Over the past three months, churches have transitioned from live stream services, to pre-recorded services, and back again. Watch parties have been organized so that congregants can enjoy worship in small groups at safe locations. Churches are using the comments feature on live-stream platforms to provide real time interaction with those watching. The Here I Am team is impressed by the creativity shown – these adaptations have been wonderful to keep connection with members and guests during these unusual times.
One downside yet to be effectively solved via online worship is the feedback received from the congregation to those preaching, singing, and reading. Pastors are adapting to preaching to an empty room, choirs are singing into laptop speakers, and people are reading scripture to smartphone cameras. There is no way for the person delivering the message to see how the audience is receiving the message. During live worship anything from a small head nod to a resounding amen can show the person speaking that the audience is engaged. These small cues energize the speaker and help convey the message in a positive manner. Virtually, this interaction is all but gone.
Replacing non-verbal feedback is a daunting task when it comes to online interaction. Online comments are a good start, particularly when the speaker acknowledges during their message. A select number of churches move to zoom worship to get back the natural feedback which seems to be the closest to the real deal one can get.
As churches continue to navigate the changing landscape of worship, providing avenues for non-verbal, real time feedback, will be a continuous problem to tackle. Creativity coupled with innovations via second screens, real-time chat reactions, and church engagement apps are working to fill the non-verbal feedback gap.