Meeting to worship together is a bedrock of many faith traditions. When people can't meet in person, however, it's good to have options that still allow them to participate or keep in touch. Sometimes, in fact, meeting online may even be preferable to traditional services. When the church's leadership is willing to keep an open mind about potential benefits, hosting online services can be a valuable tool for connection and the enhancement of faith.
Slow Spread of Illnesses
Even before the international COVID-19 crisis, churches were notorious for spreading illness. No matter how hard the custodial staff works to keep facilities clean, when people congregate so closely with others, they risk exposure to whatever contagious sickness those around them may be carrying. In order to protect others, people who are sick may have to restrict their behavior so much that they still feel isolated even when surrounded by people. It took a global pandemic for some faith communities to discover what many churches have been practicing for years. Livestreaming platforms make it possible for those who are sick to stay home and get well without having to miss out on the lessons or announcements. Having the opportunity to do so helps them protect others from possible illness.
Offer Options for Members
Attendance may not be a possibility for some members. Those who are homebound often feel isolated from their church family, even if a couple of people call or visit them each week. Those who are stationed out of town or overseas in the military may long for the familiar rituals of home. Young people who go off to college may seek the comfort of services from the church in which they grew up. Online services give people who cannot attend for various reasons the opportunity to worship with everyone else from afar. They can remain connected even when they cannot be physically present.
Reach a Wider Audience
Most churches are concerned about growth. While their main concerns may be reaching out to their communities and providing support for those who want to grow in their faith, increasing membership also has practical advantages. Churches rely heavily on volunteer efforts and financial contributions. The more people they attract, the more resources they have available to them. While many people who are looking for a church home like to visit in person, others prefer to narrow their choices by observing services online first. Offering both types of services increases the likelihood of reaching potential new members, particularly young adults and families with small children. Hosting online services or groups help seekers decide whether a church is the right community for them.
Build a Richer Community
There are always multiple ways to build community. When church leaders take full advantage of their online options, they can enhance the experience for both in-person and remote attendees. Most platforms have the option to receive comments from those who are watching. The person in charge of running the livestream may collect relevant information such as prayer requests, good news reports and other feedback to make sure that it is incorporated into the service. Split-screen capabilities make live cameos from remote speakers or musicians a possibility. Video editing software brings blessings from virtual choirs with members from all over the city or even the world. The church's impact is not confined to the space within its building's four walls; its ability to build community should not be limited, either.
Many sacred texts promise that God is present where followers are gathered together. Technological advances are constantly expanding the boundaries of all the wonderful ways to do so. Churches that offer online options for services get to experience the advantages each new capability brings.