This weekend will be our second purely online church service. So we will have a Kids Worship time on Zoom at the other end of the day, then a worship segment live-streamed, switching venue for live-streamed sermon, then a Zoom gathering for communion and hang out. That is our approach, but there are many others.
Here are 7 quick suggestions if you are new to preaching to a camera:
1. Don’t be intimidated by higher tech churches – I’ve already seen lots of other churches showing off their high tech setups for streaming church. That’s great, but that’s not possible for everyone. You may choose to review the situation, but if all you have is a smartphone, then make sure the battery is charged and go with that.
2. Eye contact is different – Don’t look around to a non-existent congregation if you are just preaching to a camera. Only eye contact with the camera counts. And if you are preaching to a smartphone or tablet, it is better to use the rear camera (better resolution) and highlight the lens to draw your eyes there. If you preach to the front camera then you will naturally watch the image (and therefore not be making eye contact via the camera).
3. Preach to your church with possible guests, don’t get carried away – Know that your congregation is hopefully watching. Know that there may be some guests joining you. Don’t assume that because your service is live-streamed that you have millions watching your stream all over the world. Somehow our egos can corrupt ministry when we start to imagine thousands of visitors (and it is probably helpful to humility to remember that your own congregation don’t consistently show up under normal circumstances!)
4. So do be personal, but remember it is out there for all – So when you are preaching to your church, be personal to your church. However, the stream is out there and could in theory be “clipped up” out of context and used against you. So be extra careful of references to specific people in the congregation, of your use of humour, of criticism of anyone or anything, etc.
5. Expect to feel drained – Maybe you feel drained after every normal Sunday. Maybe you feel invigorated when you get to preach God’s Word. Expect online preaching to drain you. You have zero feedback, zero interactions in person afterwards, and it really can feel like you literally just preached to an empty room. Tell your spouse and others if it is harder than normal and invite them to support you with positive encouragement after preaching – it is okay to be vulnerable.
6. Think through the impact of 0 feedback during the sermon – There is impact of zero feedback during preaching too. You won’t sense restlessness as you labour through your notes. You won’t internally react to faces of people that typically prompt you to be clearer, or more relevant, or whatever. After you preach this way you may start to recognise differences in how you preach. I found it harder to be specific in application, I think, because that is partially a relational impulse while preaching. Get feedback specific to preaching on camera (maybe you touch your face too much – people are sensitive to that right now).
7. Pray about it all – I’ve come across people who will pray about their sermon, but not about their delivery. That is strange to me. God cares about it all. So too now, pray about the technology, the internet connection, the communication of how to find the livestream, the people you are preaching to, the way you preach to a camera, etc. Pray about it all, because God cares about it all.
What lessons have you learned in the first weeks of preaching online?
I have been recording some simple Bible reading highlights for my church. If these are helpful to you, please feel free to share them with others.