Since first going into lockdowns in early 2020, our digital service has remained consistent as an opportunity for connection with each other and with God. Our focus has been to enable community, worship, and discipleship online. As we bounced in and out of lockdowns in 2021, the digital service remained adaptable, sometimes taking the role of the sole service of the week, serving our whole church family. Services took different styles, replicating those of the in-person congregations the service was connecting with.
Now, in 2022, as we settle into the post-lockdown phase of the pandemic, where in-person gatherings aren’t limited, there’s a chance for the digital service to become more of its own, independent congregation. This started in January with the move to 9am premieres on YouTube, so as to not compete with the 10am service, and open the possibility of live-streaming the digital service. The next step in this process is to reshape the format of the service to better sit in the digital medium.
Our digital services have so far emulated in-person gatherings for the most part. The structure of our digital service is almost identical to that of an in-person gathering: a welcome, a couple of worship songs, notices, bible reading, a talk, prayers, another song, and a conclusion from the service leader. This structure brings our digital service to about an hour in length. While this provides familiarity to those already involved in the life of a church, for those less familiar, the prospect of sitting down to watch an hour-long video might present a barrier.
This new structure will focus more on outreach, discipleship, and engaging with God’s word. The first few minutes of the service will prime people for what is to come, presenting some initial ideas, themes, or questions to sit with over the course of the service. We’ll then move straight into the bible reading and talk, then transition into a well-themed song, which people will be encouraged to reflect on. Another transition will take us to intercessions before the service leader will conclude the service with more discussion-style questions and takeaways, ideally finishing in around 40 minutes.
You’ll notice the two main elements to change in this new structure are the worship music, reducing from four songs to one, and the notices being removed entirely.
Worship music has always been one of the hardest parts of our digital service. A lot of work goes into recording each song, and at the end of the day engaging with worship music in this way just isn’t the same as being in a bigger congregation singing together. There is still great power and value in singing praises to our God, but in this medium, a single song for reflection might prove more engaging.
Notices and announcements are important to the life of our church – it’s how we know what’s going on! Committing large sections of our worship gatherings to news though is not the most efficient way of communicating, nor is it the best use of time in a worship service. Rather than highlighting upcoming events during our digital service, we’ll move to a ‘next steps’ model, where we instead encourage people to sign up for a next step. Most of the time, this would be to register for our email newsletter, but it could also include signing up for a life group for the first time, or joining an Alpha course. Rather than promoting events, as the Digital Minister, I want people to be taking steps towards Jesus, and becoming an integrated part of our church.
For those who are looking for a worship service that is more reflective of an in-person gathering, please reach out. We privately stream our 10am service for those who prefer that style. Due to the logistics of child safety, and the challenge of mixing audio for a live stream, this is only available to watch live, and isn’t published on our YouTube channel – links go out to our opt-in email list only.
These are the biggest changes we’ve made to our digital service in the two and a half years since COVID hit. Fundamentally though, we’re still all about knowing Jesus, and making Jesus known. We still want to remain connected to the body of Christ when we’re unable to come to in-person gatherings. We still want to be reaching out into our community in love. And, as always, we want to remain flexible and agile in the way we do church, so these changes are “let’s see how the go” changes. I’d always welcome your feedback, which can be hard online, knowing that you can’t just grab me after the service in the foyer! Email me though. Or call the office and let’s chat.
Yours in Christ,
St John’s Diamond Creek