5 key lessons for ministry in lockdown – short talk given at Premier Digital (@premierdigi) webinar

I took part in a Premier Digital Webinar today all about ministry during lockdown. You should be able to view this here, my talk comes on 16 minutes into the video, notes from my short presentation are below. If you want to find more support for ministry during lockdown, check out all my how to articles and other reflections here: https://bryonytaylor.com/category/coronavirus-help/

Description of the session:

Being unable to use our buildings or meet in person has caused the worldwide church to urgently find new ways of delivering services, building fellowship and serving their communities. The temptation at this time is to think in terms of how we survive until life returns to ‘normal’. But what if our current circumstances are not an unfortunate interruption to life as normal but the catalyst for the revival of the church? Digital church has opened the door to those who can’t or won’t attend physical church. In fact, reports from around the world suggest the doors of the church have never been open wider even as the doors of our buildings are shut. Let’s explore this phenomenon together and how the church can move from survival to revival.

Host: Peter Phillips, Head of Digital Theology Premier
Guest Speaker: David Adabale, Digital Pastor, New Wine Woolwich
Guest Speaker: Bryony Taylor, Vicar, Clowne and Barlborough CofE
Guest Speaker: Alex Yeung, Hong Kong
Guest Speaker: Darren Parker, Online Pastor, Everyday Church
Bible Reflection: Dotha Blackwood, Spurgeon’s College

Here is a summary of the points I made:

5 key lessons for ministry in lockdown

1. Don’t compare!

Don’t play the comparison game, comparison is the thief of joy! I’ve found it helpful to think about the image of the boats who went to Dunkirk in WWII – they were boats and ships of all shapes and sizes and each one did what they could with the resources they had. If the little rowing boats had thought ‘I’m not as big as that steamer, I won’t go’ then many men would not have been rescued!

2. One thing at a time

There’s such a great choice of what can be used for online worship – do you Zoom, use Facebook Live, YouTube live, prerecord, podcast? Choose one thing and perfect it before moving on to the next. Be clear that you are testing things out and things might not always work first time. There’s no blueprint and your parishes won’t especially have particular expectations of what you will do. I tried Skype for after service coffee one week – it didn’t work very well so we tried Zoom the next, which did. Don’t be afraid of failure but when you’ve found something that works, stick with it and keep it as part of your offer.

3. Context is key

It’s all very well if you’ve worked out how to do a whole service on Zoom but if your attendees can’t access it because it’s something unfamiliar to them then it’s a waste of time. Let the church up the road do their flashy thing – that might be right for their context but yours is different. Therefore, if you have few people online but many who don’t use the internet,  you might want to put your energy into setting up a Dial a Sermon system so that people can listen to your sermons or even whole services over their landline. You do what’s right for your context. I chose to prerecord my Sunday services because most of my congregation have basic Facebook skills or not even that, they can find our church website but that’s about it – so a video of the service on which they just need to press play was the best thing to offer (especially at the beginning). I’ve even had some who didn’t know how to turn up the volume on their computer – so don’t make assumptions!

That said, I have noticed a willingness to try technology, I’ve been able to encourage congregation members to record bible readings and prayers using their phones and tablets – WhatsApp’s in built voice recorder is great for this!

4. Ask who’s missing

Since lockdown we’ve realised all over again how essential the online environment is for inclusion, especially of people with disabilities or with mental health problems. My hope is that post-lockdown, we will continue to have this mentality of inclusion when we think about our services. So with all your offerings keep asking the question ‘who’s missing?’ I always say that I have 2 congregations – the online and the offline – both need my ministry, so have I spent a little too long on one than the other recently? I’ve been sending out a monthly paper newsletter in the post and spending an hour a day on pastoral phone calls to complement my work on my online worship.

5. Keep it simple

When I worked in the field of what used to be known as ‘e-learning’ I used to say to the teachers I trained – the e does not stand for electronic, it stands for enhanced. I would say, if writing your points on a flipchart does the trick, then use that, don’t feel you have to use the technology for everything. Someone pointed out on Twitter early on in the lockdown: ‘Not every call has to be a video call’. We all got a bit excited about using Zoom and Skype but we know now how exhausting video calls are. The same can be applied to ministry, keep it simple, if old-school still works, use that, only use the technology if it would really enhance the experience.

One comment

  1. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom. Very encouraging to hear and be reminded about keeping things in context and be willing to try things but also being open to hold your hands up and say “ it doesn’t work” and try something else.
    Accepting that we don’t have to be flashy with technology is reassuring ( I held some pictures up to the screen and then made them disappear by taking them out of view) saved me loads of time as I’m not quick on PowerPoint.
    Thanks again


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