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Considerations on Reopening Our Churches – Part III

As the Church of God and the nation re-open following Covid-19, P. Douglas Small, president of Project Pray and coordinator of Church of God Prayer Ministries, presents excerpts from a recent white paper he has written. In this final installment, Small offers a set of good citizen and neighbor ideas and a final section of resources and web links as we consider how to re-open our churches for worship (NOTE: links and listed websites are not active in this release. Please cut and paste into browser):

1. Say Thank You!
Send the local authorities a note of thanks for their concern for the city, even if you disagreed with some of their policies. Note gratitude for any call to prayer or manner in which the city engaged the church and pastors during the crisis. Have the church or its leaders sign a card sent to the mayor. And tell the city things you did to help others in the crisis – the essential business of the church. Pledge your assistance going forward.

2. Send a note to the President
Paul exhorts us to pray for our leaders, for kings and influencers, those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1). Thank the President and the White House staff for their concern for ordinary people and small businesses. And for the health of the nation, the World Health Organization aside. The President has been in an unwinnable situation. Never in history have we faced a global quarantine and a systemic shut-down of businesses. And never have we seen such an effort to sustain common folks and small businesses with financial gifts. Quitches and delays aside. Don’t allow imperfect execution to suppress applause for the noble effort. Only God can be God! Write a note of thanks.

Go to this website: https://www.whitehouse.gov/get-involved/write-or-call/.

Tell the President that you are praying for him. And for a national spiritual awakening. Tell him you are asking God to bless the nation and give it a miraculous recovery.

3. Pray for the nation – and its recovery.
On your first day back, or some Sunday soon after that, have a special service of prayer for the nation, for economic and spiritual recovery. Really pray. Consider the implications of 2 Chron. 7:14.

4. Bless Small Business Owners
Call Small Business owners, mom-and-pop enterprises, the self-employed, to stand or come down front, and receive prayer! Here is what we should expect: the miraculous intervention of God in our behalf, even if it means, manna from heaven, and water from a desert rock. God is faithful, and one of the indicators, signs, to a watching world, is how He cares for His own. Coming out of this national experience, I would expect stories of God’s intervention, of checks in the mail, of unexpected windfalls, provision and protection, guidance and direction, of peace and calm.

5. Create a Social Media Team
Create a social media ministry. Start with a group of volunteers if necessary. One of your goals should be to connect with people online and engage them before the service. Create a kind of virtual lobby. Have the pastor greet those on-line, and pray with them, even before the service. Have the social media team collect prayer needs. Offer to answer questions. Promote the ‘ask-the-pastor’ post-service Q&A or the “One Last Thing!” devotional. During the service, have the social media team post where they are watching from. Engage them. Welcome them. Post a “Did-you-know?” question.

During the service, if possible, with switching equipment or software, do a break-away just for the digital audience. Drop-in explanatory moments – what you have just seen, heard, and invite any questions? How can we help? Promote special offers. Respond to any comments appearing. At the end of the sermon, have the pastor speak to the online audience, for just a moment.

After the service, don’t end the Livestream abruptly. Have someone prepared to carry on the conversation. “We here at First Church thank for dropping in today. A number of you have sent in a prayer request. We want to honor your anonymity, but we also want to pray for you. Be discreet, mentioning only the first name or initials of a request. Pray for needs. Use the time to pray for the community as well. During the week, go back to those who posted online and send a brief note. “So glad you were with us last Sunday for the online service. If there is anything we can do for you, please let us know. God bless!

More Quick Aids

1. GIVING. For giving aids, check out: www.pushpay.com. Also, www.pi.subsplash.com. And www.Tithe.ly/. It appears to be much more economical. Consider adding a donate button to the congregation’s social media interface, particularly Facebook. www.rebelgive.com is touted to be the most cost-effective on-line giving gateway for churches and ministries.
2. LINKS. Make sure you have a direct link on Facebook to your church’s website and a direct link from the website to Facebook or wherever you Livestream your activities. Make links to social media and resources clear.
3. SCHEDULE. Facebook allows you to schedule events and activities. Announce dates and times you or some ministry in the church will be live.
4. YOUTUBE. Start a YouTube channel.
5. WATCH PARTIES. Encourage members to host a watch party during your online experiences to invite their Facebook friends to join the online service.
6. DIGITAL VBS. Vacation Bible School may not happen in the traditional manner, and that might actually impact more children. Do an ALL-FAMILY VBS digitally. Do seniors, adults, families, youth, and children.
7. DO DIGITAL DEVOTIONS. For the church. For youth. For children.
8. ENCOURAGE CONNECTIONS. Use Facebook Messenger, Video chat, Google handouts, Skype, WhatsApp. Develop a virtual fellowship hall with side-rooms for breakouts.
9. TRY TEXTING. Twenty-three billion text messages are sent daily, and 90 percent are read within three minutes. Email is dismissed. Texts are hot. Short. Crisp. Inexpensive. Check out www.textinchurch.com or other services, www.text-em-all.com and www.trumpia.com. Here is a review of top texting alternatives: https://churchtechtoday.com/2018/06/29/top-10-church-texting-solutions/. Send out a text with a link to the Livestream ten minutes before the service begins. And, schedule it on Facebook using an invitation feature.
10. ADD A REMOTE GUEST. With very little effort, you can add a remote guest to your worship service. You have saved travel and hosting costs. You have enriched your congregation. Check out these platforms that assist in remote guest streams. Vimeolivestream.com.

Here is a video for adding multiple guests to live YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YnWffwxLSU. Another tutorial: https://iag.me/socialmedia/top-live-video-streaming-tools/. Using Skype? Here is another tutorial: https://www.epiphan.com/blog/guest-on-your-live-stream/. Another alternative is www.be.live.tv.

11. LIVESTREAM FOLLOW-UP. What plan will you use to follow-up on virtual guests? Here is an overall idea website. https://churchmarketinguniversity.com/the-ultimate-coronavirus-guide-for-churches/ And another with practical suggestions: https://churchtechtoday.com/2018/08/17/5-follow-ups-for-first-time-guests/.
12. PODCAST. Turn your video content into Podcasts for easier review.

Here are some additional Livestreaming equipment and aids: BeLive, https://www.ecamm.com/mac/ecammlive/ (Mac users) Facebook Live Producer, https://livingasone.com/ (touted as the simplest, easiest online platform), opsproject.com, digital.outreach.com, Restream.io (reaches 30 online platforms), https://www.switcherstudio.com/, Streamyard, and Switchboard. There certainly are more. Check them out.

Remember, your CCLI license that covers in-house music may not be adequate for Livestreaming. There is a special CCLI add-on license. There are also several Royalty-free music libraries. Check out “Church on the Move Seeds Music Library,” “Facebook Sound Collection,” and “YouTube Audio Library.” Additional paid libraries include Artlist, Soundstripe, AudioJungle.

A final note before visiting some heavier concerns. The goal is a higher level of engagement, beyond physical gatherings, not only of members but of the casually committed and those in a distant orbit around your congregation, the Christmas and Easter folks.

Think mobile – before and beyond place and space. Track your listeners and watchers, track screen time analytics, and simultaneous online engagement. Remotechurch is another service that helps conceptualize an alternative to the traditional church website and Facebook to create a virtual community.