This past Sunday – and for the foreseeable future as the world grapples with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – my church, like thousands of other churches around the globe, livestreamed its worship service. With just a few days’ notice, we scrambled to buy a camera, test the audio and video, figure out which streaming platform to use, and find ways to communicate this to our congregation.
Praise God, it worked. And we had overwhelmingly positive feedback. Of course there was a lot of room for improvement, and in the weeks to come, as this crisis looks to be long-lasting, we will be working to make our livestreamed services more well-done. And we anticipate continuing to live stream at least one of our services going forward, even when our congregation gathers together again.
It’s occurred to me many times over the last week or so – as I’ve thought through our own livestreaming approach, and as I’ve read and watched how other churches did theirs – that this crisis is a moment in which worship leaders are being given such a rare and profound privilege.
Think about it, worship leaders: you are being streamed into peoples’ homes. Into their living rooms, their bedrooms, their kitchens. Into environments where there is increased tension, anxiety, and fear.
And there you are, right in the middle of their home, with your guitar, or sitting at your keyboard, leading them in worship via the miracle of livestreaming. What an opportunity. Let’s not waste this opportunity.
If we do this well, all around the world, gathered around sofas and coffee tables and kitchen islands, stressed-out, worn-out, and socially-distanced people will be lifting their voices in worship together. They’ll be remembering and proclaiming what is true. They’ll be re-centered around the One who holds all things together. They’ll be filling their homes, in those few precious moments, with the praises of God.
Do everything you can to facilitate small group singing in homes, even as people watch you on TV or on their laptop. Make it easy for them. Go back to the basics of worship leading.
Here are four really important components to remember whenever you lead worship, but especially when you’re being livestreamed into living rooms. Remember:
Have an invitational tone. Not only should you invite them to sing with you, but then as you proceed to sing the song, sing in such a way that the average singer (or non-singer!) at home can sing along with you without feeling silly. The more you deviate, the more you improvise, the more impressive you come across, the more opportunities you give the person in the pews (or in this case, in their PJ’s on the couch) to stop singing.
Keep the range “from C to shining C”. You can dip lower and you can jump higher. But don’t hang out too low or too high, or people will just sit there and watch.
Choose songs that are biblically faithful, musically accessible, and congregationally edifying. Point people to Jesus. Work out smooth transitions between keys, tempos, and time signatures.
May God give us humble hearts, before the Lord, between our colleagues, and on whatever physical or digital platform we’re given. Pray for the invitational heart of David to say “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Psalm 34:3). And for the deference of John the Baptist to say “ He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Oh, what a privilege and rare opportunity we have during this crisis, to simply, pastorally, carefully, and humbly facilitate the praises of God by the people of God, now scattered into living rooms, soon reconvened into sanctuaries and auditoriums, and one day gathered around the throne of God.