It is no secret that the recent events caused by the COVID-19 outbreak have resulted in some drastic changes in our everyday lives. With these changes comes a shift in how we hold our church services. Now more than ever, churches need to have an online presence. In this guide, we will take you from stage to screen as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
The first thing to consider when taking your church online is which areas or departments of your church need to have online functionality.
The four most likely areas that we will discuss in this guide are:
- Weekend Sermons
- Tithes and Offerings
- Church Ministries
- Church Campus
Let’s jump into topic number 1.
The most important part of your church is delivering God’s message to your congregation. Before you even think about going online with your services, you will need to make sure you have some equipment to do so.
- Perhaps the cheapest and most readily available option would be a phone or tablet. Most modern smartphones capture in HD video, so if your phone is less than four years old, you should be good to record. When recording with a phone, be sure to have the phone sit horizontally. Recording horizontally will allow the video to properly resize at multiple screen sizes since it will be captured at a 16 x 9 ratio.
Side note: be sure to use a tripod regardless of what camera you are using so that the footage does not appear shaky.
- Great sound quality is already essential when you have a typical church service, but it is even more critical when having church online. If you are posting a prerecorded service video, you need to ensure that the sound is excellent, since you will not be able to fix it in real-time if there is an issue. Having an external mic can make a world of difference compared to the internal microphone that comes in a smartphone or camera. Be sure to record for a few seconds and playback to test that the mic is recording and that it is not picking up any unnecessary noise.
- You can have the best camera in the world, but if the lighting is poor, then the video will not look great. Lighting is the thing that ties together all the visuals and makes your product pop. Luckily, good lighting does not have to cost an arm and a leg. Actually, it does not have to cost anything at all. For a $0 budget lighting setup, we recommend facing a big window at the right time of day. The light that comes through the window will help to illuminate the scene and greatly enhance the quality of your video. If you do want to invest in a lighting setup, we highly recommend getting some diffusers. Diffusers are placed in front of the lights to help soften the glow and avoid those harsh effects on the skin caused by lighting.
- Software to edit the videos is not necessary but is incredibly helpful if you do not want to try and be perfect all in one take. If you have an Apple computer like a MacBook or iMac, then you should have iMovie installed on that device. iMovie is a simple video editing software that you can use to add basic transitions, music, and other elements to your video. While you will not be able to produce a completely custom video with iMovie, it is a useful starter tool if you have no experience in video editing.
- One of the most affordable and popular video editing tools is Adobe Premiere Pro. This software is an industry-standard software and is included in Adobe’s Creative Cloud plan, where you pay monthly for their products. With Premiere Pro, you can add custom music, place graphics on top of your video, edit sound volumes, adjust colors, and more. If it is within your budget, we highly recommend giving Adobe Premiere Pro a shot.
There are many different ways to post your video online. Whether you are live streaming, posting a prerecorded video as a live stream, or just posting the video for people to view at their convenience, the internet provides us with seemingly endless ways to reach others. Below are some of the platforms you can use for live streaming and posting videos:
Church Online Platform
- With Church Online Platform, you can live stream or post a prerecorded video as a live stream. Church Online Platform provides you with a custom link that you can place on your website and allows you to add your church branding to the webpage. One of the coolest features of Church Online Platform is the chat system. You can have your staff interact with the viewers throughout the message by prayer, sharing a scripture, or just saying hello. The best part about this platform? It is completely free! Church Online Platform is developed by Life.Church and provided to its users for free.
- Most people today have a Facebook account, so most of your churchgoers will feel comfortable with viewing your service on Facebook. Facebook provides both functionalities of going live or just posting a prerecorded video. Similar to Church Online Platform, Facebook offers the ability to chat with others during a live message. The benefit of Facebook is that when your viewers share the live stream, it goes to all of their friends and provides high levels of exposure for your church.
- Like Facebook, many people use YouTube daily. Whether your church members have a YouTube account or not, they can still watch your live stream or prerecorded video on the YouTube website. YouTube also provides the ability to chat with your viewers.
Tithes and Offerings
One of the most stressful things about transitioning your church online is figuring out a tithes and offerings system if there is not an online option already in place. The good news is that there are many options available. We have listed out our top three online giving systems for your church.
PushPay is one of the more premium money receiving platforms available. Because of its mobile-first design and ease of use for the user, PushPay creates a seamless system where your members will find it easy to give online.
