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Keeping your church community connected during the Coronavirus shutdown

17 March 2020 - updated 11 May
Keeping Connected

Faith groups have now been advised by the Government to avoid meeting physically to help halt the spread of the Coronavirus. This applies not only to Sunday services but all associated gatherings throughout the week, such as house groups, and Baptists Together is urging churches to follow Government advice. 
Recognising the potential implications of this move, Health Secretary Matt Hancock spoke of “the deepest regret and heaviest of heart” in confirming the news to the House of Commons on Monday night (16 March). 
We too recognise the importance of staying connected, particularly during such an unprecedented situation. Hebrews 10.24-25 seems both apt and a particular challenge at the present time.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (NIV)

How do we remain faithful to this instruction given the current social curbs?
Thankfully there are a number of options to enable churches and small groups to meet, gather and encourage each other in the virtual space. On this page we’d like to explore some of them.


For larger gatherings

The following platforms are worth considering as alternatives for your Sunday service.
Zoom imageZoom provides remote conferencing services that combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration. Imagine having a 100 seater sanctuary with up to 25 adjoining rooms for breakout gatherings and prayer. People can access your virtual building via an app on their smartphone and tablet or via a browser on their laptop or desktop computer. They can even dial in from a landline and participate over the phone if they aren’t connected to the internet. You can use this online space for your Sunday gatherings, for prayer meetings, for deacons/trustees meetings, and for one-to-one pastoral support. Churches using Zoom to stream services need both the CCLI Streaming Licence and the PRS for Music LOML. This is because Zoom doesn’t currently have an agreement with PRS for Music as YouTube and Facebook do.
With Zoom, it is possible to create this space online for less than £12 a month. There is also a free option that enables you to host up to 100 participants (though there are limitations, such as a 40 min time limit).

Simon Goddard, Pioneer Ambassador and former EBA Regional Minister, hosted six Zoom tutorials, and this is the recording of the sixth and final session. 

You can receive a pdf of the slides that were used, along with the answers to some of the questions asked during these sessions by submitting your email address (this will subscribe you to the RiverTree Ltd mailing list, but you'll be able to unsubscribe whenever you want.)

Simon followed up with a further session looking at security and other questions about Zoom. The key piece of advice to avoid 'Zoom Bombing' is to disable screensharing by participants if you must share the meeting details in public.

Facebook Live and Youtube Live
Both Facebook Live and Youtube Live offer live streaming services, which are well worth exploring. We are aware of a number of Baptist churches already using these platforms. 
Both are free, and relatively straightforward to set up. Each has pages which talk you through how to start up your live stream, and how to work it.

Visit: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/help/587160588142067
YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2474026?hl=en-GB
Both allow for interaction from those watching remotely.

These are good options for a minister or church leader wishing to deliver a sermon, Bible study, prayer or a general reflection. As they are public platforms, they would be less appropriate for a prayer meeting or home group gathering, where personal information may be shared.  

StreamYard *25 March update*

StreamYard is a live streaming studio in your browser, and can be  to livestream a multi-participant service from your own homes. It can stream directly to Facebook, YouTube and other platforms.
James Brooks from Honiton Family Church has put together a short video tutorial explaining how to use it.


Podbean is a podcast hosting platform which has been suggested by one of our Facebook followers. It has all the features needed for starting a podcast, and live streaming is possible. It states “there is no difficult technology to learn”, and there is a free option that could you started.
Which churches are streamlining a service?
The likelihood is that a Baptist church near you is planning to live stream a service, even if yours isn’t. This thread in the Baptist Collaboration Facebook Group lists several. Please talk to your Association to find out more. 

Copyright and permissions
Streaming or recording your service brings extra considerations and responsibilities. So before you begin…
  • Be aware of the need for sensitivity when sharing private and confidential information during a service (such as during prayer), which may not be appropriate to be more widely broadcast
  • Make sure all those appearing in the broadcast are aware beforehand, and their permission to be seen and recorded online is sought. Written consent is needed, and no one under the age of 18 may be featured without written permission from a parent or guardian.
  • Check your copyright: your church will hopefully hold a Church Copyright Licence (CCL), usually obtained for the projection or printing out of hymns and worship song words. In the UK the CCL also includes a Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) right which permits churches to record live music during their services. 
  • CCLI has recognised that churches have had to adapt quickly in how they connect with their congregation, so they are currently discounting their new Streaming Licence.  Start streaming or podcasting your live-recorded services. The licence provides coverage for every one of the songs covered under the CCLI Copyright Licence.  Click here for the full licence details. (updated 23 March).
  • Please note that any music must be an original performance by a person(s) in a licensed church. Use of CDs or download music is not permitted.
  • Churches using Zoom to stream services need both the CCLI Streaming Licence and the PRS for Music LOML. This is because Zoom doesn’t currently have an agreement with PRS for Music as YouTube and Facebook do.
  • We asked PRS Music, the UK's official licensing body for music, to help clarify the situation and received the following reply (*Copyright update* 17 March):

