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Designing an On Line Service PART-1


In this blog I will share our experiences on developing and organizing content, which will help you produce an interesting and engaging online service.

The cameras are in place, the streaming technology is running, and the online audience is waiting for the service to begin. At this point most churches want to replicate the in-church experience because that is what they know. The difficulty is that the ambiance of the sanctuary space is missing, the relationship of fellow worshippers is gone, the Pastor is preaching to an empty space, and the viewing experience may be affected by bandwidth and production values (bad audio, limited angles, bad lighting, stuttering and other problems, etc.)

In my consulting business we work to get churches to a stage where the technology is capable of producing high production values and then release the clients to their creative fate! In this blog I will share our experiences on developing and organizing content, which will help you produce an interesting and engaging online service.

Overall Tone
The first step is too acknowledge how church services are organized. Realize that this will vary according to the denomination and church so use what applies to you. Start the process by creating a bulleted number list of the items in your Churches Order of Service. Break these down to subgroups so you have a complete view of what goes on, for instance:

  1. Minister opens the service with a welcome greeting.
    1. Reads from James 1:2
    2. Delivers welcome address – foreshadows what is going to happen in the service
    3. Introduces the worship leader and the opening hymn
    4. Projected: opening picture of the Church
  2. Opening Hymn – Amazing Grace
    1. Leader welcomes congregation and asks to stand
    2. Plays opening RIFF on piano, Sings Amazing Grace
    3. Projected: Lyrics
  3. Minister delivers opening prayer
    1. Asks to remain standing
    2. Introduces and explains the direction of the prayer
    3. Prays (or leads in prayer from prayer book)
    4. Projected: Inspiring image with text

The idea is to be as granular as possible so you can design an online presence that accommodates these actions. We are now going to construct a new Order of Service taking into consideration that we need to:

  • Create ambiance
    • include sweeping shots in the sanctuary as part of the production.
    • Construct a Pre-roll video clip to open your service. Faces are important so include as many members and activities as possible – 20 to 30 Seconds
    • Prepare a collection of still shots displaying beautiful and familiar objects in your church such as a stain glass window, bible, statue, painting, communion table, altar, plants etc. These will be used as cut-away shots when privacy is required for the service. You can use photos or presets of the camera angle to quickly recall these items.
    • Make sure the services are recorded and available for later viewing.

  • Personalize the Service
    • Prepare a series of slides to begin playing 15 minutes before service (Pre Roll). These will contain news, service announcements and information. Try to keep them personal with pictures from the church.
    • People like games, so copy the Movie Theatre game of “guess who the actor is”. Use “questions from the bible” or “days and colours of the Church Calendar” or questions relating to “Christmas” or “Easter” as the topic. Make this part of your service Pre Roll.
    • Prepare a video clip containing the week’s announcements. Place a Minister in an informal setting and use an easy personal speaking style. Add visuals or information as necessary to the clip. Play this in the service during "announcements" time.
    • Let the Service be real. Don’t always use camera angles or cutaways to hide “mistakes”. People enjoy seeing the activity on the stage and feeling a sense of reality.
    • Consider having an "online host" that you can cut away to during the service. This person explains things, can ask for donations, and acts as a bridge to action in the service. They also can open and close the live stream reinforcing important items to your church.
  • Consider deploying a Live Message Comments (SMS) addition to your Live Stream. This service is offered at no charge at
  • An online church service is closer to “reality television” then a “scripted production”. As long as the picture is clear and the audio is good, the production values will be fine.

Using the guidelines let us rethink how these items translate into an Order of Service for the Web. We commonly refer to this as a script with a structure that accommodates visual cues and promotes a seamless progression through the service. It’s a better way to organize an online service and I will show you in PART 2 of this series how to compose a script using presentation software such as PowerPoint, Keynote, Pro Presenter or Easy Worship.

In the interim, I encourage you to analyze your Order of Service and begin the process of designing for online presentation.