Podcast Episode 020, 49 min
Online and In-Person Worship, with Jason Moore (Ep 20)
Karl interviews Jason Moore on the subject of how to blend online & in-person worship. Jason is the founder of the Both/And seminars which helps churches of all sizes create a better worship experience for both the online audience and the in-person congregation. In this conversation, I talk to Jason about how a church of any size can use online and in-person church to make each a better experience for worshipers.

Karl Vaters: So Jason, welcome today to the podcast. I sure appreciate your time.

Jason Moore:Glad to be here.

Karl Vaters: Now you started a ministry called Both/And, and with that title, it could mean virtually anything. So tell me what Both/And..., where did Both/And begin, what brought you into it, and what is it all about, for those listeners who haven't heard about you or it at all?

Jason Moore: Sure. Sure. Well, thank you, first of all, for the opportunity to have the conversation. I'm glad to chat with you. So my ministry, Midnight Oil Productions, I've been doing for quite a while, and my focus has really been for 20 or more years now on in-person worship, and I teach pastors how to do collaborative worship design and all those sorts of things, how to do hospitality, guest readiness and so on.

And then, of course, like happened to everyone last year when the world shut down, it meant that my world shut down as well. Just in the course of, like, three days, I had six events that I was supposed to go do in person cancel; events where I was teaching people the collaborative worship design process and guest readiness and so on. And so there was a little bit of a precursor to Both/And, but I can tell you how we got to Both/And. I had done a consultation for a church - kind of a smaller church in the Denver area - that had me come out and do a secret worshipper consultation. So I just showed up and gave them perspective on everything from signage to hospitality and so on and so forth.

And I got kind of a panicked call last March from the pastor of that church, who said, Jason, we implemented all the stuff you shared with us, but they just shut our church down, we can no longer meet in person. Would you be willing to secret worship our online worship experience? And so I said, sure. And I wrote up some notes for him and realized in reading over those notes that so much of what I had to share with him really would apply to any church that had to jump online during this pandemic.

So I asked if he minded if I turned it into a little short article\, and so I put it out on Facebook. It was Five ways to Improve your Stream Before Next Week. And the day after writing that I started having - I do a lot of work in the United Methodist church world - I started having United Methodist leaders contact me and say, would you turn that into a webinar for us?

So actually that was called telling the old story in a new time; it was about how to do online worship. The further we got into the pandemic, and when I started to recognize that people are going to come back into the room, I started to get a little concerned about what happens after a year of doing worship online, when we get people back in the room. We might very easily go backwards and not go forwards. So I developed this training that I call Both/And, Maximizing Hybrid Worship for In-Person and Online Audiences, with the intent of creating worship where no one feels like an afterthought. So you do worship for people in the room, both in the room and online at home, and also you're creating an experience for people who might also watch on delay, not just in the moment. So how do we create an experience where we don't turn the people in the room into the studio audience for the people at home; we don't turn the people at home into observers of an experience that the people are having in the room; and we also open it up so that if you watch it on delay, it still feels like it applies to you as well. So I know that's a big nutshell, but that in a nutshell...

Karl Vaters: Because there's a lot of moving parts. It feels to me like I'm old enough to remember when the television morning shows - and if you're under 30, there's a thing called TV where you used to have to watch it at the time it happened - And there were shows called morning shows. They still exist, if you check them out. And I remember - maybe it was GMA, (Good Morning America) or Today show were the first ones to go outside the studio. Well, actually before they did that, they used to be just inside a studio, static, kind of like you and I are sitting here right now, just in the studio. And then they realized, Hey, we're in the middle of New York. What if we did it with a window behind us so people could see the traffic and the people passing by, and that gave it a dynamic. And then they thought, What if we actually took a portion of the show outside and actually broadcast outside and put concerts on outside and talked to the people outside, and that gave it a whole new dynamic. So that what you had was the person watching at home got a better experience because the people who were physically there were engaged in the process, and the people who were physically there felt like they were a vibrant part of putting this broadcast to the people at home. Each enhanced the other; right? Is that a kind of a feeling of what you're talking about here, where each enhances the other, rather than… So we're not talking about shoving a camera in the pastor's face and now if you're sitting in the room, you've just got something in your way. You're talking about enhancing everybody's experience.

