Virtual Church Service – The Ultimate Guide to Digital Worship

Virtual Church Service – The Ultimate Guide to Digital Worship

virtual church

Millennials and Gen Z grew up with social media and smartphones. Older generations have quickly become comfortable with technology. During the pandemic, remote work and e-learning became the norm. More people are doing almost everything from home. As the baby boomers age, this is likely to continue.

Why not church services? 63% of practicing Christians believe churches should include more online services after the pandemic ends.

Many churches are sharing their sermons and promoting other church programs online. Free streaming services, affordable website platforms, and online donation processors have made creating a virtual church a simple and exciting possibility. This article discusses seven reasons your church should start a virtual church and shares the steps needed to create one.

  1. What is a Virtual or Online Church?
  2. 7 Reasons to Consider Virtual Church Service
  3. Set Your Virtual Church Goals
  4. 4 Essential Aspects to Ensure the Best Live Streaming
  5. Best Live Streaming Platforms for Virtual Church
  6. 6 Tips for Taking Your Church Online
  7. 3 Examples of Successful Virtual Churches
  8. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Is A Virtual Or Online Church?

virtual church

When churches have moved online for live streaming their services or for providing online sermons and classes, they are considered as virtual or online churches. But that doesn’t mean a virtual church is fully digital; it only means that even though it has a physical presence, it also possesses a significant digital component.

In the past, the idea of an online or virtual church was not well respected. The public viewed many televangelists with scorn, and few saw the need for online options. Many still would rather worship in person, but the current pandemic and the loss of younger Christians make virtual church services appealing.

The cost of starting an online church is affordable thanks to technological advances, so you do not have to be a megachurch to take the plunge. Smaller churches have added online components to open the door for more communication between the church, its members, and the outside world. As our world grows, churches that increase their outreach can spread the word of God to those who need it most and may have been lost in the past.


7 Reasons To Consider Virtual Church Service

virtual church

The pandemic has made virtual church services necessary, but there are several other reasons churches should incorporate an online church into their mission.

Here are 7 reasons why one should start a virtual church service:

  1. Reaches people who cannot attend services
  2. Strengthens relationships with parishioners
  3. Share inspiring videos
  4. Allows people to re-experience services
  5. Encourages regular attendance
  6. Encourages online donations
  7. No downsides


1. Reaches people who cannot attend services


1.1 Homebound

The current pandemic has lowered attendance for many churches across the country. Fears of getting sick or spreading disease to their loved ones have kept many people at home on Sundays during the pandemic. As the baby boomer generation ages, more people are bound to lose the ability to attend services regularly. Churches that offer online services have helped people stay connected and give them a lifeline when needed.

The church is the primary source of socializing for many baby boomers. The pandemic was a slap in the face for these individuals. After losing their church family, many Christians suffered from stress, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Before the pandemic hit, homebound individuals faced this reality for years. It was not until we all became isolated that the issues facing these church members were addressed. As more churches begin to offer online sermons, prayer, and support groups online, they have seen an increase in online attendance from many they thought were lost. It has opened their eyes to the importance of giving parishioners this option.


1.2 Weekend workers

Large groups of people have never had the option to attend church on Sundays. For many, a nine-to-five job is not part of their lifestyle, but that does not mean they are not interested in joining a church. A benefit to starting a virtual church is reaching people who have never heard God’s message before. Virtual churches that share archived sermons on their website allow people to listen to the message on their time. This option is ideal for workers in retail or medicine who rarely control their own schedules.


1.3 College students

Leaving our families, home, and church for the first time can feel terrifying and overwhelming for young church members. Students starting their first year in college are confronted with temptations daily. Without a church, too many are lost for good and make bad choices that can change their lives for the worst. Online church helps relieve the concerns of these students and their parents. Since children are living their lives online, attending virtual churches is an easy habit to make. Giving these students the opportunity to retain the healthy relationships they have already made with other Christian students and teachers will help guide them as they make their way through the world.


1.4 Missionary work

As the world changes and more people have online access, it is essential to share God’s message to those who have in the past been unreachable. Online services help churches reach these people and develop relationships that will grow for years to come.


