Doing church differently: some social media reminders

By Sha’Rome Henry and the Rev. Angela Ford Nelson

So you want to teach your Sunday school class, lead a meeting or offer your worship services via Zoom, Facebook Live, teleconference or another social media platform, but you don’t know where to start. How do you make the most of these tools while ensuring that the Good News of the Gospel is presented to your diverse audience most effectively?

This is the question we have considered over the past nine months as a result of the global pandemic, which has necessitated “doing church” differently.

Below you’ll find the beginning of a checklist we have compiled and use to offer our five online services, various meetings and classes to our church family and a growing online community.

Before your class, meeting or worship experience

Planning is important.

Will a presentation or agenda be shared? Practice in advance.

Will breakout rooms be needed? Do the prep work of setting up your participants in breakout rooms before the session begins.

How will your participants be attending? Smartphones or computer? Remember: What the participants see and how they navigate may differ depending on the device.

Know the technology

Continue learning the technology. Facebook, Zoom, Instagram, YouTube and are constantly updating their platforms. Stay abreast so you aren’t caught off guard by a scheduled change.

Set up a pre-class training

Consider starting 30 minutes early for those who may be hesitant or who want additional training on the technology. Send out a user guide in advance and walk through the guide 30 minutes earlier (or a day or so before the presentation).

Gather your team

Teamwork makes the dream work! You must have a team to achieve the dream.

Consider these roles:

A co-host/worship leader: The person presenting should not be the person moderating the online experience. You need an intercessor(s) to cover you and the connection before and while you teach/preach/reach.

A monitor: A person(s) to monitor what you are offering while you are doing it. They will inform you if something isn’t working as expected.

A timekeeper. Staying within the confines of your timeframe is important for retaining your audience.

A commenter. Someone who is going to engage the listeners in the chat or comments. They will post your key points and questions as you go along.

A troubleshooter: To offer tech support to the presenter in each breakout room and to the participants.

A feedback loop. Folks who will tell you how it went and not worry about your ego (smile).

Get yourself a social media mentor

A social media mentor will help ensure you’ve thought through the details. Dr. Martin Luther Quick, associate minister at Journey UMC, provides mentoring for pastors and laypersons who are looking to make the most of social media. Connect with a mentor!

Keep in mind

Remember, the Internet is a foe and a friend. Ensure you have a stable internet connection. Wi-Fi is good, but a wired connection is best. Consider setting up a redundant internet source before you go live so you have another connection ready, like a mobile hotspot, if your internet goes down.

During the session

Start early. Open a waiting room (if applicable) before the meeting start time. This will assist with assigning breakout rooms in larger meetings.

Record your session. This is helpful for those who couldn’t attend, for those who want to review the training again and for post-session lessons-learned discussions.

Can you hear me now? Ask if the participants can see and hear clearly during your presentation.

Participation is key. Invite participation via comments, chats and verbally if possible. Consider using hashtags in the comments to expand the reach of your message after the session.

Consider surveys as well to gather feedback.

After your session

Reflect and review. Watch or listen to the recording. Remember: like any good sportsperson, if you are too busy to watch the playback of the game, then you’re likely too busy to play the game.

Pray, Practice, Be Patient, Pray. New territory comes with new distractions and new devils. Bathe your work and your intentions in prayer, practice, patience and prayer, and God will lead the way!

Henry is executive assistant to the coordinator of clergy services and the conference secretary and communications director for Good Hope Wesley Chapel UMC, Camden. Nelson is pastor of Good Hope Wesley Chapel UMC.

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