When your Facebook friends are pastors…

When your Facebook friends are pastors and you’re sheltering in place, your Facebook feed includes a lot of Sunday services.  Over the past weeks I’ve watched and listened to many and have some observations to share…

First, I witnessed dedicated pastors doing their best to connect with their people. After reviewing reactions and comments to recorded services, I perceived many grateful congregants. It seems that in times of crisis, we appreciate seeing the faces of our preaching and worship pastors.

Second, I discovered that some churches went with live-streaming and others produced a recording that they aired at their regular Sunday morning worship time/s. Personally, I prefer the latter though it requires more technical expertise.

On this point, I noticed great disparity in production technology. Some congregations produced a wonderful service enriched by great lighting, cameras, and sound. Other congregations simply went live on Facebook from a laptop computer or cell phone, or they recorded a message with the same equipment and uploaded it, unedited, to YouTube, Vimeo, or YourListen. Whatever option you choose, be sure to watch one of your recorded services and evaluate what you might do better.

Third, I discovered, by reading comments, that some services were hard to find because some churches had links on the home page of their web site and others did not. I encourage you to make it easy to find the day, time, and cyber-location of your services. Put the information in an on-line newsletter or get the word out via your Facebook news feed.

Fourth, I discovered a lot of churches wish they had on-line giving to simplify that part of worship. With or without that technology, I encourage you to let viewers know the variety of ways they can continue to support your church. It may be through a link on your website or mailing a check to the church—make the address easy to find.

Fifth, I discovered that some churches replicated their weekly services (liturgies), even though they were designed for people sitting in pews, while others adapted their recorded service to the medium. Personally, I prefer the latter. I’m just not into singing the Gloria Patri or Doxology without congregational support. Some of our worship traditions seem to fall flat when they aren’t done collectively. Seems we need to keep that principle in mind when planning our services.

Sixth, I discovered that some churches included both music (worship) and message (sermon), while others limited their service to the latter. Interestingly, most of those which included worship songs in their video did not include the words of the songs. Not sure which I prefer as I do not envision singing alone at home, but it may be nice to have the option.

Seventh, when it comes to preaching or teaching on-line, there are several ways to make the experience better for those viewing:

  • The higher the camera the better—The best view comes from a camera at eye level so that viewers aren’t forced to look up your nose.
  • Zooming in is better than zooming out—Notice the talking heads on television. Notice how much of the speaker fills your television screen. As viewers, we want to see the speakers/singers face/s. If we can’t, we are better off listening to an audio recording.  
  • Standing is better than sitting—Most preachers are more engaging when standing; plus, it’s hard for a big guy like me to hide his gut while sitting. One exception would be if you want to deliver a somber and serious message from behind a desk (envision the anchors of your local news station).
  • Shorter is better than longer—Unlike pews in church, you don’t have a captive audience. The viewer can simply walk away. Make your message engaging and succinct.
  • Dress-Casual is better than too-casual or formal—Too-casual conveys the idea you don’t care and formal dress seems inconsistent with the purpose of bringing the service into homes.
  • Non-sanctuary space is better than sanctuary space, especially for the speaker—Smaller room holds potential for a better background for the speaker (thereby improving their visibility). Plus, it allows you to position your camera for the best view.

Finally, a suggestion: Throughout my nearly four decades of preaching, I’ve wanted to host worship services for each day of Holy Week (which begins on Sunday). There is so much to sing and preach about during this incredible week in human history. Since it looks like we will be celebrating Easter from home, I plan to prepare and record nine twenty minutes messages, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending the day after Easter. I’ll be recording the sermons for the Thorn Creek Reformed Church (South Holland, IL), a congregation I had the privilege of serving as pastor nearly 30 years ago. I’m currently serving them as an Interim Preacher. Who knew this current crisis would give me an opportunity to fulfill this long-held dream?

I’m not sure what your plans are for Holy Week, but I don’t think you’ll go wrong revisiting the journey of Jesus from Palm Sunday through his resurrection when we affirm that “He is Risen, He is risen indeed. You will be able to find my messages here.

6 Comments

  1. George on April 2, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Awesome Sam!

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. We have a Zoom worship committee tonight so I will be able to share this with them. Looking forward to listening to your Holy week messages. It has been some time since I heard you preach.

    Be well and give our love to Deb.

    • Sam Hamstra on April 2, 2020 at 5:14 pm

      Thanks, brother. Hopefully I will be able to reschedule my trip to CA

  2. Jake Mudde on April 5, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    Great insights, Sam!

    • Sam Hamstra on April 5, 2020 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks, Jake.

  3. Able Baker on April 10, 2020 at 5:12 am

    Practical, timely and excellent insight. Thanks, Sam

    • Sam Hamstra on April 10, 2020 at 1:01 pm

      Thanks, Able. And I thank the Lord for our connection.

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