What Does Shelter-At-Home Mean for Worship?
Many communities have shelter-at-home orders that severely limits the reasons people can leave their homes. As more stringent restrictions escalate, what does that mean for our livestreaming worship services each week?
Today, churches have gone to a variety of models for livestreaming worship services:
- Continuing the normal one-hour plus service fully-staged as life as normal. All instrumentalists (band) are present as is a vocal team (may be only one or two). Everything pretty much looks the same as before with the same standard order of service.
- Continuing with one-hour plus services, but limiting personnel. The service is still livestreamed from the sanctuary with the normal look of a Sunday morning stage. The service may be led by the pastor and one or two musicians to lead live music. Video elements may be added as well.
- Continuing with one-hour plus services, but prerecording elements of the service. Perhaps only the pastor is present (along with needed technicians) for the livestream. The service is still livestreamed from the sanctuary with the normal look of a Sunday morning stage, but the camera shot is tightened up so viewers aren’t so aware of the emptiness of the stage. The service is led by the pastor and all music and videos are prerecorded and are injected into the livestream at the appropriate times. This allows for minimal human contact and involvement in the production of the service.
- Since life is different now and no one is in the sanctuary but the worship leaders, many churches have adapted to a more casual look–like speaking from my home to your home. The setting is more laid back and does not look like a large, empty sanctuary (which for some adds to the sorrow of separation). The “studio” may be constructed at church or it may be shot from from someone’s home. You might have a keyboard or guitar (or both) and a singer or two to lead in some songs with a feel that we are in our homes singing to God and each other.
- This scenario is like #5 above, but the musicians and pastor may be at two different sites (their homes). Technical issues are more difficult here since you have someone that is taking the two streams and mixing them to send out one stream. It is similar to a newscast where you go to a reporter in another studio. This allows for most extreme social distancing with all parties staying at home. The viewers get that you are experiencing life as they are, and can appreciate the style of the worship. It lends itself even better to modeling family worship at home. To make life easier, you can prerecord the music portions and have them ready to interject into the stream when the pastor goes live (see #3 above).
Many churches began with one of the first two scenarios. As more stringent guidelines are ordered, they may move to #3 to maintain the look of normalcy. For them, it made sense to make the stream look like church as usual. Some began with #4, believing that a more casual setting will identify with their church members in a better way–to more closely emulate worshipping at home.
As shelter-at-home orders continue to come to our communities, we will need to strongly consider what our livestreaming connections with our church will look like. Consider this:
- If you want to continue the look of life as normal with the sanctuary view, and you can prepare this before the restrictions prevent it, pre-record your musicians on a number of songs that can be saved as individual videos. Later, you can be a video jockey of sorts and play any of these selections in the live stream on future Sundays. This would follow scenario #3 above. Only the pastor and technician(s) would have to be present for this.
- I would strongly recommend looking at a more casual setting such as scenarios 4 and 5 since all of your church members are in their homes. #4 can work until you want, need or are required more distancing that #5 would provide. Begin NOW to get all technical issues worked out.
- You can also use videos such as those produced by iSingWorship for self-contained music videos in the stream. The company is offering their products without the need for additional licensing other than a streaming license.
- Online services are perceived to last longer than in-person services. Consider reducing the length of your sermons to 15 minutes. Sing songs one at a time (not two or more in succession) and limit their length to encourage singing from home.
- Now is a great time to give your families the tools they need and encouragement to have great times of family worship–both with your livestream and also the other days of the week. This could be just the time to set up a wonderful long-lasting habit.
Our church hasn’t yet started doing live streams, so we are going with pre-recorded everything and making it available on Sunday morning for streaming anytime. This has a huge positive that we can avoid the additional tech problems of live streaming.
We’ve already taken the pro-active step of recording enough music to last through April, so we won’t need a large number of people to gather at one time.