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Andrew Chappell

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After watching many live-streamed and pre-recorded services, and while struggling to figure out how to do it in my own context, I’ve compiled a list of some things that have helped me, and I think could help you. This isn’t really for the mega-churches and the already-streaming services. This is more for those of us who are having to do this quickly.

1.  Pay attention to the shot
First, when you set up a shot of an individual, the bottom of the shot should be at (or around) the belly button. I’m just gonna leave that here. Next, the top of the shot needs to leave a little space over the head, but not much. Let me explain… in pictures.

This is too much head space:

This is good head space:

2. Sound > Video

When you are planning worship, know that the video is important. HD is great. 1080p =WOW. But if the audio quality is low, the message is going to get lost.

One quick fix I’ve tried is this: I record video on one camera/iPhone. Then I use the Voice Memos app to record audio separately on another phone. I place the audio-recording phone closer to my face. When I edit together in an app like iMovie, I just sync the audio to the video.

If there is no way to do the above, put yourself in a smaller room (where the sound doesn’t bounce everywhere) or bring the camera/iPhone closer to you, so that the audio has a chance or add a better microphone to your phone.

3. Plan for Interaction

What ways are you interacting with your students? Don’t spend all your time editing and posting a video.  Plan for interaction. YouTube and Facebook both allow for live chats and comment sections. This is a cool way to promote conversation in your service. If you are live streaming pr using premier (playing a video as a live stream) be sure to have someone in the live chat while the premiere/live-stream is up.

4. Involve Your Students in the Videos

Plan ahead and ask students to record videos that you can add to what you are doing.  Whether they are reading scripture or doing a weird Tie Tok dance for a game, get their videos ahead of time and add them to what you are doing!

5. Watch Your Livestream & Take Notes
When it’s over, take the time to watch YOUR livestream. AND…take time to watch other churches. What are they doing well? What are they doing poorly? What could you do better? Is it awkward? Is it smooth? Watch it and get ready. It’s hard to do.

6. Play to Your Strengths
Ultimately, know your strengths and play to them. What do people love about your church? Are you super relational? Then create your videos and livestreams in a more relational way. Are you high church and liturgical? How could you be creative in translating that to a 30-minute worship service online?

Do you have multiple cameras and audio equipment? Great.

Do you have an iPhone and nothing else? No problem.

Whatever you have, use it, but don’t over-extend yourself. You don’t have to be a super-production to communicate the love and grace of God. Be yourself. Be the church. Simply take some time to figure out your options for audio and video quality, use them to the best of your ability, and be joyful!

Jesus tasked us with making disciples for the transformation of the world. How we do that when we are physically apart is hard, but not impossible. 

These thoughts and practices are the results of conversation and collaboration with: Montana Hamby — Mt. Zion UMC, Marietta, GA; Natalee Dukes Hamby — Hamilton Mill UMC, Hamilton Mill, GA; Sam Dawkins — West Georgia UMC, Carrollton, GA; Leslie Bowers — Northbrook UMC; Ryan Young — Northbrook UMC; Melissa Mobley — Roswell UMC; Brad Biggerstaff — Midway UMC

1. Think Ahead.

Not being physically present with our students can be tough, but with some good brainstorming, we can bring something to our folks that they’ve never seen before.

Think about a spiritual schedule. You can provide readings and prayers in PDF format to your students. One a day. I’d even suggest using Paul’s epistles from prison. How is Paul dealing with isolation? What/who does Paul point to?

2. Model Social Distancing.

Last week, I watched a church live stream with more than ten people gathered around a microphone singing into each others’ faces. I doubt they meant to, but it communicated to me and possibly others that they weren’t concerned with modeling healthy social distancing. If you do not model this for your students, it could lead to some in your communities not taking this seriously. Take it seriously. Model it for your people. Overdo it if necessary.

Need convincing? Read this.

3. Think basics when it comes to missional engagement.

The greater our social distancing grows, the harder it seems to engage in the mission of the church. Here are a few ways to engage:

Call people. Seriously. Set up a few 15–20-minute calls a day just to say hey. You will be grateful. They will be grateful. And time will move a little faster.

Amazon Wishlist. You can have folks create a wishlist on Amazon of essential items and those items can be delivered straight to the door of the individual.

