Ryan is the founder of Church Marketing University, where he helps churches all over the world get more visitors each week. He and his wife, Amy, and daughter, Katelyn, are a part of Summit Park Church in Kansas City, Missouri. Ryan has many years of experie... read more
The Ultimate Coronavirus Guide For Churches
As more churches are having to move to digital services, we want to do all we can to help. This guide will help your church ramp up your digital ministry, digital services, and digital giving. Now is the time for us to serve people more than ever before!
If you’re looking for guidance and tactics on how to Relaunch your in-person services, check out our Relaunch Playbook.
Here is what we will help you with.
- Live streaming guides to get started fast or with $0 budget.
- Music and licensing information.
- Digital kids’ ministry ideas.
- Digital youth ministry ideas.
- Generosity and online giving.
- Promoting your digital service(s).
- Hospitality and outreach throughout the week.
- Digital small group ideas.
- Ministering to older generations.
- Quick tips to get your church started.
- Further resources to keep you encouraged and informed.
Okay, you ready? The local church has the ability to spread hope faster than this virus. So let’s get started!
Your Live Streaming Mindset
If these large group gathering restrictions continue, people are going to be starved for community and connection.
Our typical American in-person services are designed to lead people in worship in big group auditoriums. We can’t take that approach and just move it to digital. It’s not designed for digital. We’ve got to change our approach on how we lead people into worship.
I’m gonna be encouraging churches to go live in low production environments and make their digital experiences very relational and converse with people. Give people time and permission to chat in the comments. Do acoustic sets that feels like the worship leader is with you in the living room. Have the pastor feel more like a small group leader. Provide a platform for conversation and prayer. Get rid of the production.
The church always adapts our worship to the cultural context and setting. We just need leaders to realize the platform just went through a major shift. Don’t just try and “do church” how you did it, but now online.
If this gets worse people won’t want to watch another show. Avoid just putting on a production. Go authentically live and minister to people. Provide a platform for connection. They’ll want that interaction.
The Secret to Effective Live Streaming
When it comes to live streaming and digital ministry, the secret is not buying a specific piece of equipment or using a specific platform. No, the secret to a good live stream is simply this: it’s all about relationships.
The goal has to be a meaningful digital ministry, not “likes” or subscribers. Make it all about your church getting to know people in your community, not the other way around.
This mindset shift frees you to focus on the quality of your relationship building, rather than the production value of your broadcast.
Planning Your Church’s Live Stream
So, how do you create an online experience that:
- ministers to people?
- fosters relationships with people in your community?
- deepens existing relationships within your church body?
Here’s how to get started.
1. Be consistent
Your live streaming should be about showing up, not showing off. Don’t overcommit to a level of production that you won’t be able to sustain for the long haul. Instead, think: “What can we commit to, and how can we show up consistently?”
Since your goal is developing relationships, this principle makes sense. After all, relational growth requires consistency. Thankfully, your willingness to show up every single week will help your audience show up consistently, too.
2. Schedule Your Content
A big key to this is to schedule your content. You can do this by scheduling a Live or Premiere. This tells your audience when and where you are going to meet. This is huge. Think of it as giving your audience your service times and “driving directions.” If people don’t know when and where you’ll be meeting digitally, it makes it difficult for them to show up.
When you schedule your digital service, your people can start sharing that post right away. Encourage your congregation to like the post, subscribe, turn on “See First” and live notifications, share the post, and start inviting their friends and family in the comments section. They’ll also have the option to “Get Reminder” on the post. So when the service goes live, the platform will notify them.
Another benefit of scheduling your content is you can get a direct link to your service. This is called a url. You can take that link and email it out to your congregation. In the email give them instructions on how to invite their friends. Another idea is to text the direct link out to your church 15 minutes before the services goes live.
3. Cultivate Engagement
This sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be! Basically, it comes down to this: people will engage with you if you engage with them. So sow generously into engagement with others. Here are some ways to do this:
- The first ten seconds of your digital service is huge. Don’t start with a countdown. Instead, say hello, hook them with why they should care about the upcoming content, and then ask them to immediately engage in the comments in a fun way.
