added to a platform such as Facebook, Youtube, or Vimeo. The church may set up a watch party with invitations sent out where those viewing the video may interact with via chat online.

The pre-recorded option enables more planning and adds to the overall production value and user experience. The key to creating an engaging and exciting experience for your members is planning and execution.

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