Online Giving Recommendations for Livestream and Video Worship

March 26, 2020 by Presbyterian Foundation

With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, churches have been forced to cancel in-person worship and instead meet electronically (if possible). The act of passing the offering plate is both an important part of worship and a familiar way of engaging with the liturgy. And for some congregations, receiving that weekly offering is critically important for the continuation of their ministry.

In addition, in many parts of the country, requirements to stay at home have meant a decrease in the ability to post checks, receive mail, or process checks.

The new challenge is how to ask for the offering as an integral part of connectedness, and how to do so while understanding the substantial impact that COVID-19 has had on global financial markets and individual assets. What follows are tips and thoughts from Maggie Harmon, Ministry Relations Officer, and Robert Hay Jr., Senior Ministry Relations Officer, on how to engage your congregation and ask for their support during this time.

If you’d like to set up an account to accept online gifts, the Presbyterian Foundation can help any Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) church or ministry do so. You can find the information here.

Engaging the Congregation and Viewers

Once you start hosting or posting worship video, assume that someone who has never had the experience of being “at your church” is now in the viewing community. This is an opportunity to expand your reach and your message, but also means that it is critically important to use clear language. Your goal is to encourage a connection between the viewer so that they feel engaged, even though they’re not physically present with you.

Recommendations for Engagement:

  1. Invite participation. Whether you are livestreaming or posting a pre-recorded video, build in elements that ask the viewer to participate. Encourage people to use the comment features on YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, etc. If you are livestreaming, ask for an “amen” or a reflection on a topic and then acknowledge what you are seeing.
  2. Explain what you are doing in ministry during this time. Tell them what you are doing and make recommendations for what they can do that keeps them in community. Examples can include a bible study via Zoom, an all church book to read or a small group remote coffee/cookies/dinner, via video chat.
  3. Consider using Zoom, Google hangouts or other similar technology. The meeting host can mute participants but it allows people to see each other and hear from one another in real time.

Asking for Support

Whether it is a significant drop in income because of the loss of the offering, a decrease in giving because of lack of connectedness, loss of rental income, or fear of giving because of the status of the financial markets, there are impacts already being felt by churches. In a digital worshipping world, how do we effectively ask for support?

Recommendations for Digital Offering:

  1. Make it persistent. All video hosting platforms have an information section or comment section below the video box. Facebook has a description section where you can add a link for donations on your page. You can also simply put a link to your online giving as a comment below a Facebook Live video. That link will be click-able and easy for your members to click over and make a donation, and then return to the live video.
  2. All pre-recorded and hosted videos should have an end-slide with a link to the donation page. If you don’t have the technical tools to create an end-slide, it’s okay to be low-tech. Just hold up a sign and ask. Test it out ahead of time to be sure it can be read by viewers at home.
  3. During the worship service, pause to take the offering, which directs people to your donation page. During this time (3-5 minutes), play music, offer ambient meditation sound, ask people to consider something that is important to them, go to the donation page, and then come back and comment on what they reflected on. Do this at a consistent point in the worship but don’t do the same thing every week – you want people to be interested and feel unique value.
  4. Ask-Tell-Share. If you want people to give, you have to ask. Offering is a part of worship, so be clear about what the church and its ministries need in order to continue to offer worship and ministry. Tell your viewers what the ministry of the church is during this time. Share what is being accomplished and how many people are being touched. Share what opportunities exist for someone to stay or get connected, and ask viewers to share what they are doing that is helping, working, or what they need.
  5. Say Thank You. Continue to say thank you.  Say it during your virtual worship service. Say it in your electronic communications. Say it by handwritten

Our team of Ministry Relations Officers are here to help churches, especially during this time. You can find the MRO who serves your area here.