The challenge of moving online for the smaller church

Whilst Live-Streaming church services or delivering pre-edited worship and sermon videos might work well for larger churches and even some medium sized churches, many smaller churches would struggle with this. What is a church that relies on maybe one musician, has a limited online profile and has a leadership and congregation that is not really “tech savvy” to do to ensure that it maintains that sense of being church… together?

At Journey Church Harrow we determined, from the outset, that we would continue to “meet” together as church so JCH Online was born.

We made the decision not to try to replicate our “normal” Sunday morning meeting but to select and include only those elements that would work well for us on an online platform. We chose not to attempt any corporate “sung worship” but to focus a simple pattern:

  • Looking In, (sharing, caring, envisioning and prayer & communion),
  • Looking Up (Discovery Bible Study[1]) and
  • Looking Out (goal setting and action points).

This would be a highly interactive online experience so the obvious platform for us to us was Zoom.  Much more stable and flexible than other options.

In preparation for our first outing online, we spent much of the week before connecting with each member on whatever platform they used, Facebook, WhatsApp, Texts etc to encourage them to set up an account on Zoom and them download the app on to whatever device they were going to use.  The response was really encouraging, even from the less tech savvy, and we were able to talk people through the process and do “test connections”.  This hard work paid off.  Come the day of the Launch of JCH we had a better attendance than normal, even had people joining from “out of town” and one from India.  Since that day we have had others asking to join, (even “not yet believer”) and we have also been encouraging that who don’t have smart phones or internet, to dial in using their landlines.

Our experience so far has been really positive: increased attendance, greater openness in sharing, and greater involvement in both prayer and discussions.  So much so we are now exploring the possibility of breaking the online group into prayer triplets (by using Zoom breakout rooms) to maximise the time we have together online.

We are also using Zoom for online prayer meetings, discipleship groups, one on one pastoral care and are also exploring rolling out Discipleship Training Workshops online… but maybe more on this in a latter blog.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” [Hebrews 10:24 & 25]

John Jenkins is a Partnership Regional Co-ordinator (London and South East) & Elder, Journey Church Harrow

[1] For those not familiar with Discovery Bible Studies this involves reading or storying a passage of Scripture and then asking four basic questions: i) What does this teach us about God? ii) What does this teach us about People (Ourselves)? iii) Is there an example for us to follow? and iv) Is there a command for us to obey?  We might also include a fifth question. What does this teach us about (whatever the main theme of the passage is)?

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