Tips for Small Churches Going Online

Way to Go, Church!

Nearly everyone is producing online video content for worship.

To help everyone, especially smaller churches, as they move forward we wanted to provide some helpful tips and resources.

Are you on the right platform? 
Facebook? YouTube? Vimeo? Zoom? All of the above? There are lots of options. If your parish is small and you anticipate less than 100 people, Zoom gives you a facetoface live experience with interaction, but it’s a closed group. Those without a link and password can’t find you. Facebook Live allows you to reach people outside your parish and the video will be re-viewed over and over. With YouTube you can pre-record, and edit out your mistakes, but it’s not viewed live on that platform.

  • YouTube: Ask people to subscribe to your YouTube channel and subscribe to those of other churches. If you can get 100 subscribers and you can use your own church name in your YouTube URLLearn more
  • Zoom: Ask everyone to mute their audio and invite them to choose “Gallery View” to see everyone at one time.
  • Facebook Live: Have everything ready to go before hitting “live.” Don’t waste time flipping around for the scripture you intend to read after folks are watching.

Record your video widescreen (horizontal) rather than vertical.
Most people are watching on a computer screen or casting to their TV screens. 

Be aware of your background.
Exit sign? Trash can? Messy desk? Clean it up. People will look at you as well as what’s behind you.

Have light in front of you.
Not behind.  It can be a window, or a lamp. Just be sure you’re well-lit from the front.

Use a tripod. And be sure it’s level.
No matter how much you intend to keep still, it’s nearly impossible to hand hold for any length of time. Some people hand turn their camera to follow the action. Do this minimally, if at all. If you’re filming a preacher do not move it as he/she sways. Your viewers will get seasick. You can order ainexpensive phone or camera tripod on Amazon. (Ubeez Tripod S  $17.99  and Griptight Gorilla Pod  $39.87 are good options)

Use a good (inexpensive) wireless microphone.
Good audio trumps bad video. Kevin Kallsen of Anglican TV (who is an excellent resource on all-things video) includes a recommendation on this in his crash course on live streaming.  He has also curated resources here.

If using a cell phone, and filming just one person, be just 3-6 feet away. 
If you have better equipment you have other options/capabilities.

For a worship service: provide the words for liturgy and songs.
Enable parishioners to pray and sing along with you. If you have the resources, put the words under the screen. Otherwise provide a link to a PDF either ahead of time or right on the screen.  With Zoom you can share your screen and provide words. On Facebook live you can post a link to a PDF.  

Have your preacher/speakers look toward the camera.
They don’t need to stare unnaturally at the camera, but speak as though they would to a person, or as they would normally preach, just be sure they’re not looking completely away from the camera.  

Chuck Owens speaks about the coronavirusBe authentic.
Be real. You are in people’s homes. Speak as though you realize that. No need to yell.  The Rev. Chuck Owens, Rector of the Church of the Cross, Bluffton, does an excellent job talking to his congregation about the coronavirus here. Worth watching!

Don’t be afraid to ask people to give.
Just because you can’t pass the plate doesn’t mean you can’t take up an offering. Explain how people can give. Put the link to online giving in the comments section of your platform.

Live vs. Recorded?
You can make use of a combination of the two, but with a live recording there’s an immediacy of experiencing something altogether at one time. Live videos are watched 3X’s longer than other kinds of videos; you can also have interaction. With Live videos on Facebook you can have volunteers respond as people comment, welcoming them, etc. You can also go back and add in captions. Facebook Premier allows you to pre-record and then post your video live so you get some of the benefits of the live recording. 

Realize you can’t replicate what you’ve been doing in person.
There’s a difference between a dialogue and a monologue and getting a feel for the room vs.  sending a unidirectional message out into the internet. Be aware of the difference.  Try to make it reflect your service as much as you can. 

On the Website we have additional tips and links. If you need help, please let us know. Though we may not have the answer we’re happy to help in the search for it.