Jason Moore: Absolutely. I really believe that with a Both/And experience, you have the opportunity to really shape worship. A lot of the people that are not present in the room to help shape the experience in some ways through chat, through Zoom you know, things like that. One of the ways that I've been trying to help people wrap their head around what I mean when I say Both/And is to think about the difference between going to the stadium to watch the football game versus watching it in your living room. You're experiencing the same game at the same time, but the people that work at the stadium - the vendors, you know, the people who sell souvenirs, all of that, they're really there to give the people at the stadium a great experience, and the people that are behind the cameras, the people in the broadcast booth, they're really focused on the people at home, but we're experiencing it together at the same time. And there are advantages to both. You know, if you're at the stadium you get to participate in the crowd, the wave, all that energy that you have in that communal experience. And then the people at home, you know, they have close-ups and instant replay and commentators, cheaper snacks and more comfortable seating and less disgusting restrooom. Although I would say that what we don't get in that experience that I do think is possible in this new era of worship is what I call a dialogue. It used to be that worship was a monologue. It was one leader or leaders basically broadcasting something, you know, to the congregation, and now we have this back and forth opportunity, which I think is really exciting, and I think what will potentially take us to a whole new level where the church is concerned, regardless of your church size or your style, or how much money you have, or how many people you have, or if you're in the city or in the country or whatever. So it's a neat thing and a great opportunity, I think, for the church.

Karl Vaters: Yeah, what is fascinating to me about it is as little as two years ago, online felt like an option in most churches. And in fact was an option for a lot of churches. It didn't necessarily have to be done. One, the technology that we have today was barely there, and you really had to have some serious money to be able to do it. And two, the need for people to have to do it at home simply didn't exist. It was like... Except for those who had disabilities or those who were seniors and were shut in, you know, we want to work very hard to make sure that they're included. But aside from a very small percentage of people who physically couldn't make it, there wasn't the need for it. Then all of a sudden, like literally instantaneously… What was your first article entitled? How to get up to speed in four days or something like that?

Jason Moore: It was like Five ways to Improve your Online Experience Before Next Week or something like that.

Karl Vaters: Exactly. Because that’s what happened to us. We weren't online, and on a Tuesday we were told, You better get online because you're not going to open up the building on Sunday. And we had four or five days to get online. So it happened literally instantaneously, and it happened to correspond with the time when all of a sudden, technologically, we can do it surprisingly inexpensively.

Jason Moore: Yes.

Karl Vaters: You can spend a ton of money to go high quality, but you can actually get the online experience in most situations for free using phones you already have, a mic you already own. It won't be the high quality of Elevation, but that's fine. You're not Elevation. That's not who this podcast is for, in case you haven’t figure it out by this title of this podcast, Can this work in a Small Church. Yeah. So as long as you've got wifi capabilities - which I understand there are some who do not have that still in some rural areas, so I'm very well aware of that. But if you've got wifi capabilities, all of a sudden the on-ramp for this has really lowered and it's much easier. And the necessity of it became instantaneous, right?

Jason Moore: Yeah. Well, and I would say too, Karl, that the reality is you can still do hybrid worship even without internet in your building. And I can say more about that as we get into our conversation, but in the smaller churches...

Karl Vaters: Talk about it now because that's an upfront challenge for a lot of folks.

Jason Moore: Yeah. Well, let's talk about that. In my Both/And training, I really outline three different models for what I call Both/And worship. I talk first about what I call pre Both/And worship, and that's the idea that you might pre-record your online experience of worship, and then have the people in the room be there for the in-person experience where you don't have a camera. So you basically pre-record, which means you don't have to have internet in the building, you record your sermon, you record some of your music, whatever liturgy or other elements of worship look like, and you do a pre-recorded version. And so then you're doing Both/And because you're reaching the online through a pre-record, and the in-person in person. The second type I talk about, and I think it's the one that everyone really wants to be at, and when most of us think of streaming worship, it's the one we think of, and that is real-time Both/And worship. And that's the idea that in the moment you have people in the room and you're broadcasting at the same time. You're streaming live in that moment. Now, there are some challenges I think we have to overcome and things we have to think about when it comes to that. We can get to some of those things. Part of it is that what you do in the room doesn't translate one-to-one at home sometimes. So length is an issue. I have done a couple of events with Nona Jones, who's this incredible pastor leader, works for Facebook the director of faith-based partnerships. And we did an event last year. I spoke at an event she spoke at, and she recommended 40 minutes or less for your online experience of worship with really 25 to 35 minutes as the sweet spot. But in person we want to gather for the full hour or more, depending on your context. So I think you can even do Both/And in real time in a way that you get to do both of those. You can stagger the front of you... You can basically start your in-person worship and then go live partway into it and even come out of it, so you pocket a 40 minute experience within an hour. You can also consolidate the experience so that everyone's experiencing the same thing. I could get into more nitty-gritty on that, but for now I'll go to the third one. Which is the one that most of the small churches I'm working with have really taken to and I think see some real value in, and it's what I call post Both/And worship. And that's the idea that you would have cameras in the room, recording what you're doing as you do worship, and then you'd post it after that worship is over. Which gives you the freedom, number one, to cut it down a little bit if you wanted to get to that 40 minutes. So maybe you take the sermon and some of the songs and maybe not all of them or some of the elements of your worship experience.

