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Camera selfie photo by Paul Rysz

VIDEO: How Congregations Can Improve Virtual Presence During COVID-19 Restrictions

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By Scott Thumma and Tracy Simmons

On March 18 SpokaneFāVS hosted a webinar on how congregations can digitize their services.

The guidelines and tips below are additional resources.

Video/Streaming Considerations

Before you begin streaming services, here are some aspects you should think about and plan for:

  1. What to present
    • The whole service?
    • The sermon only?
    • Formal or informal? 
    • Casual or professional? 
    • How long? 
    • Copyright – both use and streaming license
  2. What mode to use
    • Prerecorded Video
    • Livestreaming
      • Facebook Live
      • Zoom
      • Skype
      • GoToMeeting 
    • Does it need to be presented live? 
      • Pros and Cons
    • Wi-Fi considerations
      • If live and you don’t trust the stability of the available Wi-Fi, use a wired connection if possible
  3. What platform to use
    • What do you currently use?
    • How technical are your people?
    • How to get the word out
      • Facebook
      • YouTube
      • Your website
      • Twitter
      • Email
    • Try to give the service/sermon a longer life – post it, send it out, make it available
  4. What equipment to use
    • Camera
    • Phone
    • Current church system
    • Streaming setup
    • Tripod (don’t have one? Try these tricks)
    • Sound
      • Raw or mixed/edited
  5. Think about the picture you are presenting
    • Proper camera placement
    • Phone/tablet horizontal recording
    • Record close to the subject
  6. Keep the background simple
    • Interesting but uncluttered
  7. Have good lighting
    • Have natural lighting if possible
    • Not overhead
    • Light sources in front
    • No backlighting
    • Make sure to see what the shot looks like before recording
  8. Have quality sound
    • If possible, use an external microphone
    • Consider background noises, echoes, reverb
    • Listen to the sound before recording it “for real”
    • Have the speaker talk louder than normal
  9. Improve your presentation
    • Don’t fidget
    • Directly address the camera
    • Rule of Thirds
  10. If recording a video – EDIT IT! 
    • Remove dead air, pauses, mistakes, and unnecessary bits
    • Simple editing of a video is easy
  11. What other virtual ways can you deliver what the Sunday service would accomplish?
    • Greetings
    • Fellowship
    • Prayers and concerns
    • Hymns/music
    • Financial support
    • Christian education
    • Coffee hour
  12. What other ways can you do the work of the church virtually? 
    • Spiritual support
    • Ministry
    • Pastoral care
    • Communication of news, events, information, and comfort
    • Interpersonal connections

Resource Recommendations

Group meetings

Recording Quality Video via Phone

Online Giving

Our FACT 2015 study showed that 31 percent of congregations use online giving and if the congregation uses it at all, giving is increased by an average $114 per person! If online giving is emphasized by the congregation a lot, per capita giving increases by an average of $300 person!

Livestreaming Options

Recommended reading: COVID-19 Lockdown: Creating Live-streamed Worship in 3 Days

Other Resources

Inspirational and Informative Stories

Please consider donating to FāVS if you found this content helpful!

Scott Thumma

About Scott Thumma

Scott Thumma is the director of Hartford Seminary's Doctor of Ministry program, the distance education program and Hartford Institute’s church survey service.

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Tracy Simmons

About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Lecture of Strategic Communication at the University of Idaho.

She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and for the Religion News Service.

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