Because of the COVID-19 lockdown, many congregations have been forced to temporarily transition to live streaming worship, rather than gathering in person. Which means, for the time being, most of us find ourselves sitting on our couches and around our kitchen tables participating in worship from home on Sunday mornings. If that is the case for you and your family, here are five suggestions and tips for participating in online worship.
1. Don’t Be a Spectator, Be a Participant
Now, more than ever, it can feel like worship is something we consume, like a movie or a television program. My encouragement would be, don’t allow yourself to feel like a spectator. See yourself as a participant.
Even if we can’t hear the other voices, God hears the voices of all of his people around the world singing his praises. So, don’t just listen to songs, sing the songs with your brothers and sisters. We all need songs of praise in our hearts and pouring from your lips now more than ever.
Take the bread and the cup, picturing the multitude of people throughout the world who are sharing it with you. Though we are in many places, there is only one bread and only one cup (1 Corinthians 10:14-18). Even when we were all gathered in separate congregations, there was still only one bread and one cup that we were sharing. The division between houses, cities, states, and countries has never changed the fact that all of Jesus’ people throughout the world have always been sharing the meal together.
So, participate in the worship. See yourself as a participant. Understand that you are taking part in something bigger than yourself, bigger than what’s going on in your home. You are taking part in a global feast with millions of others.
2. Don’t Criticize or Compare
Because so many churches are streaming to YouTube and Facebook, it’s very easy to see what the church down the road is doing and compare their online service to your congregation’s online service. There are, of course, going to be differences in style and content, as well as budget and capabilities. My encouragement would be to resist the temptation to critically compare your congregation to other congregations.
Ministers, elders, deacons, teachers, volunteers, and countless others are all doing the best they can to figure out how to lead, teach, encourage, minster, and reach out to the community during this crisis. It’s an incredibly challenging time for everyone. Just remember that what you might intend as a helpful suggestion could come across like hurtful criticism to someone who is working significantly more hours, and having to learn all new skills, to make Bible studies and worship services available for you.
We all have the benefit of being able to learn from many teachers, preachers, and evangelists from the comfort of our own homes right now. Some of them will be broadcasting from a church stage, others from home. Some will be using a smartphone and others will be using HD cameras. But they, and all the people behind the scenes, are doing the best they can. Please pray for them and encourage them.
3. Limit Distractions
When watching videos online or on television, we have conditioned ourselves to switch channels when it loses our attention. See if this sounds familiar: We start watching a live stream. We watch for a minute or two, but soon flick our finger across the screen and start scrolling through the feed for something else.
Some of that may be fine, but we all need time of uninterrupted worship and study. My encouragement would be, on Sunday morning, start your worship live stream and don’t switch the channel until it’s over. Don’t text. Don’t scroll through your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed. Just be still, be present, and participate.
4. Take Notes
If you would typically take notes in a Bible class or a sermon, then do that with online services as well. In fact, even if you didn’t take notes before, maybe you could start a new practice. You will likely retain much more information if you write some things down. It will also help you avoid being distracted.
Those who are artistically inclined might prefer to draw a picture of something mentioned in the Scripture, song, or sermon. I have seen some amazing pictures drawn both by children and adults of things that inspired them in the service.
After the service is over, you could even take a picture of your notes or your drawing and share it on social media to encourage others.
5. Discuss Key Takeaways
On a typical Sunday morning, after the worship assembly is done, we all start talking about where to eat lunch and then we race out to our various Sunday activities. But now, things are a lot slower-paced on Sunday mornings. There is often more time to think, reflect, and discuss.
My encouragement would be, if you have other people in the house with you, after everything wraps up, discuss the service. If you don’t have others at home with you, maybe you could call, text, or video conference with someone else who was watching the service and doesn’t have family at home either. No matter who you discuss the service with, the experience is often completed by talking about what you heard with someone else.
When we listen to a message or a sing a song, we typically ask questions like, “Did I agree with that?” Or, “Did I like that?” Those aren’t bad questions, but consider other questions you might ask; questions like, “What did I learn about Jesus?” Or, “What changes do I need to make in my life?”
I hate being separated from my church family. I hate not seeing their faces or being able to greet them in person. But I am thankful we can connect through technology. As long as this situation lasts, we need to be determined to make the best of it and grow as a result of it.
I love you and God loves you,