CreativityMedia ProductionChristian Media

Church Online: What Have We Learned Over the Past Year?

Pastors, Communication and Media Directors: After a year of church lockdowns and live-streaming worship services, I’d be curious to know the most important thing you’ve learned. Please share your comments below, so our community would benefit from your experience:


Photo by Carlynn Alarid on Unsplash

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  1. You absolutely have to be in the moment.Long gone are days of scheduling a week in advance. You need to be ready to pivot in a moment. What are your listeners feeling today? What are they doing today?

  2. We have learned there needs to be a resurgence of equipping churches (in many case smaller to medium sized churches) in the art of producing and directing a live television production. For the past decades we have relied on post production to fix mixes and bad camera shows. The post-pandemic audience wants relationship and real-time. , I know of many churches that are still focused on pre-taping for Sundays, or doing both a pre-taped service and live Sunday service. Those days are about to end. We need to be a one-take program and be prepared with a media team that can roll with the changes in a live production. This means, preparation to take control of what you can, so you can better ad-lib online with what is spontaneous. And realize most TV creative personnel have no experience in live to air production. Bring in experienced television producers and directors to train and help your team make live services work for your streaming, and let the editors and sound mixers go back to feature production and not post production.

  3. We got caught “with our pants down” Phil. But it was heartening to see how the people who knew media responded in warp speed. It started with a recording on FB where it was like a bad Japanese movie, i.e. mouth moving then words catch up. Then someone donated money to purchase a camera and it jumped 100%. People noticed and commented. Then we bought a camera that mounted on the wall in order to make room in the aisle for the returning people. We now realize we were behind in media but have made a commitment to be better and to continue offering online streaming. For a small church in a small town, I’m proud of the way the people have responded.

  4. The thing I have learnt is how vital it is to have a long term strategy for what you want to do with media and where you want to get to eventually. The challenge I have seen is how easy it is to “sway” around wherever the wind blows and how damaging that can be to take your eye off the long game. YES, we need to be prepared for change and adapt to the circumstances but this is best done once you have a strategy for where you want to go. Then, what you do to best adapt and change to what is happening right now will be in a way that fits with your vision and is right for your long term aims. To use an analogy, a ship on the ocean knows where it is heading – that doesn’t change when the storm comes, it adapts to the current situation and circumstance BUT it keeps focused on where it is heading still. I hope we can help churches and ministries work out a long term strategy so they are best equipped to adapt to current circumstances.

  5. Great question Phil, thanks for asking it. What I’ve learned is that God and His Word is never changing. Even though this world and its circumstances constantly throw us curveballs, our God is the only constant.
    I’ve seen many creative things happen in the past year in some of the smallest churches! In the town I grew up in South Dakota, there are about 150 people living there, the pastor of the Lutheran church setup his iPad and streamed his message on Facebook. My church has planted several churches recently and we encouraged them to buy an iRig and lav mic to record quality audio to their iPhones and post to YouTube or FB Premiere. I just helped a church in Nebraska with their production that involves the pastor living in Florida, recording his message with his laptop and sending it to the church via Google Drive.
    My church took on the task of going to television in June 2020. Phil has helped us realize the amazing reach television can have for the Kingdom. God is doing a work through it and we are excited to see many people come to Christ using TV.

  6. Training and morale boosting has been key. While working remotely during the shutdown, my husband Sam and I stepped in as producers/director to help a church elevate their media team for the live, multi-cam services (5 cam). Going from only live streaming to limited in-person plus streaming, we’ve been able to keep the team’s spirit up by just being present and supportive.

  7. Early into the pandemic, I was looking at certain pastors who got caught behind the eight ball, those with no vision for media. Many of their messages looked like Osama Bin Ladin cave videos.

    I’ve spent the last year non-stop consulting, training, upgrading, etc. with dozens of churches and organizations of all types. What I hope they have learned is that a fine tuned, well trained television and media department is a must! It’s no longer the unwanted, red-headed step child with a bunch of nerds always whining for more money.

    Churches especially are evolving into production companies and TV stations! (You must, or you will become irrelevant, or worse, extinct.) We are working with one church here in So. Cal. that is not only producing the Sunday services, but they are doing another whole series of shows just for teens and youth. We even designed and lit a beautiful 50′ x 50′ green screen stage for that purpose. It was nicer than anything I’ve ever built, including those for many of the major Christian TV Networks.

    A high quality media department in churches and all ministries must now be budgeted for, and made a priority, not just an afterthought. If you can’t stream your service or content, then you don’t exist. And I don’t think it will return to anything like we’ve seen in the past, we are experiencing and creating a “new normal.” It may be years before some are comfortable sitting in a building elbow to elbow with others.

    Also, please don’t just go out and buy a lot of equipment, thinking that will solve the problem, it won’t. You must have a long term strategy and dedicated solution, reaching your target audience with the message God have given your pastor or ministry leader.

    I could literally write a book with all of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to video and television production, and maybe I will some day. Right now, my phone is blowing up, the pastor told me they just bought 10-Blackmagic URSA Mini-Pro cameras, and they don’t know how to “plug them in!” Lord help me…

  8. What I have found interesting is that I can attend my home church in Canada vis FB/Utube Live and I am living in England. It is heartwarming that I feel at I can be with the family of God as I have been in lockdown for many months now. I am truly blessed.

  9. As soon as churches went online in Russia, I saw how marginal and incomprehensible we are for the modern world. True state of the church was hidden behind the walls of church buildings and as soon as the congregations went online I saw how much work we have a had of us.

    “We are a modern church with an ancient message”, this is what we say about ourselves in Moscow and we try so hard to build a local church in the same way as we speak.

    Thanks to the current pandemic situation, many churches have lived one year as three years moving forward faster than before. And I thank God that the circumstances helped me to help pastors in Russia to renew their thinking and change their strategy.

    The main thing I learned.
    A crisis is a favorable opportunity for the growth and development of the church.

  10. I’ve found that it’s important for communicators to be more personal in their wording. Starting a message on social media by saying, “Hi everyone”, is a bad start in my opinion. You are talking to one person watching one device looking to connect with you alone. Make your message personal. Even though you know it will be watched by many, it is being watched by one person at a time.

  11. What I learned (and was quite surprised by) is how many churches viewed online ministry as “temporary” until they were able to resume gathering again in person.

    It doesn’t have to be an either/or.

    We have an opportunity to reach people like never before and need to be doing everything possible to make that happen.

  12. Our home actually watched two to three different Sunday services online. I thought pastors tuned their messages better. They didn’t take as many rabbit trails, they stayed on point better. One thing for online would be to increase better audio of the worship part of the service.

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