2. Strengthens relationships with parishioners

virtual church service


2.1 New church members

Do you ever wonder how many people your church has lost after only one service? Many people will leave your church without getting the help they need simply because they are too shy to ask for help. Friendly church members are a great start, but without an online option where people can get their questions answered, your church may lose the chance to build these relationships. Online church gives people an opportunity to learn more about the church and its support options without forcing them out of their comfort zones right away. An excellent way to address this is to add a FAQ page to your website and start an online welcome committee to connect with new attendees.


2.2 Smaller social and prayer groups

The church is more than just Sunday services for many. Members of all ages find joy and strength through smaller prayer and social groups formed with other Christians. When asked to share their gifts with non-Christians through church activities like food drives, choirs, or Sunday school teaching, many find a purpose. The pandemic has limited the option for this socialization, but online church groups can give members the chance to regain the relationships and passions that sustain them. The virtual church also makes finding more information about these services much easier to obtain. It has opened the doors to these activities for many community members who had not heard of these options.


2.3 24/7 outreach

Pain and suffering are not convenient and do not follow a clock. Many people are faced with the worst circumstances in the middle of the night or halfway through the week. Waiting for Sunday services to get help can feel like an eternity. Online churches give people a direct line to God, the church, and other Christians. Online counseling and direct contact with church members and the pastoral staff are essential to strengthen relationships with church members when they need it the most.


3. Share inspiring videos

virtual church service

People have come to expect more because of advances in technology. Since everyone has a smartphone, it takes only seconds to lose their attention. The distractions are continuous with texts and social media, so it may take more than your average weekly sermon to keep your congregations interested.

Online churches have an advantage over in-person sermons. Thanks to streaming services like YouTube, churches can use videos from the past or other church’s sermons to help flesh out their weekly sermon. Instead of only relying on a pastor’s oratory skills, including video and images will keep your sermon fresh and help with storytelling. There are several free editing software options that can help churches create compelling videos.


4. Allows people to re-experience services

A good sermon has many layers, and every time you hear it, you may catch something new. Online church websites that share an archive of their sermons allow parishioners to rediscover old sermons after a few weeks or even months. People who listen to a sermon after having experiences that relate to it will be affected differently the second time. This new take on a past sermon can help individuals become closer to God and the church.

Archived sermons can also help online attendees learn more from a weekly sermon. Everyone learns differently. While some would rather take hand-written notes, others need to hear something a few times before it really sticks in their head. Luckily, an online church gives these people the option of rewatching a sermon many times, and they need to soak in all the information.


5. Encourages regular attendance

Admit it. There are some Sundays when getting out of bed early enough to get to church is a hardship. Some weekends you would rather lie in bed and watch a sermon in your pajamas. With a virtual church, you can provide just that.

Burnout is the norm in our culture, and by the weekend, many people are just too exhausted to dress up and attend church. Allowing people the option of staying home every so often and still getting God’s message is the best way to encourage regular attendance.

If people see that your church still wants to offer love and knowledge of the Lord’s word with no shame for staying home, they will more than likely want to continue to visit your church in person and online.


6. Encourages online donations

online church services

The offertory plate is lighter than usual, isn’t it? Fewer people have cash or checks on hand. If your church has not included a text-to-give option for parishioners, you have likely noticed a shortfall in funds. Online donation options give the congregation more convenient ways to give.

You can link your website donation form to a streaming video on YouTube or Zoom. You can also include a Campaign ID and phone number for donors to donate by text. After donors send a text, they receive a reply with a link to your mobile-friendly donation form. Quick donate makes repeating the same donation each week even easier.

Here are some virtual fundraising ideas you can adopt.


7. There are no downsides

Adding a virtual church is simple and doesn’t hurt your church. The time needed to start a virtual church is limited at the start, and your congregation will appreciate the effort. In this day of 24/7 technology, a virtual church should be seen as necessary, not a nuisance.


