Virtual Church Resources
As we navigate this time of social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, live streaming is a key way to stay connected with your congregation and community—and not just on Sundays. Virtual worship is good and important, but so is offering devotionals and pastoral messages throughout the week at a time when isolation and loneliness are very real concerns. The great thing is: If you have a smart phone, an Internet connection, and a church Facebook page, you can very easily stream using Facebook Live.
Are you ready to try Facebook Live for the first time? The Michigan Conference created an excellent step-by-step guide that contains everything you need to know to set it up (it is shared with permission). Note: People who do not have Facebook accounts can still access Facebook Live videos if your church's Facebook page is public (which most are) and you send them a direct link to your page. Access guide
Do you need someone to help? We have compiled a list of people in our conference who have graciously agreed to assist churches with a basic live-stream set up at no cost or for a very nominal fee (note that most are especially proficient with Facebook Live). Contact one of them to walk you through set-up and share best practices. View list
Do you need more time to set up live streaming? If so, invite members of your congregation to stream another worship service this Sunday. Hundreds of Minnesota United Methodist churches are live streaming worship on Sunday, and that number is increasing all the time. View list of churches live streaming
Is your church already live streaming? If so, make sure it’s on the list of live-streaming churches that we’ve compiled—and that all of the information about it is accurate. If your church is missing, or something needs to be updated, email email@example.com. Support friends and colleagues by watching their worship services after the fact, and be inspired by the unique things they are doing. Or learn about one of our conference’s new church starts by tuning into their worship services. View list of churches live streaming
Are you willing to help others? If you or someone you know has experience with live streaming and is willing to lend expertise to help other churches get started, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org! We have a list of people who are willing to help others for free or for a very nominal fee, and we hope to keep expanding the list.
Some additional resources we recommend:
- Preaching to an empty room: Pastors have been struggling with the shift from preaching to a room full of beloved parishioners to speaking into a camera. This article from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership provides helpful tips and strategies as you continue to adapt to live streaming your worship service.
- How to Facebook Live (for any size church): A Baptist church in Covington, Georgia, created a video showing the steps to stream using Facebook Live (and dispelling the myth that it's too complex to figure out).
- Taking worship online: A guide for beginners and everyone else: United Methodist Communications offers some considerations for platform, relational connection, the offering, audio, and video.
- Live streaming guide: This UMC Support resource shares some basics on how to do a live stream for social media consumption, including necessary equipment, hosting and delivery, and how to set it all up.
- How can we livestream worship legally?: United Methodist Communications outlines copyright considerations in order to legally livestream your worship service.
- Creating live streamed worship: A United Methodist pastor details how his church created high-quality, live-streamed worship in three days, spending less than $200 and following copyright laws.
- New Limited Podcast / Streaming License: OneLicense.net, which covers lots of popular church music, is offering a new Limited Podcast / Streaming License that provides the right to podcast or stream more than 80,000 hymns and songs in live streamed or pre-recorded online worship services. Content may be posted to your organization’s website, YouTube, Facebook, Zoom, Vimeo, Instagram, and more. Using this license will ensure you are following the law as you broadcast copyrighted material. Previously, to get this licesne you also had to pay for a license that covered in-person worship. Now you can get this license on its own.
- OneLicense.net previously offered a free upgrade to add the live streaming license to a current in-person license. For those who took advantage of that limited time offer, they are now offering an additional 10 percent discount on the live stream license should you elect to continue for one year.
- Copyright licensing Q&A: The General Manager of OneLicense hosted a webinar on licensing and live streaming. Make sure your church is following copyright guidelines for all of your videos, or your content may be removed by Facebook, YouTube, or any other platform on which it is hosted.
- Sensory-rich live streaming: In this video, worship consultant Marcia McFee offers tips for engaged worship when there is no congregation present in-person.
- Singing in a live stream situation: The Center for Congregational Song offers a few guidelines and ideas to help people make the most of singing at home during online worship.
