Along with many other churches affected by the lockdowns in Victoria last year which forced many to move their services online, Pastor Ross Morgan from Grovedale Baptist Church in Geelong faced a particularly difficult dilemma—a third of a congregation who were not connected to the internet.
To make sure that no one was alienated from a livestreamed service, Pastor Ross and his leaders put together a complete service pack (both hard and soft copy) from the welcome and right down to the benediction that were distributed to all members of the congregation.
Members, along with their families, would read through the prayers, sing along to the praise and worship songs either by accompaniment (if they can play) or, for those like Wendy and Avril, through the YouTube links provided in the pack. Pastor Ross also provided the pre-recorded sermon and notes which they can follow through.
“It was almost like church,” Avril says, “I miss the atmosphere of being in church and the congregation, but apart from that, it was all realistic. So well planned-out and we can follow it easily.”
Even though the service packs were a creative way to connect with the older generation who had difficulty hearing and/or who struggled with technology, another benefit was having every church member become active worshippers.
“Livestreaming created passive worship,” pastor Ross says, “But by doing the church pack, they would actually do the service.”
Pastor Ross was deeply encouraged by one member sharing the fact that her husband actually prayed along with her, which is something that she has not “heard him do in 50 years”.
Pastor Ross encourages and challenges the church to continue to look for innovative and creative ways to share the Word of God and to include everyone in active worship and fellowship despite the distance and the circumstances that may deter them.