- You can open by asking people to say hello in the comments, and let you know that they’re watching from, etc. A fun question of the day that is easy to answer can generate a lot of great conversations.
- Provide conversational breaks in your service where you ask questions or prompt people to respond in the comments to what they’ve just seen.
- Speak to your online audience during the sermon, and ask for responses. You want people to be engaged throughout.
- You’ll also want your leadership and hospitality teams to create conversations with anyone who comments. Just like an in-person service have your teams their early and ready to go. Help people during the service with any issues. And get to know people after the service.
4. Create Thoughtful Content
Creating thoughtful content starts with an audience-first mindset. This means you need to be willing to tweak or change things in order to better serve their needs. Here are some questions to ask as you’re planning your service:
- “What do people in our community need?”
- “How do I add value to their lives with this content?”
- “How do I make this content engaging?”
5. Create a Conversation Out of Every Comment
As you encourage and invite reactions from your audience, don’t *just* respond, to their questions. Instead, build a relationship!
Train your digital hospitality team to start conversations on the comment thread, and then move them over to direct messages. So if someone asks, “What time will service start?” Don’t just respond with, “10am on Sunday.” Instead, say “Hi Zack, service will kick off 10am this Sunday, are you going to be able to jump on and join us?” Then carry on the conversation from there.
Example Digital Church Services
Wondering how this looks when everything is put together? Check out this example 2017 Ice Storm Service from Summit Park Church. This simple service was run from an iPad in a living room and it reached over 300,000 news feeds. We’ll be adding more examples to this Google Doc that your church can check out. We’ll also include some example digital experiences for kids.
Starter Equipment Guides
While relationship-building is the most important goal of any church service (online or otherwise!), you can’t live stream your service without using some kind of equipment. Here are some of our top recommendations when it comes to equipment:
The CMU $0 Live Stream Equipment Guide
To start, use a phone or a tablet as your camera. You’ll want to get close to the camera and think through your lighting and audio environment. You’ll probably also want:
- Some sort of attachment to mount your phone to a tripod (Amazon and B&H both have options).
- A tripod.
- Good natural light in front of you or a softbox.
- Bonus 1: a directional, shotgun microphone. If you can’t get a microphone, eliminate background noise & get close.
- Bonus 2: See if you can plug your streaming device directly into power and to your internet router.
Ask around- someone in your church might have this equipment!
We’ve made an equipment wish list here with some tips to get you started.
And that’s it- you can go live natively on the platforms you’ll be using. If you want to use Livestreaming software, here are some options:
- Life.Church Online Platform
- Ecamm – Use the promo code socialchurch
- Living As One
- Outreach Digital
- Facebook Live Producer
- Be Live
- Switcher Studio
If you are going live from a webcam we recommend you use an app on your computer to be able to fine-tune your webcam settings. This one works well for a mac.
Equipment Setup Help
Check out this awesome guide from Blackbar:
When Things Go Wrong
Technology glitches will happen and you need to be prepared. Plus, with so many churches moving to live streaming, there is a possibility that we all crash YouTube and Facebook. Crazier things have happened.
So be prepared. If you are prerecording a service…go ahead and upload it now to a few different video hosting sites. Vimeo or Wistia for example. TItle them and have all your service information in the video details. Then if your stream crashes, you can direct people to a link where they can watch the service on demand. We’ll talk about putting this on a landing page below.
You might also have an email ready to go in case of a crash. You can also let your hospitality team know of the backup plan. That way if someone is having a tech issue, it gives you another option for them to try.
Pro-Tip – Digital Tech Rehearsals
Set up a test Facebook Page and private test Facebook Group. Put a few people from your team in the group. Then use these to test everything out before you go live.
Music and Licensing
Royalty-Free Music Libraries
Paid Music Libraries
Ways to Worship Live Streaming
- Have your worship team perform live. You just need to have the appropriate CCLI streaming license, perform an original song, or perform songs that are not covered via copyright.
