“Six MORE Lessons Learned About Online Church…So Far”

The Sunday Sample, Episode 123

Last week I reflected on nine lessons learned so far. It’s been a further week of learning as we go. Here are six more lessons.

Lesson one: Rehearse. By rehearsal, I mean rehearse in the correct way. I had rehearsed the Friday service, but it wasn’t until the event was running I realised I had rehearsed in the wrong way. When it came to the service, it transpired that no one could hear the songs. In my rehearsals earlier in the week I could hear the music. The mistake I made was in not rehearsing with another person to check that they could hear the music. When using new technology, it’s wise to rehearse with someone on the other end.

Lesson two: Variety. This week I included more opportunities for prayer, scripture readings and even a poem. A greater variety of elements in the service helps people focus, concentrate and participate. Given the amount of potential distraction at home, and the fact that there is less (almost no) sense of being part of the group, variety is even more significant.

Lesson three: Music. I am receiving contradictory feedback. I suppose is to be expected. Some people like recorded songs, some prefer live performance, and others would rather have no singing at all. At this stage I’m committed to continuing to experiment. We’ve only been going at this for a few weeks. It would not be a good idea to settle on a new form of musical worship until we’ve had longer to experience this new situation.

Lesson four: Muting. On the whole, people attending the meetings are doing a better job at remembering to mute themselves. However, we need to better job at reminding people and helping people to learn how to mute themselves. Even one person who doesn’t do so can cause considerable distraction for the rest of the group. In Zoom it’s relatively easy, as I learned this week, to mute the whole group. However, in Google meet I don’t believe it’s possible. If you know otherwise, please let me know.

Lesson five: Checklist. I made a couple of mistakes this week in our services not because I did not know how to do something correctly, but because I failed to follow my own advice to use a checklist before beginning the service. Foolish me. This week, I’m going to print out my checklists and keep them handy. This technology and method of doing things still too fresh to be engaging in them was relying on habit.

Lesson six: Interaction. One of the things I miss most about our physical services is interaction. Question and answer, discussion, sharing and the like. I worked hard at recreating this to the extent possible in summer services this week. I noticed it helped to have a question on screen as well as asking orally. The right question gives you as the speaker or overseer of the service the opportunity to interact with people. It does seem that using the chat facility is especially helpful. I really enjoyed reading out people’s responses to the question, “What does the resurrection mean to you?” And commenting on them. I believe it added a good deal to the presentation, but also helps those who participated to feel their opinion was valued – which indeed it was.

I’m sure you’ve been learning lessons. Whether you’ve been planning and presenting services or whether you’ve been more on the consumer end. Please tell you what’s been working for you, what you have discovered does not work. And, more importantly, why.

I’m very grateful for the feedback I have received regarding our services. Even some of it is a bit painful! However, it’s the only way we learn and grow.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

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“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John