Should Churches Cut Online Services?

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28 Responses

  1. Josh Hamrick says:

    We’ll be keeping it. It has been revolutionary in being able to minister to our people who aren’t able to be with us in person.

  2. Captain Kevin says:

    It has been a blessing to me from even prior to the pandemic. Health issues would sometimes keep me at home on Sundays, and having an online service available meant I didn’t miss out altogether.

  3. Xenia says:

    I have complicated feelings about online services. When the virus first became a big deal, I was happy to watch our cathedral’s services online. For the first few Sundays we tried to make it as sacred an experience as possible, and we lit up some incense and candles, got dressed, and attempted to be sober-minded. But in an Orthodox church, most of the action takes place behind the iconostasis or in the congregation, so we were mostly staring at some nice icons, but after an hour or so our minds wandered. We began to leave off the incense and candles and began to eat breakfast as we watched. We began to play with the dog and knit. It was better not to watch it at all than to be so disrespectful, we decided, so we quit watching. (Our own little parish doesn’t have any electronic equipment at all, not even a microphone or speakers.) So we thought we do some Reader Services here at home, but that didn’t work well for various reasons. So we went back to our parish, was was still open, but then our daughter’s health took a nosedive and we feared giving her Covid so we stayed home again and ate pancakes. No matter what we did we felt guilty, although no one at our parish was trying to make us feel guilty and were really very understanding.

    So now we’re back at church, at we feel much better. It’s not possible to receive the Eucharist with an online church so I guess I’d have to say for us Sacramentalists, online churches don’t cut it. For us, the Eucharist is the main Event.

    For us Sacramentalists, an online service might fill an occasional need (illness, distance issues, etc.) but it should not be normal. (I admit these are abnormal times.)

    All to say, it’s better to go to church in person if it’s possible. It may not be possible for everyone. My fear is that many people will become so comfy watching church at home in their PJs and sipping coffee that they might decide to never return in person.

  4. Tim says:

    We’ve maintained livestreaming, although we encourage people to personally attend if they are healthy. During the brief time during the lockdowns when we were encouraging people to remain home, we suspended communion celebrations. I feel strongly that the Bible teaches that the Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated by the *gathered* church; not via YouTube. (And yes, we hold to a memorial view rather than a sacramental view, but the Biblical point remains valid.) Overall, there are certain things the church does that can only be done corporately. So yes, I believe that the local church should gather in-person. Online “church” is no substitution for corporate worship.

  5. Linn says:

    My church actually grew due to online services and children’s classes. So, I vote “yes.” We have also kept them going for the many in our congregation who are still home-bound due to COVID and their health issues. Our giving was solid and rose all through the pandemic. The streaming is high quality.

  6. We’ve kept our livestream going, but we haven’t gone all-out trying to create a super dynamic video presentation. We use a single camera and superimpose any slides into the video, but that’s it. If people can be with us, we think they should join us. But we know some can’t, so the livestream keeps us (somewhat) connected. In the long run, church isn’t about watching a service. It’s life on life learning and serving together.

    One big change that came out of the pandemic is that we know do communion every week.

  7. Steven says:

    Keep them going but always encourage the benefits of the n-person attendance. The church should use every tool at her disposal to reach out and declare Gods truth.

    Besides, people would just tune in on another Livestream anyway and, to be blunt, if the convenience factor (aka: laziness, etc) was the sole reason someone didn’t attend in person then they they will not be in attendance anyway even if you didn’t have online/Livestream

  8. Randy Davis says:

    Churches have broadcast on TV and radio for decades, how is live streaming any different? We have not been to a live service since June because of my health. I’ve been sick for two months and was recently in the hospital because I had pneumonia, a new and terrible experience. We “attend” Bible study by zoom and watch the worship service by live stream. It provides us with something to hold on to and keeps us connected to our fellow members.

    Certainly it’s better to be there physically, but sometimes times that’s no possible. I remind you that the Apostle Paul was not always in church. But he recounted the experience kept him connected to the body, especially while he was locked away in some dungeon.

