A Guide for Small, Low-Tech Churches to Start Their Online Ministry

Today our guest blogger is Tim Arndt. He is an assistant pastor at Allendale Baptist Church where he is heavily involved in discipleship, outreach, and communications. He is the director of the Michigan Apologetics Network and is a chapter director with Ratio Christi at Grand Valley State University. Anyone who meets Tim easily remembers him as the tallest Filipino they’ve ever met.

Tim Arndt

Tim Arndt

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As the COVID-19 crisis hit America, in a matter of a 48 hours, I had four churches (besides my own) contact me asking for help to livestream their services and move their ministries online.

It was kind of funny having so many churches look to my church as if we were “experts” when just a few years ago we were a low-tech church of 40 people meeting in a funeral home.

By God’s grace, our church kept growing bit by bit and we kept seeking to improve in our use of technology too.

If you’re in a smaller, perhaps “older” church that is having a hard time adjusting to moving your ministries online, I’m writing this article for you.

I understand the challenges you’re experiencing.

The advice I’m giving here assumes you have little to no knowledge of how to utilize these technologies and can be quickly implemented.

(Not to mention, my advice shouldn’t break your budget either).

So grab the most tech-savvy person at your church and see if you can start using some of these tools to get your ministries going during this time of social distancing.

Online Sermons and Classes

If your church has not previously been recording video of sermons and classes, here is the general approach I would recommend:

Record your video in high definition, with good audio, and then upload the recorded video to both YouTube and Facebook.

Let me unpack that for you a bit.

By “high definition” I mean, make sure you are recording your video in at least 1080p or better yet, 4K resolution.

You’ll notice that I recommended recording your sermon and not livestreaming.

Livestreaming can be a lot more complicated than simply recording and you will usually end up with a much lower quality video. There are more reasons I can offer, but if you’re not used to using video, start with recording good video and you can work on livestreaming later.

The nice thing about recording is most people now own phones that can record in HD.

So you don’t need to spend extra money right away purchasing a camera! (of course if you have a nice camera, feel free to use it).

For good audio, you’re going to need a decent microphone.

There are a lot of microphones out there, but I’ll give you 3 examples of mics you can use with an iPhone: The Shure MV88, Blue mics, and this lavalier-style mic.

Here is why I recommend uploading your video to both Facebook AND YouTube.

Chances are your church has a Facebook page with some following. Since you already have an “audience” there, put your sermon right in front of them and then they can easily share it with their friends and family.

The reason it’s good to also upload your video to YouTube is because while over 70% of Americans use Facebook, over 90% use YouTube. For the people in your church who are not yet on Facebook, you can email them a link to your sermon on YouTube.

There’s a lot more that could be said about how to take good video of your sermons and classes, but if you at least pay attention to your lighting and the “rule of thirds”, your video should look great.

Here’s a list of free video editing software you can use.

Online Small Groups & Bible Studies

My church has continued doing small groups and smaller Bible studies on line and people have been really loving it!

To do this, you’re going to want to use some video conferencing software.

My top recommendation is Zoom.

I’d recommend that your church get a pro account or two ($15 per month) and it is really easy to setup and invite people to connect through video.

Other alternatives are Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams.

While these are not as advanced, you could also do video calls through Facebook messenger and Facetime. To be honest, while our church is using Zoom for most things, some people prefer using these other options and that’s okay!

Ultimately the goal is to keep your people connected to God and each other, and video conferencing software can really help with that.

Online Church Fellowship

This is something I think all churches need to start doing:

Utilize Facebook “groups”.

We’ve received an overwhelming amount of feedback from people telling us how thankful they are for our “prayer and encouragement” Facebook group.

In our group we encourage people to ask for prayer requests and share how God has worked in their lives.

Additionally, it’s a great way for the pastors to send encouragement to their people.

While there are probably people in your church who don’t use Facebook, I would suggest that there are just as many (if not more) who don’t really use email.

Our prayer and encouragement group on Facebook has 120 members and 111 of them were active in the group in the last 7 days.

Meanwhile, only 40% of our people open the emails we send them.

I’m not suggesting you replace email with Facebook, but what I am saying is that your people are on Facebook and are more than willing to interact with the church in a group!

Here are 3 pieces of advice to using your Facebook group well.

  1. Make sure it’s a “private” group so that people have to request to join.
  2. Make sure you have a few trustworthy Admins or Moderators who can remove any posts that may be gossip or harmful in any way.
  3. Don’t overwhelm people with information, rather encourage interaction among the church. Ask how you can pray for people, or what they are thankful for. Get a conversation going.

Online Giving

My church took a hit when we had to cancel our services, but we still had an encouraging amount come in through our online giving platform.

I’ve spoken with a few churches this past week who said they have not received anything.

I know some churches have been hesitant to use online giving, but I think in this situation of quarantines and social distancing, utilizing online giving is a way to love your people.

Believe it or not there are a ton of giving platforms out there designed for churches.

If you currently use any sort of church database which stores your members’ contact information, they might have an online giving platform already.

Using your current database as a giving platform conveniently syncs your information automatically.

However, if you are starting from scratch, begin by looking at the fees involved.

Givingfees.com has compiled the pricing of the most popular online giving platforms for churches and you can weigh for yourself which option will be best for your church.

The Church Will Stand

In times like these it is important to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18b: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

These are hard times for churches, but it is in the darkest times that the church will shine brightest.

Utilize the gift of technology to the best of your ability and you can continue to see your church grow in the love and knowledge of Christ.

Use technology for the glory of God, until we can all meet again.

 

 

 

Ministry Technology