There's one church that I'm working with... I'm not working with them; I guess I'm talking a lot about them. They're here in Ohio where I live. I work part-time for one of our United Methodists districts and they're in our district which is like a collection of churches in the area. And their name will tell you everything you need to know about them, and it will tell you everything you need to know if you're a small church and you think we can't do this. Their name is Farmersville United Methodist Church.

Karl Vaters: There you go.

Jason Moore: And they're exactly the way they sound. They're in the middle of nowhere, they don't have a huge congregation. They don't have spectacular technology. They don't have fast enough internet to stream well. But what they do is at 9:00 AM they meet for worship in person. They have cameras that are recording it. Earlier in the week, they'll record a couple of announcements and some other elements of worship. And then at 9:45 or 9:50, when their worship is over, they immediately take the sermon, a couple of songs, a couple of other elements, put those onto the video editor where they already had the announcements and some prerecorded things. And then - or they may even have to drive into the city, I'm not sure - and they upload it and it's online by 11:00 AM. So you can either come to their nine o'clock worship experience that's live in the room, or you can attend the 11 o'clock online experience of worship. You know, it's soon enough after that it still feels like it's two offerings on the same day. And they're not a mega church. They don't have a big budget. They're not even super tech savvy. So I've been trying to help churches see that there are multiple options and while we all want to live stream, I think there are some great things that we can do in the way of interactivity and participation in real time.

Don't eliminate the thought that you could pre-record and be online, or you could even post edit and be online too without internet in the building.

Karl Vaters: Yeah, the post Both/And is what we did for a long time. When everything began, we would record...When we couldn't all gather in the building, we recorded it all and just put it up on Sunday. But then when we were able to gather, but a lot of folks couldn't come with us, we would record one of the services and then edit it down and put it out. Or we did it in advance; We did it as a YouTube premiere for those weeks we couldn't meet in person. And I've actually been talking about, there are some - especially for smaller congregations, if you're in a smaller church and you don't have wifi, and secondly, let's be honest, maybe your music isn't up to par that you really want to put out and have everybody see you before they show up because they might not show up. Right? I've been through that whole thing. I've been through a decade or more of embarrassed over the music. I get exactly what that is. But maybe the preaching is pretty good. So you do the service, you record the whole thing, and then you edit it down to the part that, one, you think you've done best, and two, that you think is going to pull people in. And maybe you just do the preaching and you do it as a YouTube premiere. So you tell them, At this time this is going to be available and if you want to watch it at the premiere time, the pastor or a staff member or somebody else will actually be there on the chat and can have a conversation with you while the YouTube premiere is happening. So it can bring in an interactive dynamic by delaying it and putting it out later, right?

Jason Moore: Absolutely. There's a church I'm working with right now in Wisconsin that would I would say be small to medium. They’re maybe a hundred in attendance pre-COVID, so I don't know how we define that anymore. But the pastor actually records it from her basement and actually leaves opportunities for people to respond. So she'll say, what is something you're thankful for today; I'm just going to ask you to put it in the chat. What she does is she does her live service in the morning at 9:30, or I think that's when it is. 10:45, she sits in the sanctuary as their prerecorded one premiers, she sits at the chat and welcomes everybody by name. So that day that I was with him, she said, What's something you're thankful for, and someone said, Fresh strawberries. And somebody said, Oh, I love strawberries. And someone said, I have a wonderful strawberry pie recipe. And the pastor said, Oh, I would love a slice of that pie. And so there's all this interactivity that's happening even though it's prerecorded and she's just built in the opportunity for that by pausing and saying, I'm just going to give you a moment to reflect on it, put it in the chat. And she just sort of sits still for a second and then moves on. So yeah. And you can do that with prayer requests too. You know, if you have a prayer request you'd like to share this morning, we are prerecording this but I'm in the chat with you. So if you share your prayer requests, I'm there with you right now, I'm going to lift your prayer requests up and you can comment on them. And it's the best of both worlds in some ways.

Karl Vaters: Yeah. And I know there are a lot of folks, because I talk with them regularly, who will push back on this, but okay, we're pushing online church, but online church isn't the same as being in the room, we need to make sure people are in the room. And I get it, it isn't the same. But it's better to be online church than not to be on at all.

