helping churches stay connected with their communities

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I wanted to continue the series for signposting churches to some of the helpful digital tools that can help communities to stay connected in isolating times. There are so many tools available, that have developed over the last decade or so. BUT, this does not mean that ever church needs to now be jumping on every single one in an effort to stay connected with their communities in these interesting times.

It can be understandably overwhelming to find oneself in a position, as a leader of a church, to suddenly work out which tools are going to be the most helpful, and which ones to ignore. The key thing to remember is that it’s about choosing the right tools for you and for your community. Take it slowly, and don’t try to run at everything at once. There are going to be a vast range of technical abilities within your churches, and it’s more important to move at a pace that can bring people on board, than it is to try and run with everything and risk the potential of leaving the majority behind.

I’ve listed below a couple of the tools that are already used quite widely both in churches and also the business community, to ensure that you have the greatest chance of success at implementation as some will already be familiar with them. I’ve also included a how to videos for one of the tools, that you could share with your congregations to help the learning process.

helping churches stay connected through virtual home groups, meetings and live streams

Zoom

Zoom is a great way of connecting with a group of people at the same time, particularly if you want a two-way conversation. You can have a large number of people in a single gathering, and it’s a great way to help people feel connected to each other from the safety of their own living rooms.

Zoom can be particularly helpful for elders’ meetings, home groups, or even gathering as a group for an informal coffee. Zoom’s popularity has rocketed over the last few weeks, as people flock to it to stay connected with friends and family, as well as it being a vital tool for the remote working community.

A Zoom tutorial

If you’re unsure of how to use it, my husband has created this video to talk through beginners. Please do share with your congregations. Since the video’s release, it has been a valuable tool in helping people unused to digital tools, navigate the world of Zoom effectively, including my own parents, who now use it happily for elders’ meetings, and are even considering a virtual coffee meet up with friends.

One thing to flag, the free version of zoom will cover most of what you need, but it has a limit of 40 minutes per conversation. This was something that they didn’t used to monitor as much, but as the use has increased, so too have stricter time limits.

Zoom could also be a great tool for smaller churches to stream a Sunday morning service – ensuring that people can gather virtually together and share the experience of worshipping together and listening to the sermon. Zoom’s free plan allows up to 100 participants in one call.

A note of caution

Please note, it’s worth password protecting the meeting, as this can ensure that only those with the link can access it, particularly for sensitive gatherings such as elders’ meetings etc.

Skype

Skype is another option for this. Skype has been around for a long time and is another great way of connecting through calls and video calls. Again, through Skype groups can gather together, and it has a great instant messaging (IM) function. Skype has been used by many to connect with friends, families and colleagues all over the world for many years and may be a platform that congregations are familiar with.

It’s down to personal preference as to whether you opt for this or Zoom – both hold very similar advantages and uses, but Skype is known to freeze occasionally, and can struggle with larger numbers. Zoom’s free package can allow you to include more people.

Take your time to try it

If you’re starting out, it’s worth exploring both before you settle on one. Also, reach out to your congregation – which one’s do people most use in their daily lives? If you have at least some of the congregation on one already, they will be able to help others with the process.

It’s also worth mentioning that Skype is now owned by Microsoft, and there will be further functionality improvements coming.

Other Tools

There are other tools such as MS Teams that can be helpful for connecting virtually, and also Slack for online instant messaging and conversation (Slack doesn’t have a video function, but does integrate with Zoom), but it seems sensible to start with the two above and go from there.

Upcoming blogs

More blogs will follow in the coming week on video hosting, and also other digital tools. Please do make a comment if you have particular questions or requests for pointers.

Please also read the previous blog for some tips to remember when creating video sermons if it’s helpful.

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