This is NOT a post about when live worship gatherings should resume, which is a highly debated and increasingly divisive topic. Data, depending on which data one is looking at, can actually inform two very different conclusions. When one looks at data surrounding the spread of the virus, one can conclude that churches should not gather. When one looks at data surrounding the implications of isolation, one can conclude that churches must find safe ways to gather. Meaning there are smart and godly people on all sides of the “when should we gather again” conversation.
But this post is about what a church should do with their online gatherings after the church starts to meet again, whenever the church starts to meet again. Not all of the people in a church will be ready to gather. According to the data, when churches are re-gathering, the majority of the church is still choosing to participate digitally and not physically. Because of this reality, the vast majority of churches are going to continue to offer their worship services online – even those who were not doing so before CoVid. Online worship services will continue to be important, which brings us to a question I am being asked and am asking others. Will you live-stream your physical gathering to those watching online OR will you record the online service at a different time for those who watch online?
Asked another way: Will the music and message be recorded at a different time for the online service or will the online service watch a live broadcast of the physical gathering? Here are the best reasons I have heard for both approaches.
Approach One: Broadcast the physical gathering to those watching online
- Live-streaming from the physical gathering puts attention on the importance of corporate worship.
- Those watching online and those in the physical gathering receive the same experience and thus are included together at the same time.
- Those watching online learn what the physical gathering looks like and will feel more comfortable moving to the physical gathering.
- The team, from worship leaders to production to the teacher, can focus on one gathering instead of having their attention divided.
Approach Two: Record the service for the online audience at a different time.
- The context is different. Recording separately allows you to speak and minister directly to people who are gathered and directly to those who are watching online.
- The quality of the online service can be much higher if it is recorded earlier and time is invested in post-production.
- The majority of the people, at least in this season, are watching online and a distinct service shows the value you are placing on their attention.
- The content, both music and teaching, that you capture in a separate recording can be more easily re-purposed for other uses.
I am encouraged by the intentional thinking of ministry leaders who are landing in different places on the decision about which worship service they capture for those who watch online. Good points on all sides. What both approaches have in common is most important: the commitment to care and spiritually feed those who will gather physically and those who will gather digitally.
Where do I land? I respect the views of both approaches. We are strongly leaning towards approach two, but we are praying and thinking through this decision. We know that we must care deeply for those who will be gathering online, in homes, and those attending smaller neighborhood gatherings. It is not a call I will make alone!