Jason Moore: Yeah. And then my response to that recently has been - because I have a lot of people saying, Well, what if they never come to the building. First, I would say that we are living the Great Commission in these moments where we're taking the gospel to people all over the place. Geography doesn't even matter anymore. In fact, time doesn't matter in the same way that it did because it used to happen at a certain time, certain space, and now it can happen… You know, your sermon can affect somebody on Wednesday afternoon during their lunch break. But the way I've been answering this question recently is that I love the Marvel cinematic universe. I bought Disney Plus, so I could watch all the series and I've gone to the movies. I have a couple of Marvel shirts. You know, I've invested money in Marvel. But you know, I haven't bought a Marvel comic book since I was in high school. Now, does it matter that the only way I've experienced the Marvel universe has been in the cinematic version of it? I mean, I know the stories are a little different, but I mean, I'm invested at this point. If someone experiences the transformational power of Jesus Christ in their lives and it makes a difference, does it matter if they come into the building or not? Now, I'm passionate about in-person worship. I spent 20-something years teaching. I would love to get back to where I'm mostly focusing my time there. But I believe transcendent experiences of worship are possible, both online and in the room. If people experience something that's transformational, does it matter if it happened online or if it happened in the building?

Karl Vaters: Yeah, absolutely. I think a whole lot of the conversation we're having right now of why can't we get people back in the building, I get the challenge of that when you're showing up and there's not even half the people there used to be. I get how that feels. But we've got to shift from this idea that… Somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that getting people in the building is the point.

Jason Moore: Yes.

Karl Vaters: Now, when you say it that way, everybody I know will push back and go, No, no, no, that's not what I believe. But that is how we're acting. Right?The questions I get, the behavior we have is a reinforcement of this idea that it doesn't matter until they're in the building. Now, is in the building better than online? Yes, it is. But like you say, the point isn't to get them in the building, the point is life transformation. And if experiencing something online can bring them into a relationship with Christ so that they then seek out a local congregation afterwards to continue to grow and to be discipled in their fellowship, well, great. But we can't ignore this moment in time where not only do we have the availability to do online worship... This is where I started. Two years ago it was available, but it wasn't quite as necessary. Now it's not just available, it's necessary because people's expectations have changed. If you don't have an online worship service in most places, you might as well not even exist as an in-person church for anybody you're trying to reach. You have closed the door to anybody who's not already in the building by not going online when you have the availability to do so. And again, I understand. My rural friends, those contexts are different. I understand all of that, but here's the deal. We’ve got a lot of city folks that are considering, and in fact are moving to smaller communities, and if you want to reach out to big city folks that are coming to your small town, you better get online in the best way you possibly can. And that's one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you, Jason, was because it's not just simply... You're not wagging your finger saying, Get online, you're offering real life, practical ways that are doable for churches of any size.

So all of this has kind of been the philosophy behind it. Let's actually start getting to some nuts and bolts. What are some of the first steps that small congregations especially need to do if they're going to start upping their Both/And game?

Jason Moore: I think the first thing that I've been sharing with folks is just a recognition that it's not a one-to-one experience. So some of us, the solution was just to put a camera in the back of the room and go about business as usual. That's sort of like the equivalent of the NFL putting a camera up in the nosebleed seats and broadcasting that as the game. It wouldn't happen. You know, a sense of intimacy is created when the camera is closer. So part of what churches need to start to think about if they haven't already is how can we create moments where people feel like they're a part of it by getting the camera closer and more intimate.

In the first training I did I showed a clip of Mr. Rogers, and Mr. Rogers was so good at making you feel like you were sitting in that living room. And the thing is it wasn't flashy, it wasn't slick. So first and foremost, I think we have to recognize that we have to re-imagine how we capture worship for people online versus people in the room. In the room, you have the advantage of those sacred symbols: The stained glass windows, the woodwork, or if you're in a non-traditional setting, the smoke machines, the moving lights, whatever. We don't have the advantage of any of that at home. So I think first of all, we have to re-imagine. One of the ways that I have framed this conversation in my training is to think about how books become films. Many of us don't like the film as much as we liked the book. The book gets to be more nuanced. You know, a book takes days to read, a film is two hours. But in consolidating the story and adapting it, and re-imagining it, embracing the limits of the new way we're going to tell that story, the upside of a book becoming a film is that more people will see the film than read the book. There are people who will never walk into the bookstore or check it out from the library. And so I think part of it is just recognizing our story hasn't changed, but the way that we tell it has to change a little bit. So up close.

The second thing I think any church can do - it doesn't matter what your size is - is to really develop Both/And language. Here's a pet peeve of mine that I've been hearing a lot. We often say in worship, Let's stand together and worship. Now do you really think that people sitting in their living rooms are going to stand up in front of their couch, in front of their smart TV or with their cell phone in their hand? Probably not. I don't think any of us believe it.