- One worship leader with an acoustic guitar close to your video/audio streaming device works great.
- You can pre-record a worship song or worship set and use software like Ecamm to play it into your live stream. Again, just be sure you think through the licenses.
- You can pre-record your entire service and set it up to run as a premiere on YouTube or Facebook at a certain time. Again, remember to think through your music licenses and the songs you use. If you use songs from the Facebook Sound Collection for your intro background, announcements background, etc then your stream will not get flagged, muted or taken down.
Kids Ministry Ideas
Live Stream Kids Ministry Ideas
- Have your kids team lead a section of your live stream.
- Create a live stream or digital experience just for kids.
- Give families devotional and discussion prompts during your digital services.
- Involve kids during your live streams.
- Create a page on your church website with activities for kids, worship songs, skits, etc. that they can do doing a live stream service.
- A downloadable craft, coloring page, or at-home scavenger hunt.
- Provide instructions for parents to take photos of their kids’ final product and post on social with a specific hashtag.
- Find kids’ curriculum that will allow you to include some of their elements in your digital services. We’ll list some curriculum ideas in this doc. Check with them on their digital licensing.
We’ve also added ideas for families to do together, and ministry ideas for weekdays to this doc. We’ll be adding updates as more churches share examples and ideas.
Example Kids Services
Youth Ministry Ideas
With all the uncertainty about school schedules, quarantine length, and what’s going on in the world, this is no time to put your student ministry on hold. Students need leadership and hope now more than ever! We’ve compiled this list of some of the best games, lessons, and mid-week ideas that we’ve come across.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, check out Download Youth Ministry. DYM is crowdsourcing Coronavirus student ministry ideas as well, such as video call games, lessons, blog articles, podcasts, ways to connect with students throughout the week, and more!
Generosity During a Pandemic
We want to help your church boost the level of generosity, digital giving, and recurring giving in your church. Here are a few resources we’ve created to help, and keep in mind we’ll be adding additional resources in real-time. We’ll be using this Google Doc to add generosity templates your church can utilize during the Coronavirus outbreak. We’ll be adding more samples soon.
[If you’re a CMU church, you have access to our CMU Generosity Course, with training and downloads on this very topic! You also have access to our Be Courageous devotional series from Pastor Nathan Teegarden. Check out Day 3, which talks about generosity! If you want to go in-depth, you can also check out GenerosityU]
Mindset: Lead With Hope, Not Fear
As you see your giving decrease, you might be tempted to hit the panic button and tell your people, “We need you to give in order to keep the lights on!” Don’t. It’s tempting to use fear-based marketing, especially when you’re feeling anxious yourself. However, as the Church, we’re called to something greater.
We’re called to lead with hope, trusting in God and His plan for our communities and our world.
So, how do you lead with hope? Start with the question, “How can we best serve the people in our community right now?”
Providing a mission for your people and hope to your community is your best shot at getting people to rally generously around your church. There are actually more ministry needs in your community right now than ever before. Lead the way in meeting those needs, and encourage your people not to shrink back from giving or the work that’s before them.
Practical Steps to Encourage Generosity
Wondering what you can actually do to put these principles into action?
- Cultivate a consistent digital presence throughout this time. This is just a good idea, period, because it makes you more available for ministry. It also makes it easier for you share stories of the work God is doing through your church and thank people for giving. Don’t *only* go online on Sundays or when you’re worried about money. Create reasons for engagement throughout the week.
- Lead your people in what the Bible says about generosity, faith, and giving.
- Make it easy for people to give!
- Lean in heavily on recurring giving. If it’s hard to ask for people to set this up now, make a note to work on it once the crisis passes. But if you’re up for the challenge…
- Every time you do an offering devotional during service, thank people who have set up recurring giving. What gets rewarded gets repeated.
- Have everyone in leadership (pastors, small group leaders, elders, board members) set up recurring giving, even if it’s only $1 a month. If you’re going to ask people to use recurring giving, your leadership needs to be leading the way.
