“I intended to have a break and save up energy during the coronavirus outbreak, but I never imagined I would be busier than before,” said Pastor Song Guang, a millennial who has been engaged in online ministry for more than two months.
Ministries had to go online as churches in China were closed down in late January.
Song’s church mainly pastors its congregation in WeChat groups where sermon videos are posted after being recorded. However, a technical problem emerged that some sermon audio files recorded by iPhones could not be opened under the Android system. With years of experience in operating the WeChat account, Song solved the problem by uploading audio files to the church’s account on WeChat.
Afterwards, Song discovered his account attracted more attention. He began to ponder how to provide better Christian resources for Christians. Then, the amount of content increased and was became more frequent, to daily.
Sometime later, he started to study streaming services. Studying various methods of broadcasting church services, he paid for the streaming service on WeChat Live.
He said, “Broadcasting services is the closet form to being on-site!”
Feeling excited, he realized that there was much room yet to explore regarding streaming services.
In his live broadcast room, there are programs for Sunday sermons, pastors’ sharing on different themes, retreats, regular systematic theologyl courses, and sermons series. As well, they can be replayed.
One innovative programis called, “Light Sharing” in which Song and two young pastors discuss a different theme each time. Meanwhile, participants are free to ask questions.
There have been three episodes, entitled “How to Keep a Normal Worship Life during the Pandemic”, “How Can Christians Live out their Witness in their Familes?”, and “How Should We Read the Bible?”.
Song added that since this was in the early stages, he expected it to grow to the extent that specific topics would be discussed by different guests.
Apart from these programs, he plans to add two new ones: family worship and choral singing.
The family worship program is meant to ignite the faith in more Christian families, while the choral singing is intended to gather believers to worship God through videos. However, there is still a technical problem whereby multiple persons are unable to meet through videos.
Seeing the advantages of video streaming services, he offers his platform free of charge to pastors. What is more, he teaches church workers to how to handle the live broadcast.
Most people who counselled him were middle-aged and elderly workers who are finding it more difficult to master this new technology. Nonetheless, Song was moved by some of them. “Because of love, they tried hard to shepherd souls,” he said.
An elderly woman learned how to use the technique and started to nurture believers through streaming services. She added, “We are not able to gather in God’s house due to the pandemic, but because of the Lord’s love, I’m very thankful for the special preparation during this special period. We can share God’s word through online platforms!”
Yet some workers quit midway and some even gave up when their live rooms were established. Song summarized that low confidence was the main reason for quitting, as one worker told him that rural pastors preached poorly.
Through the past months’ experience, Song still found that online ministries were better than on-site gathering in some aspects:
1. Gathering is convenient, and no limited by time or place. Believers can hear God's word at any time.
2. Resources are more plentiful.
3. It is suitable for group discussions and more flexible than gathering on the spot.
4. High interaction makes believers more open to sharing their reflections. For example, when a believer feels ashamed to tell his problem to his pastor, he finds it easier online.
5. Online platforms are the church's window into society. As smartphones have become part of people’s lives, the church should keep pace with the times.
He believes that even if the church resumes gathering, online ministries are necessary. A good solution may be a combination of online and offline ministries.
- Translated by Karen Luo