Karl Vaters: I know they're not because when we pre-recorded our services, when we couldn't be in the building and I was telling people to stand and worship on Sunday, when I was watching myself tell myself to stand, I didn't stand.

Jason Moore: Yes. Right. Right. So Both/And languages, you have to be intentional about it, but there's nothing technical about it. So let's start to think in terms of, How do we give two sets of instructions. If you're worshiping with us today, here in the building, I'm going to invite you to stand together for the reading of the scripture or stand together and worship, and if you're worshiping with us at home today, I'm going to invite you to find a posture that will allow you to fully participate in these moments. Now that posture is probably gonna be in my pajamas with a cup of coffee in my hands, right? But our language gives us away sometimes, that we're not really thinking about the people at home.

So another example, even in my own church, which is kind of a medium sized church: Just a few weeks ago, the teaching pastor, not looking at the camera at all says, If you'd like to pray with someone this morning, we have care pastors in the back of the room. Now, I was at home that day, my daughter had just turned 13, she had an overnight, we were worshiping from home that morning. And I said to my wife jokingly, Oh, I guess I got to jump in the car and drive 25 minutes over to the church because I want to pray with someone. And the really frustrating part about that is they actually have people that hang out in the chat that will pray with you. If you just put your prayer request in, they'll actually engage with you. So it's developing language like, If you want to pray with someone and you're here in our space today, we want to invite you to pray with one of our care pastors. If you're worshiping with us online you can put your prayer request in the chat and we'll chat with you. And here's the other one we need to remember: And if you're watching this at a later time, you can submit your prayer requests via email, and someone will reach out to you and we would be happy to pray with you.

Karl Vaters: I want to jump on this because, one, yes, I agree, it is extremely important to make those three acknowledgements: The in-person, the online, and the watching later. I also want to acknowledge that it is really, really, really, really hard to retrain our brains to do that. We've been doing that for a year and a half in our church, and almost every Sunday, at some point we mess that up. So if that's the case and you recognize the importance of it, I encourage you, for a while you may have to go off a script. You may have to write it down and put it in front of you in big letters on the pulpit or on whatever you're using to hold the notes, or on your confidence monitor, whatever. Put it somewhere to remind yourself. Because otherwise, you will forget. There is something about the physicality of the room that makes us forget that little red light on the camera.

Jason Moore: Yes. Well, let me give you, like, three nuts and bolts ways to remember that. Way number one is in your notes. I have one pastor that I just did a consultation with in Indiana, and this is actually his idea. Adam Deal is his name. Adam puts a camera icon a couple places in his sermon that he puts it really big. So it's like two inches by two inches. It forces him to make sure that he looks at the camera sometimes to talk to the people at home. You know, he doesn't highlight a whole section or whatever, he just wants to make sure that sometimes he’s going to look up.

The second thing that I would recommend is investing in a small white board, like a grocery list - you can get one on Amazon for eight bucks - and a big thick, dry erase marker. That you can write the number of people that are worshiping either in real time online, or look at your numbers for the last week, and see how many people have watched that worship, and put that underneath the camera. So if you write 120 people have watched your worship since last week, and that's right below the camera, you're going to remember to talk to those people versus just talking to the room.

And the last one, the last kind of nuts and bolts piece that I recommend… And again, this is no matter what size your church is. You can do this. Assign an advocate to your online experience. And don't have them watch your worship or worship with you online in the room, have them go somewhere else in your building, sitting in a classroom somewhere. The thing is if you're in the room, you see everything that's happening and you're not going to catch as much, but if you are in another room, you're going to notice when the pastor never looks at the camera or never talks to you as somebody not in the room or. I just think eye contact is a huge thing in this season where a portion of our people are at home. But that advocate can come back to you and say, Hey, our transitions today took a long time so sometimes remember that in the room, you have the full field of view. You can see the people walking from the front pew or whatever up, and it may take 15 seconds. Online, if your camera's locked on that pulpit or whatever, it may be 10, 15 seconds of nothing. For an online audience, that's killer. In the room, you can kind of get over it. So those are three things you might do.

Karl Vaters: We discovered that a while ago, when we first started back in person, again, one service. The front rows were empty, and on a camera an empty seat is brutal. So one Sunday I wasn't preaching so I said, Let's all make sure we're sitting in those front rows. So I went and I sat in the front row. Problem is, we have a very low stage and I'm 6’6”. So it went from nobody on the front row to what's this shadow blocking everything. And it was me, my big head. So I had to realize, I can't be the one who sits there. So we've had to do things like, you know, getting our youth to sit up front. So you've got, you have the vibrancy of youth, they're a little bit shorter than I am. You’ve still got the front row filled in. But these are things that when you're in the room, it is not a big deal, you don't see it. But what you're saying now is somebody who's physically watching this outside of the room and sees only what's in the frame, then they have the experience of the at-home person, and they're going to catch things that you simply aren't going to notice in the room.