- Telling the Old Story in a New Time Workbook: Author and creative worship coach Jason Moore led a webinar for church leaders this spring. While the recording is no longer available, the workbook, filled with helpful resources, is still available. You are encouraged to think through considerations such as shifting practices from in-person to virtual, offering worship for the technologically challenged, creating worship that lasts beyond the moment, and preparing for guests. The workbook also covers tools for creating a sense of community, technology tips, copyright concerns, and equipment resources.
Do you need help setting up a remote meeting for your staff and/or leadership team? UMConnect is a video conferencing service used by the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church to connect people across our three-state area. The vendor our system uses is BlueJeans; it is a cloud-based video conferencing platform that can be used for video conferencing meetings, phone conferencing, webinars, recordings of meetings, and live chat. The Dakotas-Minnesota Area has a negotiated BlueJeans contract for our staff and ministry teams. However, during the coronavirus outbreak, our local churches have been granted permission to use our BlueJeans account, provided that meetings are set up through a conference staff member. Learn more and get help setting up a meeting
If you are interested in purchasing your own video conferencing account so that you can schedule all the remote meeting you might want to have, here are two recommended, cloud-based platforms:
- Zoom: Its most basic plan (which has some restrictions) is free.
- BlueJeans: Its most basic plan has been reduced to $9.99 per month.
Finances and giving
If you need help talking to your church, your staff, or your leadership team about electronic giving and/or weighing your options, contact Cullen Tanner.
Support for pastors
- Joining Together in Resilience: Caring for Others/Ourselves: LeaderWise, a local organization that provides psychologoical and leadership development and resources for ministry, is hosting weekly 45-minute Zoom sessions for ministry leaders to find emotional support and a place to let down their guard, including a brief session of gentle chair yoga led by a certified instructor.
- Vibrantfaith.org is hosting weekly office hours to share from their wealth of insight, ideas, and experience. This is also a space for church leaders who need a listening ear space to share their concerns or questions.
- How to Lead Through Crisis: A seven-part video teaching from respected church leadership expert Carey Nieuwhof is available for free.
- Pivot Podcast: If you’re struggling to understand how best to adapt as a leader during the pandemic, the “Pivot Podcast” is a great place to begin. It invites church leaders to use the disruption of COVID-19 to reimagine church, ministry, and leadership. Each week, three veteran church leaders consider how the Christian faith can help us pivot toward the emerging future.
Outreach and evangelism
REACH! is going virtual! Join the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of the UMC for a series of seven free webinars that will grow your abilities to reach people. The webinars will cover topics such as pivoting to reaching people online, crossing social and cultural barriers to reach new people, and forming local partnerships to engage new people. Each webinar will include strategies relevant to the COVID-19 era. Get your questions answered by the experts and find methods that will work in your context.
- ChurchPulse Weekly: This free tool from Barna was designed to help you stay connected with the needs of your church and to learn how people are coping and adapting during this time of distancing. ChurchPulse Weekly starts with a digital survey that goes out to the members of your church. These results are then sent to you so you can keep your finger on the pulse of your church. The results also go to ChurchPulse Weekly, where they are aggregated to create a picture of how our nation’s churches are doing. These aggregated results are shared with pastors and analyzed in a ChurchPulse Weekly podcast featuring experts Carey Nieuwhof and David Kinnaman. Sign up here and find the podcast here.
- A PEACE Plan approach to coronavirus: This website provides a collection of solutions for needs like how to move to online church services, free sermon downloads that you can preach to encourage your congregation, starting a food pantry, mental health and financial resources for your congregation, and more.
- 10 Guidelines for Pastoral Care During the Coronavirus Outbreak: These are unprecedented times. No one has ever had to be a pastor during a global pandemic. In this article from the Alban Institute, you'll find 10 things to consider as pastors provide care for congregations at this time.
- Carey Nieuwhof is a widely respected thinker and leader in church leadership. His blog is full of helpful tips for crisis management in general and he’s offering valuable advice about maintaining connection and improving your video worship service—and he adds a new post almost daily.
- Preachingandworship.org has curated hundreds of resources for churches during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find resources and articles about online worship and building community.
- TextInChurch, a company that offers mass-text communication to help facilitate communication for churches, is offering a 60-day free trial in response to COVID-19.