If you want to put your service online, then it would be the service provider's responsibility to have a licence in place. So if you want to use Facebook, Spotify for example, then you would not need any licence as they are already a licensed service. You should contact the service provider for assistance.  If you however want to make the service available from your own website, you would need a licence for the service: the Limited Online Music Licence. 
The Limited Online Music Licence (LOML) is designed to cover small online services for offering music or general entertainment content to the UK public. For more information about the LOML and to apply please visit the link below:
If you have any queries about this licence, our online team will be able to assist: 020 3741 3888.

See also this tweet from a church lawyer, and this information from Vineyard Church, which explains the explain the legalities around licensing worship songs. 

Top tips for live streaming 
You’re ready to go. A number of key considerations will enable your live stream to run as smoothly as possible, and reach those for whom it was intended. 

  • Use a tripod, and not someone holding the phone. This will make sure that the frame is the same throughout the feed. When positioning the phone, it is purely down to the space you have. You don’t need to have it dead centre, or ensure a projection screen is in view. 
  • Ensure the audio is as good quality as you can get. Consider a good feed into the phone via an audio interface, such as an iRig Pro.
  • Remember to tell your entire congregation and your online followers when you’ll be going live. Aim to give them 24 hours notice before a scheduled live stream, allowing them to make sure they watching. A nice idea is to have your live stream reminder posts share a little but about what the stream and service will include.
  • Make sure your signal is strong! Aim for Wifi, but if needs be you can use 4G, so long as the signal is strong enough. Do a test the day before on your own Facebook account – you can always delete this once you’ve finished.
  • Think about your description. Write the post how you would any other update you’d share – give viewers an idea of what the stream is about, ask and question and encourage them to engage with you in the comments section. You’ll be able to see this interaction during the live stream, and can directly answer their questions while you’re live. Remember to mention the viewer by name when they ask a question and thank them for watching – this builds that community feel and makes the follower feel like a valued member of the community.
  • Think about who and what can be seen – have all those who might appear been briefed, and what can be seen in the background? If you’re going to have a discussion, an attractive but simple background would work best. If you’re walking around, have you told all those people who might like to talk during the broadcast what you might ask them and how long you might talk to them? While you will want it to have a relaxed feel, live streams always work best when they’re planned.
  • While the trend for videos is shorter the better, when going Live it’s better to stay on for longer. You can stream for up to four hours on Facebook, but research shows around 20 minutes is the ideal time. It is best to include any Bible readings, prayers and main sermon during this time. 
  • Those who are not able to follow a live stream for any reason, may appreciate a printed copy of the order of service, with the full sermon, or notes, if possible.
  • Your live stream doesn’t have to be from your church building. If you have postponed using a meeting space, the stream can be done from your home. Just be aware of surroundings. 

These tips have been adapted from the Church of England, and added to The original page is here: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-england-digital-labs/labs-learning/using-live-video)

Technology to keep small groups connected

There are many technologies available which allow for messaging and video calls, and of course, many small groups and churches have already been using them long before the current pandemic.
These include: 

  • WhatsApp
  • Messenger
  • Skype
  • Facebook groups (churches could set up a private Facebook group to share notices and messages with their congregation) 

The afore-mentioned Zoom also offers much possibilities for an online prayer / home group gathering.
Think too of older and more traditional technologies. A regular email, text message or phone call can help people feel connected, particularly those who may not be on social media and have limited access to technology. Indeed, give particular consideration to this group, who may feel the impact of social isolation more acutely. 
Some older people may not have access to social media platforms, but some still have CD players or DVD players; do you record services that could be posted through a letter box? 
Baptists Together is now producing a daily Bible verse at 2pm on our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). Also visit our Baptists Together Flickr album, which stores a range of verses on beautiful imagery for you to use and share.
What’s working for you?
With restrictions on physical gatherings likely to be in place for some time, online gathering is set to become the new normal for our churches. We’d love to hear what’s worked well for you, particularly if something is not mentioned here. Contact the Faith and Society Team here.


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