Set Your Virtual Church Goals

online church services

Before you do anything, why are you starting a virtual church? It is essential to have a plan and goals in mind before jumping on this journey. Consider asking yourself the following questions –

  • Are you having trouble holding on to your current church attendees?
  • Do you want to expand your membership?
  • Are you desperate to raise more money for a new building or mission trip?
  • Do you just want to introduce online giving to your church members?

Your goals will determine how you will start and what steps you should focus on at the beginning.

The goals you have in mind will also determine how much you should spend on this adventure. If you are a small church hoping to reach older church members who cannot attend on Sundays, you probably won’t need more than a smartphone or tablet. If your goal is to increase online donations or build a larger membership, you will want to choose wisely how to spend your money. Finding an online donation processor that can help your raise money without breaking the bank or a streaming service that can help you reach a larger audience does not have to be expensive.


4 Essential Aspects to Ensure the Best Church Live Streaming

online church services

Once you have decided on your church’s goals, it is essential to research equipment and streaming services. Before spending any money, start filming your sermon with a smartphone or tablet. Larger congregations will need to invest in high-quality equipment, but most small churches can begin with their pastor speaking to the camera. The feeling that your pastor is speaking directly to you can go a long way when your flock feels lost.


1. Cameras

There are several camera options, and if you visit a camera store, you will likely get a lesson on each of them. If you are starting a virtual church, you can make the process easier by finding a camera that automatically connects with social media. This connection simplifies the act of promoting your sermon online. Many different types of cameras have this option, so do not let this determine what camera you use.

Different types of cameras will work for different types of sermons. The following list is a breakdown of what cameras may work with your preaching style.

  • Webcams are the cheapest and most common type of camera. You can find these on smartphones, tablets, and other affordable digital cameras. This camera can be used by pastors giving sermons from their offices. If your lighting and sound are controlled in this environment, a webcam is a reasonable choice.
  • DSLR is a high-quality photo and video used by professionals. The cost of these can run into the thousands, but if you have experience or a volunteer or professional at your disposal, this can be an excellent way to record videos and take pictures.
  • Camcorders remain the easiest to use for shooting videos. These can be more expensive than webcams, but if you are filming videos during Sunday service and other outside events, a camcorder will work best.
  • GoPros have become popular for YouTubers, animal, and sports videos. Does your pastor move around a lot during the sermon? An action camera may be the best way to catch the movement without losing focus.

2. Microphones

Even if you are streaming from your office, using an external microphone is a good idea. You can purchase these online or at your local Guitar Center for as little as $100. For churches that are streaming live on Sunday morning, multiple microphones are essential. For best results, you can route your church’s sound system directly to your video source. This is best left for professionals, so we suggest getting some help.


3. Lighting

Lighting should be tested before recording your sermon or going live. It is best to light your preacher in the front and behind. The point is to eliminate shadows when possible. You can learn more about lighting your video here.


4. Computer and internet

Without a computer, it is nearly impossible to make changes to your website every time a new live streaming link or archived video is available. You need a computer and a dedicated person overlooking the uploading activities on the go. But all that without a stable internet connection would be unattainable, so do ensure that you have one at your church.


4 Best Live Streaming Platforms For Your Virtual Church Service

online church services

Churches of all sizes can use the following list of streaming platforms. Some are free services, and others are priced according to what they can offer. Learn more about how to stream your own religious service online.


1. YouTube

church live stream

YouTube is probably the most well-known streaming tool on the list. If all you want to do is share your Sunday sermons, this is the best way to go about it. Just create a YouTube account and upload a pre-recorded video. To go live, make sure your channel is verified before streaming. Create a title and description for viewers and add links to your church’s website so attendees can learn more about your church.

Pro tip: Google’s YouTube nonprofit program can be really effective for you if you’re a registered 501(c)(3) church. With their giving features and video storytelling, you can improve the quality of your live streaming or other services as well as receive donations.


2. Facebook Live

church live stream

If your church has a Facebook page, it is also possible to live stream your sermon here. If you already have a large following on Facebook, this is an excellent option. Otherwise, other Christian streaming services may be better at helping you target a larger audience.


