With 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic forces folks to think differently about community gatherings and worship, a good number of people have been exploring different ways to hold Sunday services. Generally speaking, there are two ways to go: livestreaming on Facebook, Youtube, or other services; or using a video meeting service like Zoom.

For those wondering about the difference between livestreaming and Zoom worship (At least according to the world of BRC) here is what I think.

Livestreaming creates an experience where people at home watching a group of folks lead worship. Often done in addition to a live worship service where there can be some interaction, but when you are on the viewer side of the live stream content generally flows one way, from the worship location to the viewed. Many churches are already set up for this which in times like this, makes the transition to online worship much easier than creating a system from scratch.

Zoom worship is about creating a worship experience that uses the space to help determine how worship in designed and lead. Zoom meetings are built to be interactive with a host and attendees, in this case, the worship leader and those who have come to worship.

A few examples are:

  • Sharing screens for prayers, scripture reading, etc.
  • Being able to see faces.
  • The “raise hand” option for prayers of the people.
  • The power of the chatroom.
  • Recording for use later (Like most livestreams)
  • Registration to be able to capture contact information.
  • Ease of set up with a huge financial investment.

While I am partial to Zoom, one is not better than the other, they are simply different. Both are legit worship experiences, one just happens to take place on Zoom 🙂

10 Tips for Creating a Meaningful Zoom Worship Experience:

  • Get a decent microphone and use earbuds. Now some of you are going to go all gadget-crazy, but something like a Blue Snowball USB Mic will do just fine and will last you quite a while.
  • Don’t switch back and forth too often between screensharing and the gallery. Until you get good and comfortable at smoothly sharing and unsharing your screen or application, a good tactic is to have the first half use slides and then show everyone’s faces for the second half.
  • With more people probably wandering around your home, remember that your video is on. These means don’t take your phone to the bathroom and remind family members that clothes are no longer optional. Do not let this happen to you.
  • Designate Tech Deacons to monitor and interact with people in the chatroom. Make sure to provide them with links and other info that they may need to share during the service: donation links, other activities, outside groups, etc.
  • For a variety of reasons, not everyone will be able to get the Zoom app installed and working, so be sure to enable the “Join From Browser” option. It a few clicks deep; you can see how to do that here.
  • Set up an additional phone or laptop so you can join the group as a participant and make sure that people are seeing what you want them to be seeing.
  • Unison prayers or singing is unreliable. Unfortunately with the wide variety of internet speeds out there, he delays that the experience less than pleasant for many of the people on the call. You can do it, but I always choose a 95% smooth service rather than take chances with choppy music or prayers.
  • Share communion. Yes, you may have to wrap your mind around this and risk ecclesiastical jail, but leading people through communion in a virtual space truly does expend what it means to be “at the table”.
    • Have everyone bring elements: something edible and something drinkable.
    • For the first part, have people switch to “Speaker View” so they see you for any prayers and opening words.
    • Before you break the break have people switch back to “Gallery View”
    • As you break the bread, pour the cup, and instruct people to eat, have them do the same with everyone holding their bread and cup in the camera’s view. It’s a holy sight.
  • Prepare people by making sure that they are able to connect. Hold a practice session or two and use the above mention Tech Deacons to help folks get set up.
  • Don’t stop at worship. Done well, folks will begin to see that other gatherings can take place on Zoom: Evening Happy Hour, Midday Lunchroom Conversation, book groups, etc.
  • Practice. And then practice some more.
  • So seriously, practice.

This is a growing list and I will add to it as new things are learned.

If this is intriguing and you would like some support, encouragement, and advice from others who are exploring Zoom worship, I convene a free, weekly Zoom Worship Laboratory where we do just.

We would love to have you join us!

Every Monday through May 2020 at 8:00am PDT.

And if you would like to see what First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto is doing:

And look, our little gathering is getting talked about: