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Online Congregations in the Time of COVID-19

Leaders of congregations intuitively understand that messages of help, healing, and hope are as needed now as they ever have been. Ironically, the tried and true delivery method since ancient times – the spoken word, in person, inside a house of worship – is now suddenly outside the new World Health Organization mandate of ‘social distancing’ in the time of COVID-19.

Family members gathering once a week to attend religious services together now potentially act as transmitters of COVID-19 to loved ones. A large number of worshipers today fall into the single most vulnerable group threatened by COVID19: the elderly. For religious organizations, this is a real dilemma as worshippers are being told to stay away from gathering places like churches during a time when the motivation to congregate may seem at its greatest.


With many people having to spend more time in their homes, the TV or streaming device will become more of an essential part of the daily routine than ever before. This can and will include local church congregations who are able to adapt to the shift taking place.

Many ‘early adopters’ have been paving the way for those facing this situation unprepared by taking the steps necessary to live stream their worship services online. Modern video production technology has evolved tremendously over the last ten years that make producing content that looks like real TV easier and more affordable than ever before. Live video production solutions can play a big role enabling houses of worship to communicate outwardly to their congregation members who are practicing social distancing.

The biggest psychological roadblocks preventing many houses of worship from producing their own live streams have been the perceived high complexity and cost involved. These are areas we at NewTek have been focusing on reducing for many years.

A great example is a system like the NewTek TriCaster Mini 4K live production system. A small team – or even a single person — can run a live stream based off a tool that worship leaders have been using for centuries—a written script.

Using NewTek software with any of our TriCaster systems including the Mini 4K, a script for the message can be created in MS Word. The system will then use this to automatically create a rundown (or set of directions for cameras, lights, on screen graphics and transitions, etc.) Using plug’n’play peripherals like the NewTek NDI-powered PTZ (motorized pan-tilt-zoom) cameras, it’s possible to capture video from anywhere in your building or campus using an Ethernet access point. This can really reduce the time and effort it takes to make a production. NDI is the video transport standard that is designed to work over normal gigabit Ethernet networks, turning each video source into a destination as well, meaning there are even more options for pulling video into your presentation. Talking of presentations, NDI converters will enable you to include PowerPoint and other computer-generated outputs into your show, seamlessly.

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