For people of faith, one of the more challenging results of the coronavirus has been the closure of all religious gatherings.
The normal rhythm of church attendance has been disrupted, and even small-group gatherings have been put on hold.
Many churches have scrambled to create a church experience online that could at least help members connect and take solace and inspiration during these difficult times. Adding to the demanding effort for church staff is trying to do so within proper social-distancing guidelines which limit how many people can work in proximity on a stage.
While a few churches on Kaua‘i previously had online presences with live recordings of their Sunday services, the nature of what is now needed to be presented has to factor in families with all ages represented in front of the screen.
And the unknowns for churches are huge as well. Would online attendance drop, stay the same as a normal church service, or grow? Would the giving necessary to meet church budgets evaporate or be significantly reduced?
There was quiet concern as to the sustainability of doing church in this manner. For many, that concern has lessened greatly.
After their first totally online experience, the leadership team at Kaua‘i Christian Fellowship were both thrilled and amazed at the results.
“Our church attendance went through the roof numerically” said Pastor Rick Bundschuh. “We had over a thousand households lock into our worship service on Facebook and our website last week, and we had a huge amount of positive feedback. Our people understand what we are trying to do, and the difficulty of it.”
The biggest hurdle he sees is to create moments that engage younger viewers.
“Kids have shorter attention spans and need more visual stimulation,” he explained. “Our Children’s Pastor Jenna Marshall has created a packet of message-related material designed for kids that can be downloaded by parents. We think that will help with keeping kids in the loop when what is being broadcast is more geared for adults or teens.”
Bundschuh said the 9:30 a.m. worship service at KCF will even feature interactive elements where those at home can text in their responses in real time.
With Easter week, considered the most important time of the Christian calendar, coming quickly, church staff are tackling a steep learning curve to make sure that their congregations are being cared for and inspired via electronics if they can’t do it in person.
Rick Bundschuh is pastor of Kaua‘i Christian Fellowship in Po‘ipu.