This is a resource of best practices we have discovered (stumbled upon!) during our initial weeks of conducting virtual church. Please contact s if you have more best practices to share!
Best Practices for Virtual Church Parishioners and Guests
• If possible, please join using the Zoom links instead of Facebook Live. Zoom allows you to participate more actively with voice, chat and web-cameras. Zoom is easy to set up, and more fun! Facebook is more like watching a livestream, where Zoom is more like being part of the service itself.
• Turn on your cameras. Seeing faces helps to build community and connect people better than just voices. And don't be self-conscious: we all need haircuts now that we have been in quarantine for weeks! :)
• Mute when you are not talking. Our microphones can pick up lots of stray sounds that get re-broadcast to others.
• For Zoom on a computer, push and hold the spacebar to temporarily un-mute if you want to talk. The spacebar is like a push-to-talk button on a walkie-talkie. You can always use your mouse and click too to mute/un-mute, but the spacebar shortcut is handy for quick access.
• Use Gallery View to see a Brady-Bunch-style of video streams. Gallery View is a toggle in the upper-right of the Zoom window.
Best Practices for Virtual Church Hosts and Broadcasters
1. Be patient. Things will not go perfectly, especially at first. We had a goal to simply make small improvements and gradually improve each week: that was our only goal. We have come a long way, but we are still making small improvements and continuing to learn.
2. If possible, get a few people to help with the technology during the service. To pull this off, it helps to have a Production Team. We use a team of three during the service: the priest, who leads the service and 'drives' the screen-shared PowerPoint program; the Facebook broadcaster, which someone to send to FB Live on another computer; a 'virtual usher' to answer questions in chat and mute participants that may be making accidental noise. Give "co-host' rights in Zoom to the Production Team.
3. Put the church program into PowerPoint or Google Slides, and use a big font. And then have the priest share the PowerPoint from their desktop. This allows the priest to keep control of the service, but others can follow along well.
4. Pre-record and embed music. Group singing is tricky. Given lags in everyone's internet connections, we decided to pre-record our music with piano and 1-3 singers, and then embed that sound file into our PowerPoint so that we can play it on demand. It works well this way. Also, make sure you have the usage rights to any songs you want to use.
5. Muting the noise. Knowing when to mute everyone, or open up all microphones, is challenging but important. Hearing multiple voices can help enhance the togetherness of the service, but it often is a bit of an audio mess. Our virtual usher has the power to mute/un-mute any single person (or all at once), and that is helpful since often many parishioners' background noise comes through and takes the focus from the service. Consider muting everyone for music if the pre-recorded music has a pre-recorded cantor, and consider assigning a reader for Psalm responses and muting everyone else. But assign the virtual usher to be constantly muting attendees during the entire service.
6. Use Desktop-Sharing Tools for Facebook Live. Assuming you want to broadcast to Facebook Live during the service, there are several solutions for this: using this Google Chrome Extension that allows you to share your desktop applications into FB Live, or uusing a different broadcast tool to share your desktop (which is running the Zoom application( Whatever you decide, it is best if someone other than the priest is responsible for streaming into FB Live. Zoom also has a direct-connect feature to get Facebook and Zoom connected, but we did not get that working well.
7. Coffee Hour and other social times. After our services, most of our parishioners will hang around for 15-20 minutes to socialize, just like an in-person service. Encourage people to un-mute and turn on their cameras during this time. This has been a huge success for us to help stay connected.
8. Make a Pre-Flight Checklist. Once you have done a couple services, you might want to create a little wirtten 'pre-flight checklist' that you do before the service begins. Making a checklist will help keep your organized in the 20 minutes before the service. We have a few things on ours:
• Make sure you have the Hosts/Co-Hosts designated correctly before the service
• Practice sharing/unsharing the Powerpoint deck and make sure music plays correctly
• Silence your phones so they don't go off during the service
• Set the meeting to Mute Participants Upon Entry (this is not the default setting for our normal meetings, but we want this for our service)
9. Continuous improvement. We constantly encourage parishioners to let us know what they like and don't see working well in virtual church. The Production Team meets after every service for 20 minutes and discusses what to keep doing, and what to improve. Each week we find handfuls of new things we try.
If you have other ideas you may have seen work well, we'd love to hear from you and update this page with more info! Please contact us using the info below..