Online Giving Platforms
If your church is looking into online giving platforms, here are some popular options for you to explore:
Live Streaming Landing Page
Consider setting up a page on your website dedicated to all things Live / Digital Services. This could be something like yourchurch.com/live
This allows your team to direct anyone to /live if they have any questions, want to take a next step, or get more information about something mentioned during the live service.
If you’re trying to work through how to incorporate messaging about reopening your building, check out our Relaunch Playbook.
Here are ideas of content that could be included in your live stream landing page:
- Include direct links to your live or premiere
- Dates and times when you will be live
- Links to connect on social media
- Helpful information on how to turn on the See First feature and live notifications
- Embed your live service so people can watch who don’t have Facebook or YouTube
- Links to your digital giving and instructions on your text to give
- Sermon notes
- Link to your church’s Facebook Group
- Prayer/Praise request form
- Kids service link
- Kids activity sheet/curriculum downloads
- The hashtag you are using
- Ways to invite your friends and family to the digital services
- Your on-demand service in case the stream crashes
- Your announcements will calls to action for people who want to take a next step with that announcement.
- A connect / contact card for visitors
Example COVID-19 Landing Pages
We’ve compiled a huge list of examples in this Google doc, but here are some of our favorites:
As a church leader, you know that ministry doesn’t stop after Sunday! This outbreak is no exception. As people turn to social media to relieve their boredom, your church can be a beacon of the hope the Jesus offers the world! Here are our top ideas for ministry throughout the week:
It’s crazy right now. But don’t make this about your church! Ask the question…
“What do the people we serve need right now?” Here are some answers:
- A Godly way to process this
- Healthy activities for their kids to do while isolated
- A place with wifi so their kids can “go” to school
- Ways to connect in digital communities
- Someone to talk to
And the list goes on. Find ways to serve your community! It just might look different right now.
The church was never about a building, so let’s be the church!
[By the way…when you do that, the church advances like crazy. That is how it has always worked.]
Since the beginning of this outbreak, our CMU churches and team have been working hard to come up with ways that they can bring hope to their communities during this outbreak. You can read our full, continually updated list of ideas here. For now, here are some of our favorites:
- Brainstorm ways to provide supplies such as food and toiletries.
- Be willing to listen and provide support. Pastors and counselors, you are especially needed as people deal with increased levels of stress and anxiety! If your church offers in-person counseling, consider moving that to digital/video.
- Call or Skype with the kids in your life. While they’re talking to you, it gives their parents a break from trying to entertain them. If you’re not sure what to say, tell some jokes or play 20 questions.
- Provide people with opportunities to connect digitally: in Facebook Groups, on posts, through zoom, Skype, or Google
- Ask people how you can pray for them or have a digitally-based prayer meeting!
- Use resources like this countdown video to encourage your church to pray or reach out!
Being home from school and cooped up can be hard on kids- and parents! This means that it’s easy to be helpful and thoughtful toward families during this time. Here are our favorite ideas we’ve seen so far. You can find our ever-growing list here.
- If schools cancel, create a digital Vacation Bible School.
- Create activities, content, and resources for parents who are now homeschooling.
- Provide meals for kids on reduced-price lunches during school cancelations.
- Create a YouTube show for kids. Create a Kids YouTube Camp. Train kids on how to start their own YouTube channel. Cover the equipment needed, acting skills, internet safety and give them fun projects based on stories in the Bible for their channel.
- Have your Kids Director or Student Leaders lead digital devotionals.
- Create a podcast of Bible stories for kids, that families can listen to before bed.
- Challenge families to memorize one Bible verse per day together.
- Make a fast-paced worship playlist on Youtube or Spotify so families can have dance parties to get the wiggles out!
Follow-Up And Community
Digital Connect Cards
Looking for a way to “take” Live Stream attendance or to get people to fill out a Connect Card from a Facebook Live? Here is what I’d recommend:
1. Start the LIVE and in a fun way, and also strongly encourage EVERYONE to leave a comment. That is your attendance/roll call.