Jason Moore: Yes. And you know, the other thing that I would recommend...Again, churches of all sizes and stripes, no matter if you do traditional or non-traditional or anything in between, you might also consider doing a, like, Monday morning quarterbacking session. You know, like, watch the film. One of the things that I've seen in so many churches who don't recognize where those errors... Where those things are falling apart, those moments of disconnect arise for the outsider, we are often so wrapped up in the development of worship and the deployment of it that we don't ever actually get to experience it, and so we don't even have any real sense of what people at home are thinking or feeling or are experiencing. So I encourage pastors to, with your team - that may be all volunteers - but may be one night you get together and you just watch the worship together over a meal, and then you debrief and say, Where were the moments we felt really connected, where were the moments we felt disconnected? How can we find more moments where we're connected and not disconnected, and so on. Late night television for me has been so helpful in giving churches a sense of good morale in this season. I don't know if you watched at all what Jimmy Fallon did throughout the pandemic, but pre-pandemic, you know, the show was, you know, band playing, a big, fancy curtain, studio audience, three-piece suit, you know, all that kind of stuff. And then when they shut the studio down, like they shut our churches down, or we couldn't gather in them, Jimmy took the show home. And in one of my clips, I show this clip where Jimmy is doing his thank you notes, and his daughters are on camera with him and one is holding up printed-out graphics, and the other one's playing music off the iPad, and his wife is running the camera, she's laughing. It's a mess. But it was so compelling. And what I want churches to recognize... I mean, if that's okay on a national or even an international broadcast, first and foremost, authenticity is more important than being slick or being perfect. So what you do in front of the camera is more important than what camera you use. You can do this in front of an iPhone or an Android or your laptop, or three cameras and fancy software. But if you authentically bring Jesus to people and you don't try and be something you're not with this online worship, I believe it will work. And I think a lot of churches breathe a sigh of relief when they recognize that you don't have to be Elevation to do this, you don't have to produce a concert-like experience. You have to be authentic, you have to prepare well, but it doesn't have to be perfect.

Karl Vaters: Yeah. What you're talking about is so important because there is an intimidation factor when you're in a small congregation, that you look at what the big congregations do, especially online now, and you go, I can never measure up with that so why try? And my response is always, There's a big difference between the big - Well, you talked about earlier the Marvel production with all the CGI and the hundreds of millions of dollars that they spend and a high quality intimate, conversational picture where adults deal with adult issues and resolve them in a meaningful way, and that compassionately tug at your heart for 1/100th of the budget. But that might be the movie that wins the Academy Award that year. Because it's not a lesser quality, it's simply a different type of quality. So if the big churches have got the moving cameras back and forth and they've got it on a boom and they got the haze, and they’ve got the worship team singing songs from their latest album, fine, God bless them. That's great. That is a level of quality. But it is equally a level of quality to deliver a high quality, heart-touching and mind-teaching message to someone in a simply close-up framed shot where you can see clearly, where you can hear clearly, where somebody online is engaging with the questions that are happening, where you're remembering to include the online people and the later online people, as well as the in-person people. And none of that costs any money, it simply needs to be done with intentionality. And that intentionality produces quality. That is just as much quality as multi-million dollar CGI.

Jason Moore: Yeah. You know, for me, I think of it as you can be really high tech and low touch, or you can be low tech and high touch. And if you're low tech and high touch, you can have just as much impact. In fact, you know, we sometimes joke about those summer popcorn movies that are just all explosions and chase scenes and all that, and the movies aren't all that great. I mean, they have a special effects. A special effect without a story is empty, right? But you can have a low budget movie with a really great story and some special effects, and it can draw you in at an even greater level. So the beauty of what's happened in this last year... And we're not in competition with any church, but it's leveled the playing field in some ways. Because I have seen - there's one church that I know of in Tennessee that had on average 50 people attending in-person and now they're reaching 550 people a week online from all over the country, because they're doing such compelling worship. And it's really, again... I'm gonna say it again. What you do in front of the camera is more important than which camera you use. And that's so freeing if we can recognize that. I was just at a church last month, an African-American church in Columbia, South Carolina. They’re a larger church, but right now they only have about 20% of their people worshiping in the building, and 80% worshiping at home still.

