Virtual Church Boosts Engagement

Moving from in-person to virtual spaces has allowed many congregations during the pandemic to boost engagement and outreach.Despite congregational growing pains around using technology, bible study teachers and students have found transitions to Zoom offering new evangelism opportunities.

Jayne Davis, associate pastor for discipleship at First Baptist Church in Wilmington, NC, helped transition her church’s Sunday School to Zoom.

“There was a learning curve in the beginning,” she said of teaching, learning and fellowshipping online. “It was difficult figuring out how to engage when you can’t have eye contact with everyone.”

Whether experimenting with downloading problems, adjusting camera angles, muting and unmuting microphones and trying to find the perfect Zoom background, the Zoom experience has been for many congregations something they will never forget.

Davis said, “That’s just part of the cost of doing business right now.”

However, for Philip Vestal, associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Marietta, GA said, “What’s better is the flexibility and the convenience…What’s worse is the lack of personal presence, the computer glitches and lag times, and not being able to hear each other talk. We also worry about those who didn’t join Zoom, for whatever reason. We don’t want them to feel abandoned.”

The difficulty most congregation members were having stemmed from most people’s lack of familiarity with the new technological platforms. “Early on, muting was a problem and still is a problem. People don’t know how to mute. For other people, it’s volume and their microphones. Sometimes you just can’t hear them,” Vestal said.

Another Pastor, Tommy Bratton, remarked, “We spent way too much time early on making sure we had the right background, and people were bouncing in and out of the picture. It was distracting. And we still have the lighting issues for some people — they are always in the dark.”

Others have struggled with their computers or smartphone cameras, resulting in only partial images of faces and heads showing. “Things are more challenging when people are involved but they are on mute and something distracts them, or you can see them talking off screen. Sometimes they are laughing because someone else is telling them a joke on the chat,” he said.

When taken collectively, Davis says she views the past 12 months adjusting to virtual technology as a way for preparing to engage the church of tomorrow. “This ship has sailed. We are not going back to how it was before. We will go back in person, but the technology will be coming with us.”

Source: Baptist News Global