How to Use Zoom as a Church During Coronavirus

How do you communicate effectively during this global pandemic crisis with everyone staying-at-home and explain the use of Zoom meetings with transparency and clarity? Here’s a great example I found from Canopy Church in the area of Costa Mesa, California, a family of house churches. (Posted with permission, thank you Josh.)

New Weekend Service Format

Hi All,

I know many of you have already read the Weekly and so have seen the changes that we are making to our weekend gathering format, but I wanted to take a few moments to explain those changes in a bit more detail.

When the coronavirus hit and stay-at-home orders were put into effect, we, like so many other churches, scrambled to figure out how to stay connected and continue observing the most vital functions of our worshipping community. Early on, we settled on Zoom as a solution for our gatherings. Because we are a small church made up of house churches, we loved the informal feel of our Zoom gatherings as well as the opportunity for dialogue and community. We were able to see one another’s faces, talk with one another, pray for each other, and take communion together.

But, after a few weeks of using Zoom for our gatherings, we began to notice some shortcomings as well. During our first Zoom gathering, about a month ago now, we tried to worship together over Zoom and quickly discovered that facilitating group singing is not one of Zoom’s strengths. That worship set will go down in Canopy history as one of our greatest swing and misses! Since then, we have simply not had any communal expressions of musical worship, and that’s something that needs to change. Additionally, we discovered that teaching via Zoom is not ideal. Zoom is at its best when used to facilitate dialogue not one-way communication. So, while our discussions and prayer times have been great, we’ve struggled to find an effective way via Zoom to teach the Word of God, another non-negotiable for our community. A couple of weeks ago, we began to utilize the podcast and to ask people to listen in advance of the gatherings, but we’ve found that having people listen whenever they’re able hasn’t been unifying or effective. Finally, we’ve noticed that Zoom isn’t a very hospitable environment for guests. Many churches that we’re in relationship with are reporting that their churches are growing significantly during this season. There are so many people out there who are asking big questions and genuinely seeking God during this time, and the churches that are streaming their services online (either live or pre-recorded) are finding that those people are willing to tune in. But, as we are seeing, they are often not willing to join a Zoom session. For many, it seems too intimidating a space for a first-time experience with a church.

All three of those problems are significant ones for us to address as each represents something vital to the ongoing life and vibrancy of our church: worship, teaching, hospitality. So, we are going to try something new to address these challenges: we are going to launch a Sunday morning pre-recorded live stream. What this means is we will be pre-recording a short service (45 minutes maximum) that will incorporate worship, teaching, and storytelling and will premier that service at 10 AM on Sunday morning. And, we are asking everyone who calls Canopy home to tune in (and to invite others to as well) at that time. This will not be like a podcast where you can watch anytime you choose. It will only air at the designated time, so you will want to make sure that you tune in right at 10 AM. In addition to the gathering itself, we will host a pre-sevice prayer gathering via Zoom before the service, from 9:40 – 9:55, and will also offer prayer ministry using Zoom breakout rooms after the service for anyone who would like to receive prayer. Also, immediately after the service, we will host a Zoom session for any guests who want to learn more about Canopy. Finally, on Sunday evening at our regular time, from 4:30 – 5:30 PM, we will gather via Zoom in house churches to discuss, pray, take communion, and be family together. So, to sum it all up, here’s what Sunday will look like:

* Pre-service prayer from 9:40 – 9:55 AM on Zoom
* Pre-recorded service at 10 AM
* Prayer ministry and Canopy intro on Zoom immediately following the service
* House church on Sunday night from 4:30 – 5:30 PM

I know this is a change both from our normal rhythms and from what we’ve been doing over the last month together, but we believe this will help us to reclaim some of the things that we’ve been missing while still keeping what’s been working well. We feel that cultivating both of these spaces, all-together and house church, will enhance both. And, so we want to ask you to step in fully to both.

No one knows exactly how long this coronavirus crisis will last, but we anticipate being in this new rhythm for several weeks. Every week, we will evaluate and debrief to find the most effective ways of gathering together in this season and will certainly pivot as needed, but we do want to commit to this new rhythm for the foreseeable future.

Communicating Clearly without Oversimplifying, a Personal Commentary

Having connected with churches and pastors for years and actively participating as a member in local churches regularly, effective church communications is just really hard to do, regardless of size. Large and small churches, staff or volunteer, it’s still hard work. The paid professionals typically make it look prettier, but I’ve seen typos slip through even at large churches. Tragic, right? is one amazing network and online community for church communicators, both paid and unpaid, I’m guessing. The founders Kenny Jahng and Katie Allred are friends. Their Facebook group is connecting over 20,000 church leaders.

Whatever your situation may be, they’ve heard it all. You’re not alone in this season. We are all learning how to communicate better in these changing times.