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Community Discussion: Online vs. In-Person Church

Now that establishments are starting to reopen, churches are getting back to opening their doors for in-person services.  Because we have the opportunity to gather for worship again in person, how could we encourage people to go back to church? What can we give the people in our services that they can’t get online? Here is a community discussion that transpired in our Facebook group.

Comments:

“Um… Community? Actually, praying together and talking with other humans who care about you? I’ve had an issue with the one-way communication/ lecture-style format of the church for a long time anyway. In our church, members are actually talking to each other and learning more about each other because of the virus! Just sitting and watching the preacher/musicians put on a show shouldn’t be the goal in the first place. My two cents.” Denise Walker

“Church” is more than just services. Some of our ministries simply can’t be replicated online – for instance, the weekly Lunch Club for older people and Toddler Club play sessions for preschoolers and their carers. For other events, it’s struck me this week that meeting online is somehow more time-efficient. I’ve taken part in two Zoom meetings that would have taken twice as long if we had met face to face. Is there less informal chat? Are participants’ minds more focused? Do we settle down to business more quickly, and terminate the meeting abruptly rather than having an extended “goodbye” time as people drift home? I wonder whether the time “wasted” in a physical meeting is actually part of what binds us together and makes the event more memorable.” Phil Banting

“One big thing that going to service at the church offers is fellowship. Singing together in unity, learning more about God’s word, again together. It’s easier to focus on church service. When I’m ‘attending’ service by live stream, I get up to do stuff frequently, but when I’m in service, I feel compelled to be more polite and save things that aren’t an emergency (like needing a drink of water, etc) until service has ended. Of course some drawbacks to going to church as opposed to watching from home: can’t wear lounge clothes or eat chips and salsa during service.” Michelle Burd

“Communion, live corporate worship, live fellowship, personal prayer, and groceries.” Yvonne Beals

“As Catholics, to participate in the Mass, to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist will always be the most important reason.” Kelly Mason McClintock 

“Live personal fellowship with other members. Oh, and coffee. Seriously though, our online production has been better and more elaborate than our normal weekend production before COVID. Once we are back to in-person services, it will HOPEFULLY be the same level of production because it will be the same service going everywhere.” Sameh Safaa Fahmi

“The gift of in-person community & the mental health that comes from seeing friends.” Ben Siemon 

“I don’t know the answer but I can tell you why I will attend in person as soon as I can… it’s the feeling. It’s the same reason I would attend a concert in person versus streaming it on demand. The energy is different. There is a feeling in the room that is powerful when people are gathered together. I can feel the Holy Spirit working in that space. Now, I fully believe that the Holy Spirit is fully working in our homes as well. Fully accessible in a zoom class as a classroom, so the honest answer is, it comes down to personal preference. Which means I think each should be equally offered. We were created to connect but we don’t all connect the same way. We have had the ability to stream on-demand and watch on tv for over a decade. Yet people still go to movie theaters, concerts, sporting events, and church. Many have always chosen to still come together. I don’t see that changing. Online just offers another way, and it will speak to different people.” Jenna Stensland

Conclusion:

This pandemic has become a changing moment for all of us. As a church, we innovated, adapted to the situation, and have become stronger than ever. We have realized how important the church is. There are definitely certain things that work better in-person vs. online. That being said, we have to have faith that God will work through our circumstances. If you do decide to return to in-person activities, please be sure to take the necessary precautionary steps to ensure the safety of your members. 

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