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10 Ways to Improve Your Online Preaching


As an evangelical pastor in Shanghai, China, John Willison began to face new challenges as the country went into lockdown this year. To continue to reach his congregation, he began holding services online. However, he quickly learned that he had to modify his preaching style to best connect with his church members. 

In today's blog, Pastor Willison will share some of the lessons he's learned and 10 ways you can improve your online preaching.

In-Person Vs. Online Church

When our church first started live-streaming services, we simply took what happened on a normal Sunday and replicated it online. We soon discovered this wasn't working! Over the past months, we've modified our approach. Here's why.

When church happens in person, people come prepared differently. For evangelical churches like ours, people are often preparing to focus on a service from 1-2 hours. They think about what to wear, and they eat first—all so they can focus for an extended period of time on being with other people.

 Online, it's completely different, and there's the potential to simply click away and leave at any moment.

The physical environment is also different. When meeting in person, everyone is facing one direction. In person, it's a bit awkward to eat, crinkle a wrapper, read a book, or have a phone conversation during the service. But online, you are looking at a small screen, and there are many distractions—like when your 2-year-old starts throwing a ball at your head.

Everything and everyone is more staged online. You only show what's on camera. Congregants can only guess what color your trousers might be (if you're wearing any). And participants can choose to only show a small portion of themselves. They might have their camera switched off and only be listening in. They might make an occasional comment using a chat function, or they might remain completely silent. This means social support is very different. When meeting in person, a group of people is likely to be actively listening, praying with you, and joining you in your "Amen".

All these factors and more mean we've radically shifted our approach to conducting church services online. I don't have the luxury of addressing our people for 40 minutes (it doesn't work). But the good news is, we preachers can still deliver something of great spiritual value in 15 minutes, and we can do it in a close, personal, and intimate way.

Here are 10 ways to improve your online preaching:

1. Preach Shorter

Think in terms of a 12-18 minute sermon, not 35-40 minutes. 

2. Preach up-close and personal

You're not on stage. You're up close. People can see your eyes, your face, your smile. Speak softer. Look into the camera. Don't wave your arms. Don't shout. Don't pace back and forth.

3. Have a conversation

Think of your sermon more as a "fireside chat" with friends.

4. Invite people into your home

Let people see the pictures on your wall, your family, your pets, your office, your sofa, and your kitchen.

5. Keep things moving

Have your main camera, and then a side-angle to mix things up. Vary your scenes, props, positions, and camera angles. People get bored quicker online.

6. Don't repeat yourself

People are paying attention to every sentence.

7. Prepare differently

Prep like a movie-producer, not a preacher from a pulpit. Think location, props, scenes. Are you walking? Sitting? Standing? Inside? Outside?

8. Plan ahead

Deadlines are different - get your sermon recorded by Thursday, so your people have time for post-production. Consider adding words on the screen, improving the sound, and getting it ready to put online.

9. Trust your young people like you have never done before!

If you're a digital immigrant, listen to digital natives in your church. Digital natives are people who grew up knowing about this stuff and can't remember a time before the internet. Trust them. They know what they're talking about.

10. Take the limits off

Don't limit yourself to one weekly sermon. You can produce daily five-minute devotionals or prayers. Aim to share content regularly and find a rhythm of the day.

Taking Your Church Online

Like Pastor Willison, church and ministry leaders worldwide have had to adjust to new ways of fulfilling their calling this year. They have had to expand their impact online to reach their congregations and communities through this challenging season. 

As we move forward from 2020, having an online presence, like a website, will remain an essential part of reaching those in need of the hope of Christ. 

Learning how to move your ministry online is exciting, but it can be stressful and challenging if you don't know where to start. That's why we at StartCHURCH created a practical step-by-step guide for pastors and leaders like you to make the process easy. With the StartCHURCH Connect ebook, you will feel confident in getting your ministry online and producing services with excellence. Click here to learn more!

If you need help creating a church or ministry website, the team at StartCHURCH is here to assist you! We know the challenges church and ministry leaders like you are facing—that's why we created the StartSITES Service

With StartSITES, you can move your ministry online and continue to connect with your congregation and the local community. Click the link below to learn more or give us a call at 877-494-4655 to speak with a specialist today!

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