The Day Worship Went Home
For the first time, Triad Baptist Church members all stayed home for church March 22 — virtually worshipping together online instead of in person.
Save for the pastors and worship directors on the stage of the church’s Worship Center, the solo artists, singers and musicians and the skeleton crew filming and recording, the seats were empty.
“We’ve never had to do this before,” said Music Director Scott Compton at the start of the traditional service. “You don't have to be here in person to worship with us today but can do it right there in your house.”
Operating one of the cameras streaming the services live, Steve Flanyak felt the weight of so many new online viewers counting on the technology he was helping operate to reconnect them to God and each other.
“You could definitely feel more pressure because we knew everyone was at home,” he said. “We listened with headphones so we could replicate what viewers were hearing and we incorporated the sign language for the deaf community with the box added in the bottom right of the screen.
“It felt weird to be there with no people and still be worshipping God but we knew how important it was. Our main focus now is the live streaming which used to be just for those who were sick or out of town and couldn’t attend.”
COVID-19 disruptions or not, Barbara Trussler, 82, wasn’t about to let a governor’s order and global pandemic keep her from attending church.
She watched online for the first time ever on her desktop computer, and felt like she was right there as Lead Pastor Rob Decker launched the new “Certainty in an Uncertain World” sermon series with the message, “Uncharted Waters.”
People tuned in not only from Triad and the local area but New York, New Hampshire, Texas, South Carolina and other states as former members and friends connected to watch.
“Thank God we have a God who specializes in settling unsettling situations,” Decker told viewers in a message based on a famous story of Jesus Christ from the Bible’s book of Luke. In it, He calms the seas that his disciples fear will drown them and sink their fishing boat.
“It was nice to be able to see and hear him,” Trussler said of Decker. “It was a great message I needed to hear. I’ll do it this way as long as that’s the way it has to be.”
Heather Stroud, whose children attend Triad Baptist Christian Academy, was watching too.
“Our home church doesn’t live stream so we are thankful you do,” she said in the chat accompanying the service she watched online.
Links on the church website pointed to Facebook Live — where Triad’s online content typically gets the most impressions and likes and comments — and Vimeo Livestream broadcasts of the services.
“Facebook Live and Livestream aren’t new to us but we’ve obviously seen a huge jump in impressions,” said Jeremy Chandler, Triad’s creative communications director.
“In fact, Church Plant Media, our website host, crashed briefly twice this past Sunday because of the influx of viewers but got things back up quickly,” Chandler said.
“Several of the online church communication groups for support and learning that I’m part of reported minor glitches in Facebook Live, Livestream, and Instagram Live as well because of the increased traffic across the country.
A ‘new normal’ for churches
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the ban on large public gatherings and other restrictions is a very fluid situation,” he said.
“This ‘new normal’ that led us to create the TBC Online Campus is definitely a work in progress for all of us and a season of learning. I love that so many churches are not just doing it the same but in the way that meets the specific needs of their members.”
Chandler said the church’s website logged more than 1,000 impressions or pages loaded as visitors connected to the contemporary service through tbcnow.org and, as expected, a much smaller number for the traditional service and older demographic. By day’s end, the website had logged 3,967 page loads, or impressions.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 1,245 people attended Triad’s then-three worship services in person each Sunday.
Kids Street at Home
As part of the launch of the TBC Online Campus and online-only live services, the church dropped the 8 a.m. acoustic service, tweaked the music of its traditional service because of the absence of a choir, and also added the new online Kids Street at Home experience.
An adaption of the in-person Kids Street Children’s Church for online viewing and children’s attention spans, Kids Street at Home is a mixture of skit, message, music and puppet time with a new interactive element — game challenges and social sharing of photographs showing daily life and service to others amid COVID-19.
Each are offered up as their own videos for easy reference later. With Triad’s City Park Church plant in Winston-Salem also having to forego in-person services, Kids Street at Home also gives its members an online children’s ministry they can tap until their own can safely resume.
Executive Pastor for Children and Ministries Tim Gerber said his message to children followed the same text and echoed the same theme Decker shared with adults.
“The message was to ‘trust in uncertain times and be sure you are trusting in the one (Jesus Christ) who will never fail you,’ Gerber said. “To have your faith planted in Him does not mean He will remove all the storms from your life but that He will give you the strength you need to get through them.”
‘A great experience’
Kevin Carden and his wife, Amanda, decided to watch Kids Street at Home first with their children, Rylan, 2, and Abigail, 4, and then watch the main service together later as a couple.
“Our family got up and dressed for the day and had a breakfast, and then we were ready to watch church on the big screen,” Carden said. “The songs were familiar, which made it great for Abigail to follow along. Rylan tried to be like his big sister as much as he could, so he followed her lead and tried to do the motions as well.
“After all of the videos were over, we talked about the lesson and Abigail was able to tell us the entire story. It was a great experience, because normally on Sundays we are somewhere else in the church, and miss out worshiping along with our children.”
Redeeming the time
The Monday after Triad’s history-making Sunday, Decker admitted missing seeing members in person and having to speak to empty seats. But something Student Ministries Pastor Kyle Cox said in his staff meeting reset his focus and lifted his spirit.
“Kyle was saying he’d told his teen-agers not to sit around and play games but redeem the time and make it count for God,” Decker said.
“I’m a social bug and draw energy from people but thought, ‘Why don’t I use my time and redeem it by serving others?’ and that led to several discussions of outreach opportunities presented by COVID-19 and a call to Kernersville Mayor Dawn Morgan where I asked, ‘What can we do to really help you and the community as a church?’ ”
“With life slowing down, I think we have a lot more time to redeem and put to good use to love and serve others in Jesus’ name.”
Daily Bible study for youth
As the community works to slow the spread of COVID-19 by staying in their homes, Cox is providing students a daily Bible reading plan through social media.
“On the heels of Pastor Rob’s sermon, our students are reading through the Gospel of Luke from the point Jesus stepped off the boat with the disciples and continuing as He walked with them through life,” he said.
“The movement is titled LockInLuke, and we hope our students will develop the spiritual habit of studying God’s Word daily while they have fewer activities and other distractions.”
Cox said parents get the outline of the daily passages so their families can regularly read the same Scripture together, discuss it, and encourage each other spiritually to walk with Christ.
Over the coming weeks, he’ll go live online with short devotions and host Zoom video conferencing lunch meetings to encourage and help connect students while the church building is closed.
From the studies to services, Barbara Phillips-Plumley considers all the work put in to create the TBC Online Campus time well spent.
“I think this effort will keep us together as a family of God and bring us through this storm.”
Don’t have an online church option? Watch Triad’s three services each Sunday:
- Contemporary Worship - 9:15 a.m.
- Kids Street at Home – Noon
- Traditional Worship - 5:30 p.m.
Follow the links from the TBC Online Campus.