“Online only? Join the worship committee!”

June 10th, 2022

Like so many other leaders across the church, I am a work in progress when it comes to online worship. I'm a pastor, church musician, scholar of worship, and card-carrying millennial who believes that online worshippers should matter just as much as our in-person worshippers. However, if I were to rate myself on a scale from 0 (I don't care about online/hybrid worship) to 10 (online/hybrid worship is my top priority), I would rate myself at a 5. 

Even though we are over two years into this pandemic, many pastors, volunteers, and staff are still adjusting to the realities of offering sustained online and hybrid worship opportunities. Churches that are well-resourced have created part-time and full-time staff positions, while other churches have scrambled to find folks who are willing to help (which is usually not very many). Most churches, regardless of financial resources, have had to upgrade their technology: new computer hardware, software, audio mixers, lighting systems, cameras, switchers, streaming licenses, etc. Communicators of all kinds have had to learn to preach/teach/speak to a camera. Most churches have pivoted to systems of online giving. 

Almost all of these new realities, liturgical leadership priorities, and technologies concern the enterprise of worship. As a pastor and scholar of worship, my question is: how are your worship committees adapting?

Simply hearing the term "worship committee" might stir up some mixed emotions, images, and stories within you. From heated debates about real flowers versus synthetic flowers among the altar guild, to tireless discussions about where to place the announcements within the order of worship, to the sacred mysteries of how to finish the "first Sunday communion service" in time for the football game, the worship committee has a mixed reputation. Used wisely, the committee can transform the worshipping life of your congregation. Left without leadership, it can devolve into endless power struggles among well-meaning people. 

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to reimagine the role of the worship committee. With online and hybrid worship as constant realities, we have multiple congregations for whom to plan. This means our worship committees cannot remain as they once were.

Think about your most recent worship committee meeting. 

  • Who was in the room? 
  • Was it the same group of individuals who were involved before the pandemic? 
  • What was the ratio of volunteers to staff? 
  • Were any members from your A/V team involved in these discussions? 
  • Perhaps most importantly for online worship discussions: how many "online only" worshippers attended that meeting?

When you held this meeting, to what extent did your worship committee address online and/or hybrid worship? Was it discussed at all? Was it a side conversation? Or was it a main agenda item with multiple points of discussion? 

I’m asking these questions not because I am an expert, but because I need them, too. Now is the time to step up and mobilize our worship committees to center these online/hybrid conversations. Here are some questions you might ponder with your next committee meeting to prime the pump:

Questions related to engaging online worshippers:

  1. Who moderates your online worship experience? 
    Do you have a dedicated staff member, volunteer, or team of volunteers who are empowered to engage online worshippers in the comments section? 
  2. Do you have mechanisms for online connect cards (or their equivalent)?
  3. Have you developed a system of follow-up with online visitors?
  4. How are you soliciting prayer requests from online worshippers?
  5. Are you engaging children and young adults who may be worshipping from home?
  6. Do you have ways to connect your online worshippers with discipleship opportunities in the church?

Questions related to the mechanics of online worship:

  1. Is there a “run sheet” with relevant links and corresponding text that can be copied-and-pasted at the right times?
  2. How is the audio mix? Can voices be heard clearly? Do you hear the in-person congregation singing along?
  3. How are your camera shots? Can you see the expressions on the speaker’s face? Do you include shots of the entire congregation?
  4. What presentation software are you using? Are lines of text legible? Are your images, photos, and videos in high resolution?
  5. Are your communicators for in-person worship looking at the cameras when addressing online worshippers? Do they make intentional efforts to engage online worshippers when they speak?
  6. Are you covered by the appropriate steaming licenses? Do you list your license numbers during your broadcast?

All these questions are adaptable for the smallest of family churches all the way to megachurches. Regardless of size, there will be plenty of room for growth because we are all still works in progress in engaging our online worshippers. Bring some of these questions (and more) to your next committee meeting.

Online and hybrid worship is no longer an aberration, but the norm. It is here to stay. Our worship committees should reflect this reality.

So, the next time you encounter an online-only worshipper, thank them for being a part of your community. Get to know them. Hear their story. Help them participate in the church as much as possible. And maybe, just maybe, you might ask them this all-important question: would you like to join the worship committee? Here’s to hoping they say “yes.”

comments powered by Disqus