Keeping A Community Connected

How did you initiate live streaming your church service(s) to your congregation?

We made an early decision to close our gathering just before the mandated rules of gatherings of 500+ came in. The following Sunday we had a live stream on Facebook to our wider community that included a short talk.

What reception have you received from your congregation?

We have seen great success with our online streaming. We have had nearly 200 users following in the live stream each Sunday morning, which likely represents 400+ people watching. Many are clicking like and commenting that they are on the couch watching with the kids and the dog. It was lovely to find community in a new way.

What have been the challenges or successes in live streaming?

The challenges initially were in the quick escalation of the rules around numbers. Initially we thought we could have small gatherings in homes but that has fast changed to no gatherings at all. This created the issue of helping older people ‘log on’ and utilise new technologies. But this has worked out well and everyone seems to be very adaptable. The other challenge we have faced is in how to keep people connected and checking in with each other. We have created over 32 Life Groups that are all connecting through Zoom meetings and staying in touch with WhatsApp groups. These groups represent all age groups and include many people that did not know each other before.

How has this strengthened the sense of community within your church? 

This really has created a surprising sense of community particularly through the Virtual Life Groups. There have been many people who live alone who have found new friends through these groups. In one group a University Lecturer needed to quickly learn how to use all the aspects of online meetings including break out groups so she could supervise her students. Her brand new Virtual Life Group quickly offered to be her guinea pigs and trial the program as she learned it.  In other groups the conversations happened around how to decide what is ok to do and when to make decisions around isolating. These groups helped each other think through group dynamics and make decisions together. The other surprising thing has been that as our groups dropped “How can I help” leaflets in the letterboxes of neighbours, they have forged new relationships with those living near by and are able to help with resources or connection.

What would be your call to action for others who are new to using live streaming?

I think that people need to just get online and give it a try. Our Church has been streaming a series of interviews with two Trauma Informed Counsellors about how to care for our mental health during this time. The series has been very well received and has been shared far and wide. The key to live streaming is to not over think it. It does not need to be polished and flash, it just needs to be genuine and authentic and full of grace and love so that people in difficult times can feel connected.