- Website Integration
- Geo-based push notifications
- Text to give feature
- Online support for admins and users
The pricing varies for the size of your church, but based on our research and experience, PushPay is one of the pricier options.
One of the major benefits of using Tithe.ly is that they do not require any contracts and do not enforce cancellation fees. You do not even need a credit card to get started on their basic plan. They offer a variety of other church platforms in addition to online tithing.
- Website Integration
- Text to give feature
- Cash and check gift entry
- Multi-Campus configuration
$0/month + 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction. ACH/Bank: 1% + 30¢. AMEX: 3.5% + 30¢.
EasyTithe offers all the basic features needed to have an online giving platform. You can take advantage of their special offer during COVID-19 of free text and $0/month giving plans. No security fees, no software fees, and no minimums.
- Website integration
- Real-time data monitoring
- Text to give
- Reporting automation
$10 per month + 3% + 39¢ per debit/credit gifts. 1% + 39¢ per ACH gift.
When thinking of having church online, do not just stop at the weekend services. Think about the ministries that make up your church and how they can be transitioned to an online environment. Church ministries are vital for community and can often provide a more intimate setting for your church attendees. One of the first things you can do on your website, if you have not already, is to have each one of your ministries have a dedicated webpage. Ministries having their own web page will allow you to cater the content of that page to the specific target audience. Individual ministry pages would also help with the organizational structure of your website. Depending on the size of your ministries, you may want to consider making individual social media accounts for each one. This will allow you to respond and connect with specific church members individually.
Here are some ideas for some of the more common areas of church ministries.
- Have separate church services for the kids. The Children’s Pastor can preach these, and the content can be specific for the age range of your kids’ ministry. You can post the sermon, live or prerecorded, on your kids’ webpage or social media accounts.
- Develop lesson plans for kids to follow throughout the week. Since kids are staying at home, you can give them things to do Monday-Saturday to keep them learning.
- Provide the parents with resources and include them in the lesson plan. Have the parents help teach their kids the material throughout the week.
- Research and implement fun games you can play together online. One example would be to hide images throughout the kids’ webpage and have the children hunt for these images.
- Similar to kids, youth would benefit from a separate service. While kids’ is more focused on learning, youth should be focused on conversation and engagement.
- Be present where the youth is. Post sermon clips on Tik Tok, record an IGTV, start a Discord chat that is moderated by youth pastors. Be where the youth are!
- Provide weekly discussion materials like daily devotionals and talk about relevant topics.
- Just because you cannot meet in-person does not mean you cannot be together. Hold virtual meetings or events using video conferencing platforms.
- Host live webinars where you go over teaching and provide downloadable materials.
- Post a daily devotional to the ministry webpage and social media accounts.
- Similar to what we just discussed with Women/Men, hold group gatherings on video conferencing platforms.
- Empower your small group leaders with resources and tutorials on how to use video conferencing software.
- Here is a list of tutorials for some of the more popular video conferencing platforms:
- Hold a local drive and drop. Set up bins where your church members can drop off donations of needed items like toilet paper or food that you can give out to others who need them.
- Reach out to your community on social media and see what their needs are and how you can help.
- Partner with local counselors and set them up with video conferencing platforms to help assist those who need it.
The last area we will talk about in this guide encompasses all of the areas of your online church, and that is the online campus. You should think of the things you are doing as a separate campus. The audience, while most might be the same as your physical church, can be different and attract others from around the world. Someone who lives in a different state may never visit one of your physical campuses, but they may become one of the most active members of your online campus.
Here are some key points to include when developing an online campus:
- A digital church lobby – This can look like an independent webpage that helps to act as a way-finder for all your online areas.
- Salvation and prayer forms – Allow people the ability to send in prayer requests via text, email, online form, or, better yet, all of the above. The same thing goes for salvation. If someone has accepted Jesus, then provide them a way to reach you with that information and provide them with resources on the next steps.
- New here and membership forms – Allow the viewers on your website a way to fill out a new here form or become a member of the church.
So you have made it through this whole guide. Are you feeling pumped about church online yet? The possibilities are endless, but the important thing to keep in mind is to have some sort of online presence. Get your message out there and allow the Holy Spirit to do what He does. Your sermons do not have to be completely polished, and your website does not have to be top tier. People will appreciate the fact that you are providing a platform for them to attend church, especially at a time like this.