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Using Online "Worship Surfing" to Discuss "Worship" with Your Family

If you're like me, you've dabbled in a number of online worship experiences during the COVID quarantine. I've virtually attended my own, of course, but I've also looked in on "previous" churches I've been part of, and done some random surfing to see what other churches are doing. It sure helps that most everybody's "live" worship is being recorded, because I guarantee you I have skipped some pretty awful music and sermons. 

On several occasions I've had a member of my family worshipping with me as I surfed, and we've had some good discussion not only about WHAT was being said, but also about the virtual worship experience and our attitudes about "what makes worship feel like worship." In fact, in many ways, it has been a huge values clarification exercise for me and my family about what worship is, how we participate, what our expectations are, what OUR personal weaknesses are, and what adjustments we need to make in habits and attitudes when confronted with worship on a screen.   

To wit, any family can do the same.

I have to admit that "Online Worship-Surfing" is not a great way to worship, but it is better than no worship at all. One sure outcome: I will appreciate "in-person" worship all the more when this pandemic is over!  I also hope every preacher is doing some online-worship-surfing. They could learn a lot about how preachers get and lose the worshipper's attention (i.e. how not to be so dull).


It really helps if you can pull up these online services on your big screen TV's browser or have more than one small computer screen to look at in your group.

If you are watching a Facebook Live worship (either live or recorded) don't forget to leave them a response thanking them).

One Sunday we simply used the Easter worship video put together by our denomination. Check your denomination's website for some links to their recommended services.

I'd also recommend you add a "drive-in" worship service to your mix. Doesn't matter so much which church it is, just call the church ahead of time to get details, put the family in the car and GO (remember to bring snacks). The one we went to felt "unusual" simply because we were in a car! But that too was fodder for discussion.

How to Do It:

You can't watch three or four ENTIRE worship services, but you can watch parts of three or four if you turn it into a creative experience.

You will need to pre-determine which services you want to watch so collect their web addresses in advanceKeep in mind that most online worship services are RECORDED (even the Facebook Live ones), so you don't have to watch them at a specified time. Instead, you will listen to parts of three different songs, three different sermons, and three different prayers -- and skip whatever else you like. 

Invite family members to join your "experiment" and if needed, have some fresh breads and fruit as a reward for staying with you.

PAUSE the worship playback when one of your family members has something to say. Don't make them wait. 

To help keep interruptions to a minimum, give each "watcher" 3 pieces of paper: red, yellow, and green. Have them put the color on top which indicates how they are feeling about what they're watching at that moment. That way they can express themselves without disrupting the listening/viewing of others in the room. When everyone in the room has their RED card on top, ask if they want to fast-forward. (We didn't do this and found ourselves "telling" others in the room how we felt by shifting and sighing -- which I don't recommend. )

When fast-forwarding to a new point in the service, give yourself a minute to "get into it" before you decided to skip it. (Wait... skip part of a worship service?  Yes, mentally parishoners do it all the time. So what gets and holds our attention? I can tell you that a speaker who doesn't move and a singer who wails got us to fast forward a lot. Is that fair? Is that worship? I dunno, but it was GREAT discussion!)

Here are some questions you can ask during and after your online worship journey:

Which service did you like best? least?  why?

Which one would you choose to attend in person and why?

Even the "dull parts" are questions waiting to be asked:

  • What made it "dull" to you?    Was it you or the content or the fact that it was online, or because you didn't know the people?
  • What would you have done differently?
  • Would it have helped if you knew the people? (familiarity, "family" is a big part of feeling part of worship)  But what does it say that you didn't know the person and yet could worship with them? Do you know everyone at our church? How important is it for you to know the pastor or people around you? Is that a good or bad thing?

How easy was it to focus on the message while you watched it on TV?  Would you like to worship more like this or not ever again?

When the person prayed, did it feel like a prayer to you?  (When a prayer is on TV we tend to watch rather than pray.) How could we have gotten into a more prayerful mood?

How helpful were the "actions" of the speakers to you in helping you listen?

What could the speaker have done to help you pay attention? Visuals?

What did you learn about OUR (your) church worship service?  (appreciated, like, would like to see done better)

What did you learn about yourself as a worshipper?  Do you need more help?  Less distractions? More...?

In talking with my family members, these questions were usually shared as statements:  "I wish that speaker would move!"  "I liked that prayer because it wasn't rushed. The other guy was rushed."

Final Word:

This exercise reminds me of the Confirmation classes I've led over the year where we'd visit other church worship services. The discussion AFTERWARD was always great, and quite a few of our teens gained a new appreciation for our own church's familiar service.

However, you do this journey, thank God for the lemons as well as the lemonade.


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