Improving the At-Home Worship Experience
In the modern American church, many of us have grown accustom to a certain type of worship experience. According to Pew Research, 75% of people consider the quality and style of worship to be a top priority when looking at new churches. Even small churches are known to invest in professional audio and production equipment so that they can provide a better worship experience.
This isn’t simply for the sake of putting on a show, however. Production might not be the most important thing when it comes to worship, but it is still important. It doesn’t exist to distract or entertain but to remove distractions, allowing the people to focus on the presence of God and the words that they are singing.
Our minds are often so caught up with everything around us that it can be difficult to disconnect and dwell on the moment. When done correctly, worship production can help strengthen the atmosphere, separating us from the worries of the world as we turn our attention to God.
As Proverbs 4:25-27 says:
Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
Under the quarantine measures of COVID-19, however, many churches have seen their production capabilities strained as their sanctuaries and auditoriums have sat empty. Though some have been able to utilize their equipment for streaming and pre-recording purposes, others have been unable to due to social distancing measures, the loss of their gathering space, or technical limitations. Instead, they’ve had to attempt to stream worship from their homes using basic computer equipment that’s often subpar.
Meanwhile, church members and visitors have gone from being in atmospheric rooms filled with properly adjusted sound equipment to sitting in their bedroom or living room, listening to audio over computer or TV speakers. Instead of being surrounded by fellow worshipers, they’re possibly joined by a roommate, a few family members, and/or a house pet. It’s been jarring, to say the least.
That’s not to say someone can’t worship in their pajamas while sitting in their bedroom. They can and should be worshiping wherever they are. As David said in Psalms 34, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” But for times of dedicated praise and worship, a little intentionality and separation from our daily lives can make a massive difference.
When someone is joining in worship from their home, whether it’s live or prerecorded, the responsibility of creating an atmosphere of worship becomes shared. The church and its worship leaders are still responsible for maintaining a certain level of quality. But the worshiper at home is also responsible for crafting their own experience.
Even as we hope and believe we’re in final season of COVID-19, the church will likely look different moving forward. Virtual campuses and digital membership are no longer ideas that are exclusive to megachurches; they are being offered by churches of all sizes. This doesn’t just allow for a greater reach, but it helps current members stay better connected. Christians won’t have to miss church or lifegroup because they’re sick, out of town, or otherwise unable to join in person. Our fellow Twin Cities residents know how much of a hindrance winter weather can be to church attendance. In the same way Minneapolis children no longer have snow days from school, Christians no longer have to decide between attending church or staying off potentially dangerous roads.
But if worshipping from homes is going to become commonplace, it’s important that we don’t take it for granted. Whether you’re the worshiper or the worship leader, there are simple actions you can take that can have a profound impact on the worship experience.
Which Best Applies to You?
For Churches Leading from a Home
If you’re leading worship from your church, you likely have tools, resources, and even staff to broadcast quality video and audio. If you need additional help on that, there are a number of pros out there much more qualified than us that provide guidance for streaming worship performances and more. For example, Worship Tutorials, which has over 700k subscribers on YouTube offers some good advice on streaming your service here. If you’re looking to record audio from a live service, Worship Leader Hangout has some tips here. In both of these channels, you’ll find more guidance on streaming equipment, setup, and more.
We’d also like to mention that churches will soon be able to connect with professional audio engineers, videographers, production leads, and more right here on Torrch. To learn more about that, click here.
As for those who are worshipping from a home or similar casual space, we have some more general guidance based on what we’ve seen others doing. Now, worshipping from home can get still get pretty advanced, as seen here:
If you have the musicians, gear, and personal to make something like that a reality, by all means, go ahead. For those who don’t, however, you can still provide a quality experience that allows viewers to enter into worship with little-to-no distraction. Most of it comes down to video quality and audio quality. It’s awkward and distracting to participate in an online worship service where the video is grainy and dark, and the audio is muffled and distorted.
The good news is, it really doesn’t take much to fix this.
First, rather than trying to use your computer’s webcam, try using your phone’s camera. If you have a newer phone, it likely has much better video quality than your computer’s camera. Alternatively, if you’d like to run everything through your computer, it’s best to use a separate webcam, preferably with 4K resolution. These can be purchased for $50-100, and while you shouldn’t expect studio-level quality, they will provide a clear image.
As long as you have the right lighting, at least.
Rather than relying on overhead light fixtures, you should have light pointing directly towards you. You may be able to make this work with some house lamps you have lying around. Otherwise, there are plenty of affordable video lighting options available online. It’s surprising how much of a difference a dedicated light source can make in improving your image quality and setting the proper atmosphere.
Finally, there’s the audio. Once again, it’s best to avoid your computer’s built-in microphone (or your phone’s microphone). Instead, try a decent USB microphone. The Blue Yeti has long been one of the most popular USB microphones due to its versatility and quality despite its low cost. You should be able to find one in a local electronic store such as Best Buy. Otherwise, they can easily be purchased online for around $120.