  9. Nonnie says:

    I would hope that people who are staying home because of age/health concerns are still receiving pastoral care via phone calls, texts, personal emails, cards, etc.. If churches are concerned about people staying home, then I hope they are reaching out to those folks that are part of their congregation and letting them know they are loved, they are prayed for, they are not forgotten etc.

  10. Steven says:

    Nonnie,

    I sure would like to hope so, but I doubt it (for the most part).

    Tragic

  11. Nonnie says:

    When we lived in the UK, in Anglican parish we attended, upon request, the priest would come to your home and serve you communion and pray with you and for you. When my husband was in hospital the parish priest visited him, without our asking. We were so very blessed by her visit.

  12. bob1 says:

    During covid, our experience has been that the pastor contacts us regularly to check in, see how we’re doing, pray with us, etc.

    So we feel blessed to be receiving regular pastoral care! I’ll be we’re from from being the only ones…

    Blessed to be part of a denomination where the pastors do visit and regularly keep in touch with parishoners, sounds a lot like Nonnie’s experience in the UK.

  13. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    I’ve done online often, actually. It was notoriously something that was feasible in the Mars Hill years, listen to the sermon online. While the bad element to that would seem obvious by now there were good elements. In the Mars Hill dissolution diaspora people who had the skill sets to set up online streaming church services have been able to do so in the last few years. For those with disabilities that preclude driving and in a city that has, well, had a bit of chaos and construction going on, online services have been helpful to me. I would prefer in-person attendance but for a couple of reasons (the dicey aspect of downtown Seattle where my transfer points used to be; light rail work; reduced routes and driver fatigue) online services have been not-ideal but still something. Some family have advised that if I can steer clear of downtown Seattle these days to do so.

  14. Officerhoppy says:

    As on line services and the consumer church cultures more demanding, you’ll hear a huge sucking sound as they demand better audio and visual quality. I was the worship director at my 2000+ member church when the covid crisis hit. We closed doors for a while and did online services taking sound for the online stream from the sound board and used a single camera for the video. It was bad quality akk the way around.

    We brought in two sound reinforcement groups to evaluate or system and make improvements. The cheaper of the two was $300k.

    I’ve been watching a lot of on line services and a lot of the audio issues are sound good because of post production work. The music is recorded before hand, enhanced or sweetened afterwards.

    I’m not a fan of online services because it caters to the narcissistic consumer culture that is so pervasive our country now.

    But I’m an old fart.

  15. LInn says:

    Officer Hoppy,

    Back before anything was ever live-streamed, I was dependent on radio (sometimes TV) for church services every time I had a hip surgery. I would be in bed for weeks and not able to get out of the house. I appreciated the radio services. I think a live stream, even if it’s only the audio, is a good thing for a church to maintain. My church has had an audio library for years. If I miss a sermon due to illness or a trip, I can go back easily, listen, and still be caught up with the series. I’m not young, either, and I have been a late-comer in many ways to tech, but the lockdown really showed me some (and notice I said some) great things about it. Keeping up with friends I made in Colombia many years ago as a missionary, study programs, livestream during lockdown, and a Zoom Bible study (in Spanish with women from all over the States and Central America) have helped me to see that there is great potential for it.

  16. Steve says:

    There is always good and bad with tech. In raising a 5 year old girl, I’m realizing just how destructive electronics (smart phone, TV, laptop, ect..) can be to a child’s development. Virtual church doesn’t work for young kids. In her situation, It is more harm than good.

  17. Officerhoppy says:

    Linn
    Thanks for your input. All I am saying is it’s expensive to maintain quality online services. The big churches are investing big bucks because I think they see it as the future of the church (sadly). But we are a consumer driven church culture here in America and quality matters. 🙂

  18. Linn says:

    I think quality is important, and it doesn’t need to be consumer-driven. My church is about 500, and we don’t have bottomless funding sources. However, if people were going to stay with the church, the livestream had to be good enough to keep those eyeballs.. It’s the same with our current children’s ministry. We don’t have a super-snazzy, techie program, but we have well-trained staff, excellent facilities, and we invest in good curriculum. It makes a difference.

