To better understand what different churches are going through as COVID-19 changes the ways we worship, the Here I Am team has tuned into over 40 different online worship streams over the past four months.
Something that I have taken more notice too during this time is the comment section of a churches livestream. Whether a church uses Facebook, Youtube, or a dedicated streaming service they all offer a comments section where viewers can interact with one another.
I briefly touched on how the comments section can be used to gather feedback in the blog, Weekly Insight: Replacing Nonverbal Feedback during Online Church, but noticed this past week that the comment sections are underutilized.
Most comments that I see during live stream services consist of a couple words to greet everyone in the chat or to give kudos to the person talking. These comments replicate an in person worship setting – people say hello to one another, sing along to hymns, and may occasionally shout out an amen, but other than that the congregation is silently listening.
The comment section has the potential to be a powerful tool to give viewers the interaction they are missing from in person worship, but it needs to be moderated effectively. Before a livestream, whether it is actually live, or pre-recorded, a church can assign a moderator to encourage posts in the comments. The moderator can post questions in the comment section and encourage the people viewing to respond so that they can be engaged and interactive while worship is going on.
Moderators should prompt engagement with comments such as “where did you see God at work this week” or “what are your takeaways from this sermon.” These can encourage simple or complex responses that shows the audience that there are people engaged on the other side of their screen.
Some viewers may not be comfortable sharing their thoughts on a public platform like Facebook or Youtube. This is where a dedicated event chat room, in a private church engagement app, can be used to make sure everyone can actively engage while not worrying about strangers intervening.
As churches adapt to a new form of worship, new strategies can be used to make sure both the in-person and the virtual congregation are engaged. The comments section is the perfect place to show off this engagement, participants just need a little push and guidance.