For tighter budgets, the Blue Snowball is about half the cost, though it doesn’t have quite the same quality or versatility. With either option, however, no additional equipment is needed. Just plug the microphone into your computer, and you should be all set. With a simple USB-to-USB C or USB-to-Lightening adapter, these mics can also be connected to your phone.
Whatever you do, and whatever your setup is, make sure to continue to lead the people who are watching just as you would if they were in the same room as you. Acknowledge the fact that you’re separated, and from there, let the spirit lead you as you, in turn, lead those who are watching.
Prerecording Worship vs. Live Streaming
Creating stripped-down, prerecorded worship sets has been a growing trend among churches over the past year. Livestreaming comes with a higher likelihood of glitches and mistakes, especially when you’re using your personal equipment and relying on your home internet connection. Even if you do everything right to prepare, things can still quickly go very wrong.
A prerecorded set might not have that feeling of knowing that others are worshiping right alongside you, but it can make it easier to coordinate with other people and raise the level of quality. Even with one or two people, you can create something truly special that others can worship along with from their home.
Ascend Project out of Colorado has some great prerecorded worship videos they’ve posted over the past year:
In an effort to maintain social distancing while still featuring a full band, some churches have taken to recording their musicians separately, and then editing everything together into a single performance. Though this takes a little more technical knowhow, the results can be pretty fantastic:
For Worshipers at Home
Let’s be honest; worshipping from your home can feel a little awkward at first. As you sing along, you’re likely to hear yourself (and friends/family members) much more than you normally would. You might be tempted to not sing along at all, but that can leave you feeling like you’re simply watching a performance on your computer or TV.
Meanwhile, you have all of the distractions of your day-to-day life around you, and there’s no one to really stop you from giving into them.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to take control of the situation and prepare an atmosphere of worship. It’s good to remember that the Christian church started in people’s homes. As we mentioned in a previous post, the first dedicated church building didn’t appear until 200 years after the crucifixion. Even after that, homes remained places of worship for many.
Of course, today’s homes feature a lot more distractions than the homes found in Biblical times. That’s why your first step should be to remove those distractions.
Before you begin your time of worship, take some time to tend to anything that might steal your attention away. It could be running a load of laundry, taking the dog outside, etc. You should also collect any phones or similar digital devices and put them on silent in another room. Even if you use your phone for Bible reading or note taking, you can retrieve it after worship is over.
Once all of this is done, pause for a moment. Clear your mind of any worries or distracting thoughts. Forget about the fact that you’re standing in your home, and focus in on the presence of God.
Creating an Atmosphere
Though removing basic distractions is a good start, you may want to take things further in preparing a space for worship. What exactly this looks like can vary from person to person. For some, opening the windows and letting in some natural light can help set the scene. For others, an open window may only serve as another distraction.
Instead, consider setting up a few lamps to provide the proper ambience. Some people also light candles or even incense. Incense actually has a long history in Christianity, going all the way back to the Old Testament.
As for streaming the worship service itself, we’d recommend running it through the largest screen and best speakers you have available. Unless you live in a noise-sensitive space, don’t be afraid to turn up the volume a little more than usual. Alternatively, if it’s just you, you could try listening through headphones.
Worship Your Way
We don’t share any of these ideas in an attempt to tell you how to worship but to inspire you to be more intentional. If you stop to think about it, you should feel more free worshipping from your home. There are no strangers present to impress with how you sound or look as you worship. There’s no one around that you should feel you have to mimic.
You can worship God fully, without restraint, just as Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in the book of John:
“Believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Wherever you are worshiping from, make sure you do so in Spirit and in truth. If you’re worshiping from home, don’t take it for granted. It’s tempting to roll out of bed, throw on some sweats, and watch a worship service from your couch as you sip on some coffee and pet your cat. Though that may provide some comfort, it’s missing the point.
Worship is something you engage in. It’s an exchange between you and God. Whatever you need to do to make the experience authentic, do it. If you live alone, and you prefer to worship with others, consider inviting someone over or joining someone at their home (as long as you follow the proper safety protocols).
No matter what you do, worshipping from home isn’t going to feel the same as worshipping inside of a packed sanctuary. That’s okay. It can provide a unique experience in its own way as you simply focus on God and thank Him for all that He’s done.
If you have any suggestions or thoughts regarding worshipping from home, we’d love to hear them. Simply fill out the form below and let us know.
Providing Resources for Churches in Need
Not every church has a budget for production staff, videographers, audio engineers, etc. The truth is, many also don’t have the need for it.
But there are times where some professional assistance can make a massive difference. With the new Torrch app, churches will be able to find professional service providers right in their local Christian community. If you’d like to be kept in the loop on the future news and updates, please fill out the fields below.