Buy local. Roswell restaurants have grouped together to serve those who are in need. If you call and order a gift card, they will provide food to folks. Take a look here.

Give blood. The American Red Cross needs blood desperately. They have stations everywhere and they are being incredibly cautious. Think about giving blood. Find out how to give here.

4. Offer Tech Support.

It may be a good idea to set up some time (and publicize) a Facebook Live event or something like it to help people within your community learn the technology that we have so rapidly begun using. Not everyone is tech-savvy. Find students in your group who have a good understanding of technology and ask them to help anyone else who is struggling.

5. Create moments of JOY

People are in need of laughs and smiles. We all need a break from the heaviness that only seems to get heavier. Think about how you might provide moments of joy for your church and your community. Ask people to send in pictures of their families watching your live stream together. Ask for videos of students reading or participating in a certain part of the Sunday service. Get creative. Have fun!

6. It should inspire and encourage YOU!

I spoke with a colleague yesterday. When I asked him whether he wanted to watch his own online service, he said, “No way!”

If you do not want to watch/read/listen to the content you are publishing, would you expect anyone else to have a desire to do so? I wouldn’t. When you produce content, think about what you might like to see or read. Think about the things that inspire you. Think about where God is in the midst of all this. Think about what your students might like to see.

7. Use the technology you’ve got (and maybe add some fun transitions).

As we move into a more isolated place, more churches may seek to do pre-recorded services. This Sunday, our staff will record videos from home and send it to one person to put it all together. We use dropbox.com to send large video files and iMovie on an iPhone or Mac computer to put it all together. These two easy-to-use apps make Sunday videos a lot easier to edit.

Also, fun transitions can make a Sunday experience feel more real. For example, at the end of my part of the video, I say something like, “Over to you Laurie.” She opens up with, “Thanks Andrew,” similar to how we would operate on a regular Sunday. This adds a sense of the familiar. Shots of the sanctuary and other places on campus would be good to include as well. We are finding that some folks really miss the PLACE itself.

If you don’t have the capability to use iMovie or edit video, think about using Facebook or YouTube Live and limit your time there. If it is simply you and the camera, think about a few minutes of prayer and a homily after. Any more than 10–15 minutes and you might start to lose people unless there is a change of scenery.

8. Family Facebook Groups.

It is particularly tough to be isolated and/or quarantined away from family. One way to get around this is through Facebook Groups. Families can set up private Facebook groups, invite family members only, and post at their leisure. People can stay up to date, share silly stories and pictures, and remain somewhat connected through these groups.

You can do this with any social groups including teams, small groups, and even churches!

9. The best thing we can offer is ourselves.

We are all in uncharted territory. So the best thing we can do in the coming weeks is to offer our real selves to our friends, family, and churches. As we learn how to have a new kind of worship experience on Sundays, it is okay to have it at home, with family photos in the background. It shows people that you are in the same space they are. You are living the same sort of life right now. We are all in it together. Solidarity is powerful.

10. Do the things that you will do when things get back to normal.

Some churches are already over-extending themselves, bending over backward to do things they’ve never done before. And why shouldn’t they? This situation is unprecedented. We are trying to serve people as best we can. We should use this time as a learning experience. We shouldtry new things. But perhaps it might be best to make regular habits out of the things we might continue once this is over. We can begin new habits, but not too many.

Remember your call.

Most of all, remember why you do this in the first place. Remember that God called you. Remember that you have been preparing for something like this all your ministry. Jesus is with you. The Holy Spirit is guiding you. The ever-creating Father is sparking something within you that will lead to something new and different.

If you have any additional thoughts, criticisms, suggestions, PLEASE email me at achappell@northbrookumc.com. We are all trying to figure this out too. I don’t have many answers. We need so much help and we’re ready to collaborate.

After realizing that he is unhappy with his life George Costanza says to his friends Elaine and Jerry, “My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct in every aspect of life…it has all been wrong.” In the midst of this epiphany, Jerry presents an interesting hypothesis: “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” The rest of the episode of Seinfeld follows George on his vendetta to follow the opposite of his instincts. And guess what? The hypothesis is incredibly successful.  

Recently, I’ve been asking myself questions concerning the Opposite Hypothesis. 