2. Then encourage a next step of getting into a Facebook Group. As they request to join the Facebook Group, Facebook will allow you to ask people 3 questions. This is now your “Connect Card.” One idea would be to ask them their email and phone number and how long they’ve been attending the church.
That is the simple next step you ask people to take. It moves people to your digital community and it functions as your Connect Card.
We have a free course on how to set up and run a highly effective Facebook Group for your church.
3. Then use your Facebook Insights as your high-level metrics. Reach, views, etc.
4. Another option would be to encourage people to use keywords as comments during the live. Then use a chatbot or your hospitality team to follow up. For example, you could say, “If you are new just type connect in the comments. We’d love to reach out and get to know you.”
5. You can follow-up with anyone using keywords after the live and reply with a comment. Then look for the “message” option and send them a message from the page. You could thank them for attending and include a link to your digital connect card via Messenger.
Besides having a church-wide Facebook group, chances are your small groups want a chance to get together, too. Because they’re “small groups” there will be a temptation for them to continue meeting in person. Please provide leadership to your small group leaders on this topic!
There are vulnerable people in your congregation that are wanting to follow the advice of the CDC and not be in gatherings of 10 or more. Don’t let them be shamed by small group leaders and group members.
Over-communicate with your leaders. Let them know how to show people grace. Give them ideas on how to do group video chats.
Bottom line: when you don’t lead and communicate, bad things happen.
Group Video Chat Options
So, how should they go about doing a group video chat? The answer depends on a lot of factors- like the size of your small groups, their existing communication channels, and the culture of their group. Here are some guiding principles to get you started:
- First, while many people are off work, you need to have regular time that everyone can get together. Encourage your groups to think outside the “Saturday morning Bible Study” mentality. They can meet together later at night for prayer and be in contact throughout the day.
- With that in mind, choose a platform that makes it easy to meet but also facilitates running conversations.
- Don’t miss the concept: It’s not about replacing an hour of Bible study. As a leader, you’ll need to be thinking, “How can I keep these people connected to God and to each other?”
With those principles in mind, these are a few options you can check out:
- Facebook Messenger chat and video chat
- Zoom Video Conferencing
- Google Hangouts
- Skype Video Chats
Just think: if we can get this right, our churches will come out of this pandemic stronger than they’ve ever been! As John-Erik Moseler says, What do you think is gonna happen when all of those strong online communities can get together for the first time?
One word: Revival!
Right now, when it comes to communicating with the various groups in your congregation, you don’t just need to communicate- you need to overcommunicate. People are frazzled and scared, so you need to be prepared to communicate with them via multiple channels. A snarky, “It’s been in the bulletin for weeks,” (or, more likely, “It was in the email I sent!”) isn’t going to cut it right now. Your church needs a way to be in a closer, more personal contact with people so you can minister to them and meet their needs during isolation.
We’ve said it before this crisis hit, and we’ll say it again- texting is THE BEST way to communicate with your congregation and follow up with new visitors. The vast majority of people text and have smartphones, which means you’ll be able to reach most of the people you need to contact. Plus, open and response rates for texts are better than for any other communication tool.
In order to effectively leverage texting at your church, you’ll need a tool that allows you to automatically send texts to people, in order to start conversations. At CMU, we are big fans of Text In Church. (If you’re wondering why, you can read this article).
Text In Church is responding to this crisis in the following ways:
- If you’re not yet a Text In Church member, you can access Text In Church FREE for 60 days. No fine print, no contracts, no gimmicks. As long as you cancel before day 61, you will not be charged a penny. Here’s a link to claim your free 60-day trial.
- If you are a Text In Church member, we will add 1000 extra text messages to your account for the next 60 days. Just send the support team a message.
- Jeanette Yates, their Communications Manager, is hosting weekly live training to talk through different strategies for connecting with your members and guests exclusively online.
- They’re offering a new Livestream Guest Follow-Up Plan with done-for-you messages so you can connect with all of the individuals who “attend” your church for the first time while you’re hosting online services.