And they are doing some things that I've been telling churches, These are ideas we're stealing. A couple things that I love that really have helped them see themselves as a hybrid church. One is they have a big whiteboard that they have in the room, a big dry erase board like, you know, four feet by three feet or whatever, and they write the numbers in real time on that board for the people in the room to see. So when I was there, it started out with 30 and then it went up to 50, then went up to 85, and then I think it went up to like 150 while I was there. And so in real time, the pastor can look over at that, the people in the room can look over and they celebrate that we've got all these people with us.

The second thing they did that I just absolutely loved is they had three high top tables, with laptops, tablet, devices basically connected to their online worship with the chat happening. They call it their Amen Section. And so there are three, they call them social media ambassadors, sitting at that station over there. And so they're in real time chatting with folks as they come in. But because they're the Amen section...In the African-American tradition, there's this call and response that often happens. So someone might actually yell out, Preach it, Pastor, and the Amen Section will give voice to that in the room. So somebody at home writes Preach it, Pastor, and someone in the Amen Section says Preach it, Pastor. It's not that they always do it, but they have the opportunity to kind of give voice to those people not in the room. What that pastor has told me is that in the last year and a half, their offering has gone up, their missional engagement has gone up. More people are participating in Bible study via Zoom than were coming to the building, their food pantry has better stock than it's ever been. And that to me tells me they're creating a transcendent experience of worship that is greater than technology or even the building. And I guess the final thought I would say on that is that my friend, George Ashford, who's the pastor there, said, I now think of us as being an online church with an in-person option versus the other way around, because we're having so much impact with our online ministry. It's not saying that in-person doesn't matter, but he's saying, I wanted to do that even so I could rewire my brain and think about how to include people in either setting.

Karl Vaters: Yeah, because the way he's talking about it, obviously this is increasing the in-person experience as well by the way that they're doing the online. The bottom line is this. Before we land the plane here, there's so many places we could go, but I also want to give people… Let them know there's a whole bunch of more practical things they can do by getting a hold of you, which we are putting in the show notes, and we will ask you about how to get ahold of you by the end of it. But for me, the important thing is to understand that we can enhance the experience of both online and in person for everybody by doing it with greater intentionality. We don't have to sacrifice one for the other. The idea that somehow if I watch something… That was the thing when TV came along. Everybody was sure they were going to shut down movie theaters when TV came along. It turned out, No, more people went to the movies because they were getting a taste of it on TV and wanted to go see it on the big screen. Same thing with broadcasting a football game. Well, if we just show it on TV, nobody's going to show up in the stadium. It turns out that is really not true because it gives people an experience of, Oh, I want to go in the room and see that. And if we can create a compelling experience and do it well online using these challenging, intentional, but inexpensive and sometimes free ways of doing it by really being intentional about it, we can in fact create a better experience for everybody. So that hope is a takeaway for everybody.

Jason Moore: So I was going to say, I would say that the argument against online worship pre-COVID was, We're afraid if we put our worship online, people won't come. That was what everyone seemed to think. And then of course, necessity forced us there.

I don't know about your experience, but what I've been hearing all over the country is people are telling me that - well, before this Delta variant started kicking its way up - I had so many pastors telling me, I've had more people come to our in-person worship that are guests that are here for the first time than we've had in a long time, because they've been worshiping with us online. So I've been saying that online worship is like the taster spoon of in-person worship. You don't have to buy the whole cone, you can taste it first and decide if you like it and then show up. And some churches are actually seeing more impact in the building now because they were doing online as well.

Karl Vaters: Yeah. We've had exactly that experience. People who are in-person now are fully engaged members of our congregation, some who have come into relationship with Christ, because first of all, they saw what we were doing online, that we were forced to do because of the lockdowns, and now they are very much a part of not just the family of Christ, but our local church as well.

But I've seen both. I've also seen other churches that are obviously struggling with trying to get people back in. For the most part, though, if we can shift our focus from how do I get people back into the building to how do we use every tool available to get the message out, that usually shifts the end result dramatically.

If we're thinking about getting people in the building, that is a wrong goal and it won't end up producing what you want it to produce. If our goal is, How do we get the message out to as many people as possible using all the means that are at our disposal and be intentional about it, at first it may feel counterproductive. Like, if I'm offering it to them at home, they won't come in. The fact of the matter is when you take that step of faith, God honors that faith and better things come than you can even imagine.

Jason Moore: Agreed.

Karl Vaters: We could go to so many different places, but let's jump from this to what everybody is required to be subject to in our podcast, which is the lightning round questions. Are you ready?

Jason Moore: I'm ready.

Karl Vaters: Okay. What are the biggest changes you've seen in your field of ministry in the last few years, and how have you adapted to it? Well, I think we just spent 40 minutes talking about that.

