May 26, 2020

Brevity + Intimacy

I wrote back in March (It's not March anymore?!), encouraging Christian leaders to really think about what they were trying to accomplish online. At that point, some faith communities were thinking about going online for the first time. I've been impressed with how resilient and scrappy so many congregations have been when it comes to pivoting to online worship gatherings. Since then, my observations have led me to think about two things: brevity and intimacy. I alluded to intimacy in the other post in March but brevity is equally important.

First, let's talk about the importance of brevity.

Generally speaking, people have a shorter attention span online. Folks tend to watch only a portion of streaming/recorded services. This means that we need to be succinct and capture what needs to be said as crisply as possible. Even as communities begin to consider gradually going back to meeting in person, I wonder if it is worth considering "mini" online services. In fact, it may be important that our online gatherings reflect that brevity needed for in-person gatherings when those start to happen. There's evidence that length of exposure is a factor.

I'm talking about doing something different than streaming your pre-pandemic, regular services. I'm asking you to consider something different, that is more conducive to the online environment. To consider what works in this online context, one has to look at more than "views" of what you've been posting over the last couple of months. "Engagement" is more important here. Things like comments, 'likes,' emojis, etc. Determining what people are interacting with will give you a hint as to what is important to include for an online service.

Are they commenting on your sermon? What would this tell you? Could it be that briefer sermons that are more conversational should be considered?

Are they participating in the call-and-response aspects of liturgies? What would this tell you? Could it be that folks are pining for participation in worship, rather than simply consuming worship?

Are they greeting each other and chatting it up in the comments? What would this tell you? Could it be that what participants are truly hungry for is interpersonal connection and fellowship?

Now for a bit more on intimacy ...

Whatever format you use, your setting matters too. It's important to remember that for most Christian communities, members have weekly left their homes to enter into a church building. The opposite is now occurring. The church is inviting itself into the privacy of people's homes. My friend, Les talked about this on one of our Lunch + Learn's. Streaming a wide shot from a large vacuous worship space does not convey what you hope. Most will simply read that visual cue as,  "Oh, look: another dying church." A close up shot, possibly with the person leading worship sitting at a desk or table, conveys to the viewer, "Thanks for inviting us into your home. We're here with you."

This does go back to intentions. What are you trying to accomplish?

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