My apologies! I posted this for Mark Terry and forgot to change the author from Dave to Mark!
You can color me surprised. Last Sunday, by the order of the governor of Texas, we had to cancel our public worship service. We did have our men’s prayer meeting at 8:00 a.m., assuming we would not have more than ten guys. We had seven, so we did not violate the governor’s ban against meetings of more than ten people. Usually, when we emerge from our prayer meeting, I see our church hallways filled with people who are talking, laughing, shaking hands, hugging necks, and catching up on each other’s lives. Last Sunday, though, the hallways were empty, and the Sunday school rooms were empty. The auditorium was dark, and so was my soul. I grieved that we could not gather for worship and fellowship. I grieved that I could not connect with a congregation that I love.
Sighing in sadness, I drove home to watch our worship service on Facebook. As my wife and I watched the recorded service (recorded on i-phones!), I noticed a changing number in the left corner of the computer screen. I asked Barbara what that was. She informed me that the number represented the number of devices (computers, smartphones, and tablets) that had accessed the service. In the end, we had 188 devices tuned to our service. I don’t know anything about calculating an audience on Facebook; but if an average of two people viewed each device, then we had 376 people who watched our service. That thought thrilled me. My “guesstimate” was that we had more than 400 viewers.
When we had staff meeting on Tuesday, our Minister of Music and Communications shared these statistics with us:
- Views of our service, including the website post: 1,900
- Number who saw our Facebook post: 1,890
- Reactions on Facebook: 317
- Comments: 150
Now, this is just remarkable. On an average Sunday, we have 300-350 in our auditorium. So, we reached a lot more people than usual. David Hardage, Executive Director of Texas Baptists, reported on a church in Texas that normally has 350 in worship, but on Sunday 2,000 people viewed their online service.
So, as I said, you can color me surprised. The response to our online service was so good that we’re discussing continuing to provide an online service after we resume public worship.
What have I learned from this experience? First, God is lot bigger than our problems. Romans 8:28 teaches us that God can work all things for good. It was a shame that we couldn’t gather for worship, but God made good come out of that. Lots of people worshiped online. Second, it teaches me that I’ve underestimated the power of social media. I don’t even use Facebook, not to mention Instagram, Twitter, and other media I don’t even know the names of. I need a Millennial to coach me! Third, as wonderful as the Facebook service proved to be, it still could not hug my neck. Our churches may be forced to go high tech, but we also need to be high touch.