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Ways to Worship Virtually

Posted: March 13 2020 at 03:25 PM
Author: Rev. Martin Lee, Dir. of Congregational Development and Redevelopment and Anne Marie Gerhardt, Dir. of Communications

***We are updating this article with new information as it becomes available. Check back to our website regularly.**

Dear Worship Planners:


Since the coronavirus has been declared a pandemic, we need to creatively plan the means by which we can effectively communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ through this public health crisis. I believe that the church is the hope of the world. Many years ago, I met with Lyle Schaller who has written more books about congregational development than anyone I know. I shared with him my outlines for “4 Essentials of Congregational Development.” He reviewed it and suggested one more area which is “Clearly Defined Constituency.” He explained to me that the vision identifies the targeted people geographically, demographically, culturally, and spiritually.

When you plan your worship you must know your congregation and your community in order to effectively communicate. I would like to share a tool that you can use to enhance your worship ministry. Mosaic USA classifies consumers in the United States into one of 71 types and 19 groups by EXPERIAN marketing company. (You can get this from Please read  ‘How To Register’ for an explanation of communication channel preferences and technology adaption. Their study shows how the community prefers to receive information via printed material, mobile phone, smartphone, email, television, internet radio, podcast, etc.

Livestreaming/Online Worship

It takes up to 24 hours to set up your first YouTube live broadcast. Whether you already have an account or open a new account, it takes 24 hours to verify your account for live streaming after clicking on the button. Also, you need to have at least 1000 subscribers if using a mobile device. Click to read more on how to get started. Otherwise, you can download “Prism Live Studio” to livestream. 

Another option is to use Facebook Live. Just a reminder that people do not need a Facebook account to view your broadcast. When reaching out to your community, the easiest way to share the broadcast is with your Facebook URL (the link)Your community will be able to load this URL and view your broadcast without logging in to Facebook however, they won't be able to interact. Click here for a step by step guide thanks from the Michigan Conference. Also, to engage more viewers, think about creating a "watch party". (Tip: position your phone or tablet horizontally/landscape for better viewing and use a stand/tripod to avoid shaky video.) Watch this helpful video on 4 steps to livestreaming your church service.

Consider adding a Donate Button to your Facebook page. Learn more here. Instagram is another option. Click for steps to start a live video on this popular social media platform. (Note the Instagram video times out after a short time)

Read more from United Methodist Communications "Taking your worship online: A guide for beginners and everyone else."

Click here for a list of NIC churches using Facebook Live, YouTube, dial in, and Radio to broadcast their services. If you do not have these capabilities, send out copies of the sermons, scriptures, and commentary so people can be fed spiritually and emotionally. Stay connected through social media, email and phone calls.

Need a graphic for your online services? Click here for some free downloads.

Zoom is an online conferencing app for one-on-one or group video/chat meetings and another option for you to share services and small group gatherings, such as Bible study. Click to learn more. People have the option of joining via their computer or dialing in. Tech Soup is offering discounts for annual subscriptions. You must be a 501(c)(3) and register with Tech Soup.

Outreach Digital is offering a free solution for streaming church services online, including chat, notes, and the Bible. This allows you to stream from your church's website without needing to use Facebook or other social media. Read more here.

Be careful when promoting or posting information about your online worship service with the term "livestreaming". Only use this term if you are indeed livestreaming. This would not apply to pre-recorded videos posted on your website.

Free Conference Calls
For congregations with a large percentage of members without an Internet connection or computer access, is a great option. By signing up you will receive a free phone number that church members can call into, enter a passcode, and connects the host with up to 1,000 participants. You can sign up here.

Watch Party Graphic 1080x1080

Internet Access
Comcast is making it even easier for low-income families who live in a Comcast service area to connect to the Internet. The company is offering new customers 60 days of complimentary Internet Essentials service, which is normally available to all qualified low-income households for $9.95/month. They're also increasing Internet speeds for this service from 15/2 Mbps to 25/3 Mbps for all new and existing customers. Click here for more information to share. Comcast is also making hotspots available for free (you don't have to be a Comcast customer) and pausing their data plan for 60 days. Click here for more information. Also, if you rent router/WiFi equipment from Comcast, consider enabling it to help out those around you in this unprecedented time of need. Comcast promotes it as secure and will not impact your own network experience. Click here to learn how.

Technical Assistance

Due to the current circumstances, COVID-19 and the group gathering restrictions, AV3 Productions is happy to offer you their web streaming support. Email Eric Joob at for more information about how they can help get you started. Live streaming equipment can range from $300-$1000 depending on your church infrastructure. 

The General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) is providing Facebook Live workshops on a variety of topics every Wednesday and creating new resources. Go to their Facebook Page. Also, if you have questions, especially around live streaming or eGiving, please email them at


You must have a CCLI streaming license to cover copyrights for music and video materials when you do online worship services. Copyrights are the biggest roadblock. I recommend the Open Hymnal ( and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer Both are Public Domain and require no permissions to utilize in broadcasts and recordings.

Songs published before 1925 are in the public domain and do not require licensing for any use, which includes many older hymns and many Christmas songs!) To find public domain music click here.

The World English Bible (WEB) is Public Domain and your best bet.

One License is offering two different gratis license options valid through April 15, 2020. Click to learn more.

To assure that local churches have the resources they need, the United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH) announced that it is granting permission to livestream and post online selected content from the United Methodist Book of Worship (BOW) as congregations care for their members during the international health crisis. Click to read more.

**Update** During this time of National Emergency due to the COVID-19 virus, the National Council of Churches has temporarily revised their permissions policy. Churches that livestream or broadcast their church sermons may use the RSV/NRSV without any special permission requirements.***

Here are some helpful tips and info on copyright for churches:

Online Giving

If you don't have electronic giving in place, now's the time to set it up to encourage the spiritual practice of generosity and giving to help sustain the church and its ongoing ministries. Read more on several different services for electronic giving.

The Office of Congregational Development is here to help with your ministry needs. Contact Rev. Martin Lee at If you need help with communications needs, contact Anne Marie Gerhardt at

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