3. Christian World Media

church live stream

Christian World Media streams videos from ministries around the world. This is not a free service, but the prices are reasonable. All streaming plans allow churches to stream on their own website, provide at least two restreaming channels, and allow unlimited viewers while re-streaming. Once uploaded, your videos are listed on Christian World Media’s website to help share with a larger audience. You can archive your videos in their system. They also set your church up with your own Roku channel and Apple Podcast hosting. You can also share the videos screened on this channel to at least two restreaming channels like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Periscope, and iTunes. Higher price points give your church more channels to restream and the option to reschedule videos throughout the week.


4. ChurchStreaming.tv

church live stream

ChurchStreaming.tv offers a free 30-day trial, but the prices start at $79 a month for up to ten hours a month of streaming. This streaming service allows churches to stream to your church’s website and other services like Facebook, YouTube, and Apple TV. The largest benefit of this service is that you have control over your content and include bible passages and sermon notes.


6 Tips for Taking Your Church Online

Once you have started your virtual church, you can add a few things to make the most out of it.

church live stream


1. Broadcast to multiple streaming channels

Your congregation won’t all have the same viewing preferences. It is best practice to stream your channel on multiple streaming channels like YouTube, Facebook, and your website to name only a few. That also helps you target a wider range of people at a single time. You will not only gain more followers for your channels or social media handles but also it will ensure increased engagement for your church. This naturally boosts your online presence.


2. Live stream more than just church services

2.1 Online welcoming committee

When new people come to your church, they are welcomed by other members and can connect through activities that may interest them. Think of a virtual church in the same way. Monitor virtual church attendees and schedule a notification when new attendees join. When a new person attends an online service, the welcoming committee should send an email or message to the attendee after their viewing to thank them for attending and let them know there are other online activities they can join if interested.

2.2 Prayer group

The power of prayer cannot be matched. Even during a pandemic, churches can offer support through prayer to their entire congregation regardless of where they are. Offering a prayer group online is an excellent way to show support to your current church members and any new individuals interested in God’s message.

2.3 Bible studies

After a sermon, some may want to continue studying the text to learn more about Jesus’s teachings. Online bible studies led by your pastor are a unique way to reach these people and develop strong Christians in the process.

2.4 Group chats

After an in-person sermon, you can shake the pastor’s hand and ask questions or request a prayer. Online, there is a group chat option to ask questions, make a prayer request, or comment on the music shared that morning. Adding the group chat is essential to creating two-way communication, but monitor responses so it remains uncorrupted.


3. Go mobile

church live stream

Most online viewers will want to watch your service on their phones. Be sure to check all streaming services you use to make sure they can be viewed on mobile devices. Check your website to see how it’s seen on mobile devices. It’s amazing how quickly people will turn off a video or click away from a website if they cannot view it easily on their smartphones.


4. Test before you go Live

Before going live on your next sermon, test the sound, video, and lighting to see how it comes across. Test these things in the same location you will be going live so there are not any surprises. If you need different camera angles or lighting, it is better to know before going live.


5. Promote on social media

If one of the goals of your virtual church is to reach more people, share your online service on social media. Create your own pages on Facebook and Instagram. Share a recording of your service every Sunday and ask your congregation to send their favorite sermons to family and friends. Don’t forget to include other online options on here as well. If you have church members that want to share how the online experience has impacted their lives, you can record interviews or ask them to add a comment under the sermon that most affected them.


6. Add an online giving page

Another benefit to creating a virtual church is the opportunity to share more ways to give online. Most of your parishioners do not know or worry about how to financially support the church. Most probably are not aware of the difficulties you may be facing. Online giving can help your church raise funds without having to use your sermon to ask for money.

With online giving, you can collect donations and sponsorships and start crowdfunding and peer-to-peer campaigns. With most online donation processors, donor management options allow you to collect more detailed information on your church attendees and supporters.

Donorbox has helped thousands of churches worldwide with its powerful fundraising features. Give this short 1-minute video a watch to learn how.


3 Examples of Best Online Churches to Take Inspiration From


1. Highland Park

online church

The Highland Park website and virtual church are very easy to use. Although many of their options are in-person, there are enough details that help connect people online.