Ministering to All Generations
Reaching Older Generations
It is important that everyone feels connected during a crisis. So take time with your team to make sure you are effectively ministering to all generations in your church.
Brady Shearer from Pro Church Tools recommends:
- Record helpful tutorial videos on how to join the church’s digital service, watch online, give online, host or join a small group, etc.
- Be sure you embed your digital service on your website and email your church a link on where to watch.
We’d recommend you find personal ways to reach out to your congregation and thoughtfully make sure they are staying connected. Help answer any questions that they have, see what needs they have, and pray for them.
Some other ideas we’re seeing from churches:
- Put the audio from your service online or distribute it via a podcast.
- Offer an option for people to call in via tools like Free Conference Call or Phone Live Streaming.
- Provide a phone number people can text or call if they need help getting connected.
- Make a video to address the fear and unknown of social ministry
- Create a team of tech people to help those who feel technologically challenged
- Use the Join.me app to share your screen in order to help people get set up for digital ministry
Quick Tips from Barbara Carnerio
We’re bring you the best ideas we find to help your church. We’ll be adding more tips daily so be sure to bookmark this page.
Check out these quick, encouraging tips from Barbara Carnerio of 412 Lab:
- Don’t fear doing “sound checks” and “tech checks” throughout the week. Your community will engage and participate.
They will not judge. They are quite forgiving, especially now. Show them behind the scenes. Don’t pursue perfection.
- Get your worship team online now. We all need a time of worship. We all need to focus on what really matters. A guitar and a phone is all you need.
- Have a prayer team? Have them lead a time of prayer on Facebook Live and ask for prayer requests to be sent via messenger.
- Don’t forget other digital media. Send out a newsletter with a video showing how to subscribe to your Youtube or Facebook channel before Sunday.
- Have a children’s ministry? Get them to record the lesson of the week, memory verse, craft or activity and post online so families can do it with their kids.
- Ministering to others online doesn’t have to be exclusive to Sundays at 9am. You can now have “service” at any time.
Break the mold.
- Have a small church? Call every member. Yes, I mean it. See how they are doing. Build relationships.
- Prepare your moderators. Who has access to your social media accounts and can answer to questions via comments and messenger?
- Build a hope-filled playlist on Youtube. Share on Facebook and Instagram.
- Want to record the sermon + slides? Try useloom.com. You can record your screen with your face. Then upload to social media.
For the full list, check out this post in our Church Marketers Facebook Group.
We’re moving as fast as we can to resource you during this season. Now is not the time for churches to shrink back from outreach.
So if your services, events, missions trips, etc. are at risk of being canceled…the great news is that Church Marketing University can help guide your church on a local digital missions trip right to your own community.
Let’s not shrink back in fear, but let’s see this as the perfect time to share our message of hope and faith to people who aren’t believers yet, and who may be isolated during an outbreak like this.
Check out our Relaunch Playbook for ideas and tactics on reopening your building.
Brady Shearer of Pro Church Tools is providing a month’s worth of free social posts to help your church during the outbreak.
Coronavirus Resources for the Church by Wheaton College. There’s a manual, a planning template, and you can even sign up for a webinar!
The official CDC resources on Coronavirus. If you want sound, fact-based information about the Coronavirus, this is where to look.
If you’re in Australia, Mimshack Resources created a COVID-19 Resource Kit that covers everything from mental health to music.
Four Ways to Pray surrounding the Coronavirus, from the Assemblies of God.
The Coronavirus: Choosing Love in a Time of Fear by Nathan Betts
B&H Photo Video Wishlist for ideas for a digital service from home equipment kit.
Rick Warren, The Billy Graham Center, and Wheaton College have partnered together to create an online collection of resources for you as your church deals w/ Coronavirus. View resources you can use to make strategic decisions, care for members & love your community
7 Ways Your Church Can Be Present During Coronavirus Isolation by Adam McLaughlin
COVID-19 Podcast from Pro Church Tools with Brady Shearer
Free Resources from Text In Church: