For the past 10 years, I have been the Media Director for a small rural church that is somewhere between 119-120 years old. In American years, that’s super old for a church in the middle of nowhere away from the East and West coasts.
I began this volunteer position because my father is the preaching minister at this church, and a hobby of mine as a preteen and teen was learning HTML and CSS. I also enjoyed teaching myself graphic design and software tools for fun. Yes, I was a nerd. Before the days of YouTube I was on LiveJournal reading tutorials on how to use GIMP and Coral.
The church did not have a functional website, so one day in my senior year of high school, I simply decided I was going to build them one.
I have built 3 iterations of the website since, and they have all been progressively better. In addition to web building, I added on social media, which has been crucial to the church’s growth and sense of community.
So why am I talking about this and COVID?
Well, social distancing has forced pretty much everyone with a level head to quarantine. Worried about the future of the church, many churches have turned to live-streaming.
Now, all over the internet I have seen Christians bash churches going online, and I want to say, shame on you!
I am immune suppressed, and the majority of the congregation I serve is over 60 or under 2 years old – the most vulnerable populations. Never would I ever spit on wanting to keep any of these precious people safe in the pursuit of personal holiness, such as not being afraid of no virus!
Hello, there’s more than just you on this planet!
This attitude is what makes me afraid of living in the Bible belt, that my fellow Christians are going to kill everyone else off.
So, to go back to my congregation. We are less than 40 people in size, and most people are technology illiterate. The best can use Facebook and go to a website on their smartphones. Most don’t have laptops or a desktop. Many don’t have smartphones or email. The ones who do have Facebook have been posting wild conspiracy theories.
What too many churches and Christians I’ve seen online is that they take their technology for granted, as well as their urban and suburban settings. Not all churches have Twitter accounts, or laser shows, or a stereo setup in their buildings. Some flat out don’t want a few of those things.
I’d like to shed some light that the US is not the most technologically advanced country in the world. There are internet and cellular dead zones 45 minutes away from major cities – this is where the church I volunteer for is and where I grew up. People manage without it. Living there was like a time warp back 50 years, and when I moved away I hardly didn’t know what to do with myself.
Nowadays, rich folks have discovered the area, and things are slowly starting to change. But most of the people at the church are still technologically illiterate, although some of the newcomers work in IT.
My father’s question was, how do we keep the church together, how do we keep them uplifted, and how do we keep them safe while in quarantine?
We had never live-streamed before. Until about 2009 media wasn’t used at all during service – just a basic PowerPoint. The answer we knew was to livestream, however, we had to get the word out, and to convince the deacons of the church live-streaming was the answer.
After setting up and testing technology for a live-stream, my father successfully received approval from the deacons. Next was to communicate to the congregation what was going on.
We decided to use Zoom for our live-stream, because people without internet could phone in and listen to the service. That way, everyone was included. The rest of my team and I took to social media, Canva, and various word editors to create attractive, clear and concise graphics, letters, and emails to send out to the congregation. My mom called all 40 people in the congregation.
It’s been all hands on deck and none of us has gotten a break. This is to say, if your church is actively trying to communicate with you in any shape or form during the COVID quarantine, please be grateful to them. It isn’t easy on them, and they’d rather not be quarantined either – but we’re all in this together.