The global pandemic has been with us for approximately 14 months. During that time, church ministries have been forced to innovate by using digital assets to continue the life of their organizations. Over time, Zoom has become a staple in many church ministries. This blog is to highlight the best use for the Zoom platform in a ministry context.
The Zoom website (https://zoom.us) says Zoom is “… here to help you connect, communicate, and express your ideas so you can get more done together.” I believe the primary idea is in the word, “together.” While Zoom can send a live stream to YouTube Live, Facebook Live, or Facebook Workplace, its primary use is for meetings and to a lesser degree, based upon its features, webinars. Many churches are using Zoom for their primary public church services. But this is not the best use of the platform.
The best use for Zoom in a digital-forward church ministry is for private, in-house meetings, period. This is especially true if a church does not have the technical know-how to use Zoom in the live stream context as a private backstage to the public live stream. While buildings are closed, the church board, church ministry councils, church business meetings, and any other private group meeting can be effectively continued on the Zoom platform. Churches may well benefit from continuing to use Zoom for many of these meetings even after church buildings fully reopen.
There are advantages to using Zoom or a similar platform for private, in-house meetings. Travel time is limited to simply getting in front of a computer screen, phone screen, tablet screen, or participating via a phone number. When people are on the screen, there is more complete communication through verbal and body language cues. Files can be shared with everyone in the meeting. Chat can be public or private between participants in the meeting. Screens can be shared with everyone in the meeting. These advantages also reduce the need to duplicate paper files to share with everyone, which reduces the expense of the meeting. Zoom is great for private, in-house meetings.
It should be said that Zoom meetings need a host or co-host to actively manage the meeting. Distracting noise from unmuted participants must be closely managed. Cameras must also be monitored and turned off by the host if necessary. There are many embarrassing stories about how the camera revealed what was never supposed to be seen. People have been fired from their jobs for these inadvertent revelations. Even when the host or co-host is vigilant, issues with noise and pictures arise. This is a major reason Zoom is not the best vehicle to use for public services even when streamed to another platform. The unmuted mic can inadvertently highjack the main speaker and greatly reduce the quality of the public presentation. And the constant, “Are you ready to present?” question can also become distracting.
Zoom is not best for live streaming public services. Those church ministries that insist upon using it in this way are most likely limiting their potential outreach and growth. If there is not a clear and diligently used strategy to capture guest contact information and a method for engaging guests during the live stream, Zoom can become a limiting factor in church outreach and growth. If a church simply wants to check the box for having had a service, perhaps Zoom will suffice. There may be merit to the idea that simply doing this will “keep the flock together.” But evidence shows more and more people are opting out of typical digital church services. Check your analytics to see if this is true of your digital church ministry. Successful outreach and growth require intention and focus. Zoom is not the best platform to facilitate this outreach and growth.
Regardless of the platform chosen for live streaming, churches that want to grow must intentionally focus on a growth strategy and structure. This fundamentally includes an intentional method of collecting guest contact information at every public service, finding ways to engage guests at every public service, keeping track of guest contact information for follow up, using the contact information to develop relationships with guests beyond the single public service, and clear pathways to move guests into a deeper and deeper commitment to God and the church mission. My book, Retaining the Harvest, can help with these issues.
As long as church buildings are closed or partially closed, an intentional digital strategy must be employed that leads to outreach and growth. If these issues are not conscientiously addressed, churches will inevitably die out of existence over time. Most tragically, these churches will miss the God-ordained opportunity to reach more people to invite them into the restorative relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ. Reopening church buildings will not be enough to stem the tide of member attrition because it is predicted that at least 20% of congregants currently attending digital church services do not plan to return to the church building.
Zoom is a great tool to be used in church ministry. It is best used for private, in-house meetings. It is not very helpful for live streaming public services in the church ministry context if the church intents to reach out and grow.
There are much better alternatives for live streaming church services. Feel free to reach out to me if you would like recommendations.
Jackson M. Doggette Jr. is Founder and Lead Consultant for Apex Leadership Consulting Group, LLC, which dramatically improves individual and organizational effectiveness. He operates at the intersection of organizational growth, organizational development (strategy, structure, policy), and financial growth for churches, ministries, and nonprofit organizations. An organization that lacks in any of these three areas is limiting its potential. Visit https://JacksonDoggette.com/blog