Following Monday’s vote by the Grace Presbytery Council, recommending suspension of all in-person business and in-person worship (heeding COVID-19 protocol) a team of presbytery church communicators is now meeting virtually via Zoom on a regular basis.

Our goal is to share ideas, the victories we are experiencing (hundreds of people worshipping virtually; thousands of views for worship services!) and learn from one another’s mistakes. Other groups now meeting via Zoom include pastors, sessions, Christian educators, youth leaders and even some fellowship groups.

So, what is Zoom? And is it a fit for your church?

Zoom is a video conferencing tool for hosting meetings and gatherings online. It’s free to sign-up and participate in Zoom gatherings, and paid options start at $14.99/month for small teams.

Is it best for worship? or Sunday School gatherings? Zoom can help your church make that determination. Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, First Presbyterian Church, Palo Alto, also has Zoom insights and tutorials available for PCUSA church leaders.

What about Facebook Live? Are congregations using this option? Yes!

Justin Dean, editor at SundayMag, an online magazine for churches and pastors, shared his church’s experience with Facebook Live during a 2019 snowstorm that prevented worshipers from making it to church:

“Our lead pastor went live on Facebook from his home. He setup an iPhone, sat at his desk, and preached his sermon live to the church Facebook page. An email went out as well as social media posts promoting it. It was intimate, fun, and did the trick!

Our worship pastor even went live on Facebook from his home. He setup an iPhone, grabbed his guitar and performed a few songs. It cost nothing, used the equipment they had in their pockets, and kept our church connected.”

But is it really that easy? It can be, but it helps to keep in mind the following tips:

  • What tools does your church already have in place; is there a social media platform your members are already comfortable using? For a lot of churches, that’s Facebook.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of good audio. iPhones shoot great video (as do Android devices) but the sound isn’t always great. Consider this inexpensive option for a plugin microphone. And remember, the closer the mic is to the person speaking, the better.
  • Put a tripod on your list, too. And you’ll need a volunteer to help you film, while viewing the feed and monitoring comments from your viewers.
  • NorthPark Presbyterian Church in Dallas streamed via Facebook Live on Sunday, March 15 from Rev. Nicole Bates’ office. The result was fantastic! (Nicole is pictured above)

What about YouTube? Vimeo? Different or the same?

Several of our congregations already have a dedicated YouTube channel. YouTube is a great no-cost option that works a lot like Facebook Live, but YouTube and Facebook do not play well together, so it’s best to not combine the two by sharing YouTube links to Facebook.

Another option (one that requires membership; starting at $7/month) is Vimeo. Vimeo allows for more privacy options and keeps viewers on your page, enabling them to view multiple offerings/videos without losing the viewer to ads and “suggested content.” Vimeo is an affordable option for pre-recorded offerings.

Licensing Music: What about copyrights?

Whether you choose to live-stream (via Facebook Live! or YouTube) or use a pre-recorded worship service (via YouTube or Vimeo), if it includes music, you have to consider copyright laws.

It’s intricate, it can seem complicated, but if you’re projecting written music during worship, recording hymns, or streaming services that contain music, you need copyright permission to do so. As of March 15, 2020, One License is offering gratis licenses valid through April 15. It’s definitely an offer your congregation should take advantage of and put to use.

One License will cover a great deal of the copyrighted material contained the Presbyterian Church (USA) hymnal Glory to God.

It gets easier!

While all this may seem overwhelming at first, like most new technology, it gets easier each time you use it. Many of our churches will be pleasantly surprised how often their staff and congregation members make use of these new communication tools.

Church leaders, fellowship groups and volunteers will also find good uses for these online options as we move past the COVID-19 emergency.

Remember to stay connected during the week, too.

Our phones also work the “old fashioned” way. Sometimes we forget, but you can use them to call people!

Here’s the good news: our churches are already reaching out via text, email and calls to church members! And those church members are checking on one other and people in their communities who have needs.

Another nice example: St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church in Richardson is hosting “pastoral chats” via their YouTube channel. These are relaxed visits via video, centered on a bible verse or study, and they’re a good way to keep your members updated on changes to worship schedules and online fellowship opportunities.

Have more questions?

If you have specific questions, or would prefer talking through some of these options, please reach out. We would love to hear from you, and we’re happy to share what we, too, as church communicators are learning on-the-fly and from one another!

We look forward to staying connected with you in the coming weeks!

#weareconnected #pcusa