Online Church: 8 Tools You Can Definitely Try Using
With the new Covid-19 situation worldwide, the different churches are being forced to think how to do online church. For example, in Singapore, some churches, including mine, decided to suspend live services and stream their services online to minimise social contact between members. My church also decided to shift small group gatherings online as well. As shared in my previous post, this has changed how we perceive church to be. And this has also been reflected by Christians around Singapore as well.
As a result, I started exploring the tools we can use to do online church. So, here are 8 tools that you can consider using to gather in small groups if you are really forced to do so as a result of Covid-19.
Online Church Tool 1: Zoom
Zoom is one of the first online church tools that I started using, even before this whole Covid-19 situation. It is also supposedly one of the best. The free version of this tool allows up to 40 minutes for each meeting, with the function for the host to assign breakup rooms.
So far, this tool has also given me the best experience, as it also allowed us to share screen, making it easier to share what we are reading or watching online. In the event that we want to gather as a church to watch the live streaming together, this is possibly one of the better tools that we can consider using.
Nevertheless, this is one tool that you will have to pay if you want more functionality.
(Update as of 26 Mar 2020: if you graduated from NUS, you can register for an alumni email account which will in turn allow you to register for a Zoom account with no limit on the meeting time.)
Online Church Tool 2: Skype
The other online church tool that I have used before is Skype. It shares the most of the essential functions offered by Zoom. And it seems that the free version has no limit on the number of hours in each meeting, although there is a fair use policy in place and there is a limit on 50 pax per meeting.
Again, my experience using this tool has been good, although my last meeting in work setting had some issues with the connection.
Online Church Tool 3: Google Hangout
Google Hangout is also a free tool offered by Google. Its free version allows up to 10 participants (though I heard and read that Google has increased the number of participants in light of the current Covid-19 situation).
Personally I have not tried this tool but I will most likely give it a try soon, considering that it only requires a Google account (which most of us have anyway) and that it does not impose a limit on the duration of the meeting.
Unlike Zoom and Skype however, there is no app client for this tool if you are using it on computer. You can only access it through web browser.
(Update as at 26 Mar 2020: I found Google Hangout a little difficult to use in terms of interface, compared to Zoom. It is also quite laggy, consistent with some of the feedback that I have found online.)
Online Church Tool 4: Webex
Webex, offered by Cisco, is also another upcoming tool that has been made free during this season. It only requires an email account for you to set up the meeting and thereafter, will direct you to set up your account. You can also download the local app client if you prefer to do so.
Again, this is one tool that I am planning to try for the next few days and I will update here once I have a firm grasp on its functionality.
(Update as of 23 Mar 2020: I managed to set up a WebEx account. It turned out that WebEx allows unlimited duration for your meeting of up to 100 participants. While I have yet tested the stability of the client, it certainly seems a better alternative to Zoom.)
Online Church Tool 5: Whatsapp Video Chat
For some of us who may not be that tech-savvy, or you might need to do a simple face-to-face meetup as part of your online church initiatives, you can consider just using the simple Whatsapp for your video chat. That being said, video chat function is only applicable to a max of 4 person at a time. You are unable to share screen as well for this tool. It is perhaps applicable if you want to have a quick meeting and since most people are using Whatsapp, this is perhaps the most straight-forward tool
Online Church Tool 6: Facetime
For Apple users, this is a better tool than Whatsapp anytime, if you are connecting with fellow Apple users. Firstly, this tool allows you to switch between the Apple devices you have. This means if you have a Mac, iPhone and iPad, you can use either one of the devices to do the call. Secondly, it allows up to 32 pax in a single meeting. Hence, if you have no screen to share, or just need to have a simple meeting with more than 4 pax, this is the perfect tool.
But of course, it assumes you are all using Apple, which is pretty much not cheap.
Online Church Tool 7: Church Online Platform
If you are running a church and have yet found a suitable tool to stream your service online, you can consider Church Online Platform. This is the platform that my church is currently using. And it is completely free.
For this online church tool, which is more geared towards services and larger church gathering, I found that it has a chat function, that allows people to comment as they watch the stream, a note function for us to take sermon notes and a tab for us to access the bible. In short, this is the online streaming tool built specifically for churches.
Online Church Tool 8: Faithlife
The last tool that I found is from Faithlife. Faithlife is the company behind Logos Bible Software and it is an advocate of helping church go online. It runs a platform where people with a Faithlife account can create private communities and share materials online. For Logos user, they can also share materials from their notes and library on this platform, which will be accessible to the other people.
Nevertheless, I find this tool to be more difficult to use compared to others, if not for its connection with my Logos library. But you can consider trying this and see for yourselves if it meets your need.
So these are the 8 tools that we can consider using. I have not tried some and there’re others out there in the market as well. As a church, how can we really gather online? This is the time for us to figure out that there is an online community awaiting our presence, and this is the time, I believe, that God is using to teach us how to reach out to this community as we do online church.
Let me know too, if you have other tools that we can try out as a church. Write it down in the comments and I hope to hear from you.