  19. Nathan Priddis says:

    Reading the latest research opinions, I’m thinking COVID will be an long term issue lingering in the background. This is not my Initial 2020 view. Originally I suspected something more like Ebola, with an explosive repriplication, but a virus that weakens in time. A few years I thought.

    This may mow be something like Measles or Mumps, with COVID being just an addition to standard vaccination campaigns. But, with a cycle closer to a flu vaccine in it’s effective lifespan.

  20. Officerhoppy says:

    Linn
    Ideally, I agree with you. But I tend to be pragmatic ( both my curse and blessing). No one knows how Covid is going to change the landscape for the future church of America. But some prognosticators say more and more people will be staying home and watching on line. I don’t know if that’s true or not (I hope not). But as has been said, “You give a mouse a cooking and he’s gonna want a glass of milk”.

    RHV (Revised Hoppy Version) If people leave church buildings and reman at home to watch on TV, if they have a small TV, they’ll want a bigger one. Analogue won’t do. Had to be 1080p. They’ll want a sound bar, then a better quality sound and video from the source. In our America culture, for most “Good” is never enough. It’s gotta be better.

    A few years bak, with the introduction of online services, Christianity Today had an article that basically said, the pull to stay home and watch church online will be so strong that eventually there will only be 5 pastors in America. They will be broadcasting to consumers at home who have a certain type of music they like who are intolerant of any different form of worship (contemporary vs transitional; country vs pop, etc), prefer a specific style of teaching, and don’t have to serve or get involved with messy people.

    I think the “prophets” at CT may be right. Covid has help advance that position.

  21. LInn says:

    Officer Hoppy,

    I’d rather go with Matthew 16 where God said He would build His church. Historically, every technological invention has led to protest from the church-think the printing press, first language Scripture translations, anesthesia for childbirth, radios, TVs ,computers…God has given humans the ability to create and innovate, but that also is accompanied with the curse we are under. I work in a school that is quite high tech and where kids start learning to code in first grade. At the same time, we have a large school library and the books are always in circulation. It’s not a Christian school, but it emphasizes the right balance between tech and non-tech. As churches continue through the 21st century, I think we have the option to learn to use technology wisely, or to cling to the old and watch the church wither away.

    As a missionary 35 years ago, I was a bit skeptical of computers, car phones, etc. I didn’t own a TV in Colombia until I had been there for three years. It was a better way to keep up with what was going on. with the narco wars and geurilla groups and stay safe. Since I left, I’ve watched the church there (on Facebook) learn to use tech wisely, using mostly radio and Youtube videos/Facebook video. It kept the churches going during COVID, they have reached into remote areas with no Gospel witness, and they offer a variety of online educational opportunities for laymen and pastors. Jesus told us to be in the world, but not of it. I think tech, wisely used, can be of great benefit to the church.

  22. Xenia says:

    I do not like the use of technology in churches. Those giant screens up front are not beautiful, and I think a house of prayer should be beautiful. I would never, if I had the choice (and I do) attend a church so large the pastor needed a mic and speakers to be heard. I was a part of the tech crew at my old CC and it was a load of elitist fun playing around with all the cords and plugs and assuming the “Aren’t I smart?” attitude. Blech. Never again. It lead me to some dark places. Just telling my story which surely doesn’t apply to everyone but probably to more people than you might think. If a storm knocks the power out and the pastor tells everyone to go home because the service can’t continue w/o thousands of dollars of tech working… well, it’s not for me, that’s all I can say.

  23. Xenia says:

    On the other hand, I appreciate certain corners of the Internet, curated with caution.

  24. Michael says:

    All that expensive tech…should be compared to the benevolence budget…

  25. Xenia says:

    All that expensive tech…should be compared to the benevolence budget…<<<<

    Absolutely.

    The thing about tech and the folks who love it is the urge to continually upgrade to the latest snazziest computer/mic/speaker/soundboard etc etc. It never ends.

  26. Xenia says:

    There’s nothing like spending a few nights at a remote monastery that doesn’t have electricity. It so delightful not to have anything beeping or buzzing or whirring, just birds, the wind in the trees, and the sounds of chanting.

  27. Steven says:

    “ All that expensive tech…should be compared to the benevolence”

    Absolutely

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