To Stream or Not to Stream–That is the Question
Today is the first day of 2023. We can look back on 2020 and remember the life-changing pandemic that altered all of our lives. Covid shut our churches down and to compensate, we shifted our efforts to online ministry. In short order, Sabbath School went online, whether via Zoom, Facebook or YouTube.
For many churches, there was a bit of a learning curve. We had to learn to think differently about how we did Sabbath School. Webcams, mics, and ring lights took the place of our podiums and church mics. Teachers, many of which were unfamiliar with streaming technology, made the best of things.
For some churches, the goal was to keep a connection with the members who were a part of Sabbath School before the shutdown. Having a weekly Zoom class met that need. Still, for others, streaming Sabbath School online opened up new possibilities for growth. They made efforts to be intentional in order to reach a larger audience than just the former members. And for many of our churches, those efforts paid off. More people tuned in to watch the online Sabbath School than would have attended the former in-person SS.
Now that Covid (seems) is more manageable, most of our churches have reopened. Our worship services are trending back to pre-pandemic levels, although there is serious debate if things will ever be the same. The convenience of watching services from home is meaningful for many and it has become for them the new norm.
But what about Sabbath School? Now that churches are back open, do we turn on the lights again at 9:30 to welcome people to Sabbath School? As of today, it is unlikely that we can simply resume Sabbath School as it was. Before the pandemic, Sabbath School was challenged with anemic attendance. Simply restarting what we did pre-shutdown is not a recipe for success. (I’ll share some ideas about how to make the most of returning to in-person in another blog post.)
The question for today is whether or not we should continue online Sabbath School. Now that our churches are open, should we shut down our online Sabbath School and concentrate on in-person? My vote is no! Don’t stop your online Sabbath School and here are the reasons.
When the pandemic shut down our churches, we launched Hit the Mark Sabbath School. We gave a lot of thought to how we would approach this new venue and we quickly found our niche. During the height of the pandemic, our viewership could range from 3000 to 6000 each week. And now that churches are back open and many of our viewers have returned to their former churches, we still average 2000+ each week.
It is impossible that we could ever have 2000 people attend an in-person Sabbath School. Many of our viewers are non-SDA and we have regular viewers from around the world. We have the amazing opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ each week with people all over the world.
Hit the Mark is not alone in this. Other churches have found a weekly audience for online Sabbath School they would not have access to if they didn’t stream. We cannot lose this evangelistic opportunity. You may wonder what the solution is. The simple answer is to do both; online and in-person. Don’t give up your online presence.
I know from talking to many ministry leaders that there is a personnel challenge. How can they staff the weekly in-person Sabbath School and have an online presence? Some churches have adopted a hybrid system where they have their panel/presenters in church and they stream it. Those members who attend can be there for the class but usually have little opportunity for involvement as the emphasis is on the presenters being streamed. But that’s one way.
Another way is to simply turn a camera on and stream the Sabbath School class as it is traditionally taught. Unless this is well thought out, I’m not a fan of this approach. With a camera at the rear of the church showing a sparsely occupied sanctuary or a camera focused on the presenter for the entire period, these do not translate into good online viewership.
My strong suggestion is to have a dedicated online team to concentrate on the streaming side of Sabbath School and another team to concentrate on the in-person Sabbath School. I know that many will instantly declare that they don’t have the people for this approach. My first answer would be, have you prayed about it? And along with praying about it, do you have a plan if you had the personnel? Have you and your team given serious thought and discussion about how to do Sabbath School in a way that is evangelistic?
Here’s what I know: if our plans are evangelistic and we need help and/or resources, we should take this to God in prayer. We should claim the promises.
This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. ~ 1 John 5:14
If in-person Sabbath School is a vital part of your church’s discipleship process, that ministry is according to His will. If your online Sabbath School is evangelistic and helps to expand God’s kingdom, that is according to His will. Claim the promises and act in faith.
If you need a helping hand to move forward, reach out to us. Sabbath School Coaching is dedicated to helping church ministries reach their maximum potential. Let’s make 2023 the best year ever for our churches and Sabbath Schools.