Meet the pastors

There are a few things that stand out from this virtual church. The first is the picture and details they give on the church’s pastor. This is a great way to personalize the viewing experience, especially for people that never make it to an in-person service.

Counseling

This church also offers actual medical counseling, which is different from most churches. They have included a list of services along with a picture and biography of all available counselors. The counseling is not free, but if you are a Christian that is unsure where to find Christian counselors, this is an excellent option.


2. Holy Cross Monastery

online church

Holy Cross Monastery is located in West Virginia under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. They can be the perfect example for you if you are just starting out with virtual church services. Their website isn’t heavy on online activities; instead, live streaming is one of the services recommended for those who have no other options.

Digital worship services

People can pray online with the church in case they are confined to their homes. The streaming options are available for Facebook and YouTube – two largely used channels across generations. They have also listed a service schedule on the page so that people can plan accordingly.

Sermons and homilies

Some people would rather spend their Sundays reading the words of God and take lessons from them. Their website provides a dedicated menu for them. There are plenty of sermons and homilies available on their website for those interested. These options make the website stand out and also, distinctive from other church websites.

Podcast

Podcasts are slowly gaining a lot of attention these days. The Holy Cross Monastery has its podcast channel and provided a link to it on its website. It’s a great way for those who wouldn’t want to watch the live streaming and would rather close their eyes and enjoy listening to the sermons.

We highly recommend this online church because it has diverse online services. They know that their congregation will not all have the same preferences. Some would love to read sermons, some would sit down and watch their pastors speak to them, and others would only like to listen. An online church like this is sure to win the hearts of people.


3. Willow Creek

online church

Willow Creek is a larger church based in northern Illinois. Their online channel includes live and recorded church services along with other options. It is not as clear as others, but the details provided are excellent.

Get help and get involved

Willow Church provides links to food assistance, emotional support, prayer groups, home deliveries, and employment counseling on their virtual church. Each of these options gives people support they can use without leaving their homes.

They also make it easy to give online and volunteer with the church in different ways. Their website is easy to use and understand so as not to turn people off.

Kids & students

The Kids & Students section is probably one of the most detailed portions of the virtual church. This section is very detailed and gives options for parents and children. The information and links vary from daily videos and content to help your child learn and parent Facebook groups and newsletters.

Get Connected

Willow’s virtual church’s Get Connected section gives an excellent introduction to the church and sets new viewers up with the welcoming committee. This church also offers small groups to develop connections with the church further.


Final Thoughts

online church

Virtual churches are not going away after the pandemic. Our current shutdown has made the rest of us aware of how homebound people have lived for generations, and it is the church’s responsibility to respond to this group now that we understand the struggles. Offering your services and small groups can increase church membership and help strengthen relationships between your church and the community. The chance for churches to share their message and raise money online is reason enough to invest in starting your own online church.

If your church is interested in learning more about online giving, visit our website for a list of features we can offer. Learn more tips on how to start a virtual church and share your message online on our blog.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

online church

Here we’ll answer some common questions regarding virtual church services.


1. What is a virtual church member?

A virtual church member is anyone not able to attend services in person. This can include those who are permanently or temporarily affected.

  • Homebound
  • College students
  • Weekend workers
  • Truck drivers
  • US military members

2. How can I improve my church live stream?

Here are a few things you can do to improve your live stream.

  • Stabilize your camera
  • Test audio, video, and lighting before you go live
  • Have a goal and measure your results
  • Speak to the camera

Even if you are sharing a sermon given at your location, your pastor should take a few moments to speak directly to the camera. This action can make the sermon feel personal to viewers online and like the pastor is speaking to them.

  • Stream as many ways possible, including your website, Facebook, YouTube, and more
  • Listen and respond to comments and questions

3. What equipment do I need to get started with an online church?

Here are the essential equipment you’d be needing as you plan to start a virtual church live streaming service –

  • A computer
  • Stable internet connection
  • Camera
  • Microphone
  • Good lighting
  • A live streaming platform

Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

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