  • What would happen if I followed the opposite of my natural instincts? 
  • How would my decisions change? What would my life look like?
  • What would my ministry look like?

And right now, I’m asking this question: what does youth ministry look like when George’s theory is applied?

Seinfeldian Youth Ministry

For much of my time in youth ministry, I was constantly devoted to elevating the place of youth in the church. After all, I was constantly told by my elders, “The youth are the future of the church! We have to do everything we can to instill within them Christlike values…” (so they might remain in the church when they are older).

So we gave the youth their own space. We gave the youth their own mission trips. We gave the youth their own small groups, their own worship experience, and their own sermons. 

Our instincts told us that in order to keep the youth in church, we ought to treat them like they are special, hire their own staff, feed them curriculum designed specifically for their age groups, and send them to serve in places with only their peers.

What if I had applied the Opposite Hypothesisto my instincts concerning youth ministry? What if I had designed a youth ministry opposite of my instincts? What if I had designed a youth ministry that didn’t elevate youth in the church, or give them their own worship experience, or feed them their own curriculum? What if I had done the opposite?

This brings us, of course to famed German theologian and spy Deitrich Bonhoeffer.

Hello, Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and pacifist pastor, who became an anti-Nazi spy and was later imprisoned and hanged for his “treason.” In short, he was way cooler than either Seinfeld or Newman

What you may not know is that Bonhoeffer was heavily involved in ministry to youth and children for much of his life. Near the end of his ministry, Bonhoeffer composed his “Eight Theses on Youth Work” (in 2014, Faith & Leadership published a summary of these 8 points).

The second of his points is this: “The question is not, What is youth and what rights does it have? but rather, What is the church-community and what is the place of youth within it?”[1]

If Bonhoeffer were speaking to a group of youth ministers today, I believe he would re-articulate his second thesis with language more akin to George Costanza: whatever your instincts tell you…do the opposite. Bonhoeffer’s fourth thesis echoes his second more pointedly: “Youth enjoys no special privilege in the church-community.”[2]

For Bonhoeffer, the youth of the church are a part of the church, with no special status. They are just like everyone else. Their involvement is key and important and beautiful. But it is not special. It is not to be treasured about all others. 

When we make youth ministry its own thing, apart from the rest of the church, apart from the rest of the body, we are doing more harm than good. Andrew Root, author of Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker demonstrates that in giving youth special privilege, “we only fortify the generation gap, pushing young people off into youth ministry programs and away from the center of the congregation…Making young people ‘special’ divides them from their parents and other adults, for only those with special knowledge can teach them the faith, or even relate to them at all.”[3]

What Now?

What then are we to do? What is the opposite of our youth ministry instinct? What should I have done all those years of youth ministry separate and apart from the rest of the church? How now shall we follow Bonhoeffer’s theses? 

Root declares that the answer would lead to an extreme paradigm shift. Following Bonhoeffer’s “vision for youth ministry, the paid youth worker’s job — her ministry to and for the young of the church — is to remind the church that there is no privileged space for its children; its children must be take into its life. Her vocation is not to idealize the youthful spirit of the church’s young people but to call the church to look past that spirit and embrace young people in their full humanity.”[4]

If you applied George’s Opposite Hypothesisto your ministry with youth right now, what might change? 

Would the youth be sequestered in their own space? Or would the be incorporated into the ONE body?

Would the youth go with 20 of their peers to serve on a local mission trip? Or would they serve within their own community with twentysomethings, parents, and grandparents?

Would the youth receive their own teaching? Or would the minister gear his/her teaching toward all age groups?

Perhaps Bonhoeffer’s theses would get lost in the youth ministry of the 21st century. It might prove to be irrelevant and outdated. Or maybe Bonhoeffer’s understanding of youth ministry is just the thing we need. 

Maybe it is time to follow the opposite of your instincts. 


[1]https://www.faithandleadership.com/future-church-isnt-youth

[2]https://www.faithandleadership.com/future-church-isnt-youth

[3]https://www.faithandleadership.com/andrew-root-take-it-bonhoeffer-there-no-christian-youth

[4]https://www.faithandleadership.com/andrew-root-take-it-bonhoeffer-there-no-christian-youth