Jason Moore: Yeah. Well, I will say that when I got the call, Can you turn that article into a webinar, I said, I don't know how to do a webinar. I've been teaching it in person for 20 years, let me see if I can figure that out, and I figured it out. So taking it online has been a huge adaptation.

Karl Vaters: Doing what you have to do because you have to do it. Secondly, what free resource like an app or a website has helped you lately that you'd recommend for small church ministry?

Jason Moore: You know, I can't think of a better free resource than YouTube. I mean, you can learn how to do anything on YouTube. I remember back when I first got my start in ministry, I had to pay for all sorts of training videos and that sort of thing, and you can get answers to anything there. A couple other just quick ones.

OBS is a software program, Open Broadcast Software. If you want to take your broadcast to another level, be able to lay graphics on top of show videos and run your phone through that, but then that out to Facebook, it's absolutely free, and a lot of churches are using it and having a lot of success.

Unsplash is a place you can go to get free graphics for churches who don't have a budget for that sort of thing.

And then there's all sorts of great discounts at techsoup.org for small church, basically any nonprofit. And so you can get access to things like the Microsoft Suite, Adobe, Photoshop, and all those sorts of programs for like a fraction of the cost. So those are some of my favorite ones to share with churches.

Karl Vaters: That's a whole lot of access to a whole lot of great stuff. We'll put all that in the show notes to.

Question number three, What's the best piece of ministry advice you've ever received?

Jason Moore: I think it would be to know your why. I think when you know your why, your what and your how are shaped in such better ways. What I've been trying to get churches to think about just in this last season, as we all had to jump online so quick, we skipped to the how and the what, and a lot of us haven't really visited the why. So I think now is the opportunity to say, Why should we continue to do this Both/And thing long-term. So that's the best piece of advice I think I've ever been given.

Karl Vaters: I agree. It's something I'm constantly trying to remind myself back to, and when I talk with others as well. When they ask the How to questions, I always want to pause and go, Let's ask the Why question first, and then you may have a very different How to question after that.

And then fourth one, What is the funniest or weirdest thing you've ever seen in church?

Jason Moore: There is a great video that I use in one of my presentations of a church that went online and there's a guy playing the drums as the bushes... There's a bush in the background that just keeps falling over and over and he just keeps putting it back up and he's still playing the song, and the singer up front doesn't know any of it's happening, and it's just a riot. That's one of my favorites that I show. You can find it on YouTube. Another one I would just say is I had a pastor friend of mine in the early days of the pandemic not be able to get his phone turned in the right direction. And he didn't curse, but it was in worship, and it was like, oh, come on, ugh. You can hear all of it behind the camera, and I almost fell off my couch listening to it. I felt so bad for him.

Karl Vaters: That could have been all of us at some point.

Jason Moore: It certainly could. And then there's just one final one that for me was both funny and a little painful, but I just watched a service where a pastor projected his entire sermon, like out of Word, on the screen behind him as he was preaching it. So they kept scrolling it up while he was preaching. And I thought, you know, he could fall over at any moment and we could finish the sermon on our own because all of his notes were right... He was reading the manuscript to us that was on the screen. That was funny in the wrong way. Funny in the wrong way, I think.

Karl Vaters: I know the tech is great when it works and can really be challenging and very amusing when it doesn't. At least amusing to the people who are on the other side of it.

Jason, how can people find you online? We have barely, barely, barely scratched the surface. We've really just presented some, you know, some inspirational ideas and little tastes. This has been the taster spoon that you mentioned earlier for what you do. So if people really want to dig in and understand some of the more technical things, How can I actually get my church online, you offer great help for that. How can they get ahold of you to get that started?

Jason Moore: They can find me at midnightoilproductions.com. I'm on facebook@facebook.com/midnightoilproductions, I'm on Instagram at @midnightoilprod. I think that's as many characters as they gave me. So I don't tweet very much, so you'll find me in those places before you'll find me on Twitter. Or you can mail me. If you'd like to send an email, I'm at mail@midnightoilproductions.com.

Karl Vaters: Terrific. Jason, you've got a lot of great material out there. You've figured out really quickly how to help a lot of churches, especially small to mid-sized churches, get the technical things right. And for those of you who are looking at this and going, But I don't know what to do, that's where Jason will step in. This is just the taster spoon. There's an entire ice cream cone that Jason offers. Get ahold of him, get started on that process. He understands the small and mid-sized church and has some great practical steps to help us. I sure appreciate it, Jason. Thanks for being with us today.

Jason Moore: Thank you, Karl. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you and I appreciate all the work that you're doing for smaller membership churches,

Karl Vaters: Thanks.

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