Virtual Church and Your Family

Virtual church is becoming more and more popular. There are a fair number of people who no longer are members of a physical church family, but “attend” virtual church services on Sunday. I even saw an article recently that a church was allowing people to design their avatar and have it virtually baptized.

Virtual church gives you options you may not have in a “regular” church – including the ability to “attend” service at any time and in any place that provides live streaming and play back of services.

I am not sure how many families use virtual church to augment their attendance at a brick and mortar church or watch church virtually as their only family worship experience each week. As with any trend though, virtual church is becoming more popular and we need to think about how it impacts kids, teens and families before it becomes trendy.

I had never attended a virtual service before, so I felt like I needed to do so in a realistic fashion in order to write this post. My husband and I had a Sunday where we had an opportunity to do something that would have made us very late for the church we normally attend. We decided this would be the perfect opportunity to test a virtual worship service.

We chose to “attend” a church that was not our normal church home, but one in a church that we have visited many times in the past. The singing is always wonderful and their minister is one of our favorites. We chose this as I am not one who just sits and watches a screen for long periods of time, so I chose one I knew would be most likely to keep me from getting distracted.

It was an interesting experience. We noticed some things that impacted us both and others that impacted us differently because of our personalities. Below are our observations – some good, some bad. At the end I will share our conclusion about virtual church for families.

  • Singing worship songs is different. Our fellowship practices a cappella singing. The way this church was set up for sound, you could hear the song leaders well, but not the congregation. I missed experiencing hundreds of people singing their hearts out to God together. It did give me an appreciation for just how amazing the talent of the song leaders really is. I love to sing, so I still sang. My husband sings in church normally, but didn’t feel comfortable singing at home. I would image his reaction is more typical than mine.
  • There is no communion for you to take at home. The New Testament says the Christians had communion every first day of the week. We were able to pray and think about communion things, but didn’t have the bread and grape juice. This could be taken care of had we thought about it ahead of time.
  • It’s easier to do other things while worshipping. This is more of a personality thing I think. Because no one else is watching you though, it’s easier to pause and put clothes in the dryer or multi-task while watching. It probably interrupts the flow as much as day dreaming during the sermon in a physical church. On the plus side, if someone had to get up for some reason, you can pause it or rewind and not miss anything.
  • There’s no fellowship. One of the main reasons I believe God has placed us in community is because of the spiritual benefits being in the room with your brothers and sisters can provide. At home, there were no hugs, no one happy to see you, no one to give you emotional support or encouragement, no one to offer you help if you needed it.
  • There is no feeling of family for your kids or mentors. At home, your kids don’t get to interact with peers and adults like they do at church. There aren’t those relationships that become like extended family and give your kids emotional ties to the church. There are no relationships that develop into mentorships, giving your kids other adults who are encouraging them to grow spiritually. They also don’t have the opportunity to find peers who are trying to obey God – which is counter cultural – like they are. No way to feel a little less alone in that counter cultural journey which can be so tough when you are young.
  • There are no Bible classes. Done well, Bible classes give your kids chances to explore God’s word in ways that are most appropriate for them. It’s a place where they can ask questions and participate in activities that help them better understand what they are learning from the Bible. I’m not aware of any church that offers virtual Sunday School after their virtual worship service.
  • The opportunities to get involved in ministry with the church may be extremely limited. This particular congregation did a great job at keeping viewers informed of how they could participate in real activities with that church family. Others may not give that information on their live stream, or you may live so far away you couldn’t participate if you wanted to do so.
  • There is no way to be baptized to become a Christian or confess public sin to your brothers and sisters. Those things can happen, but you would have to be a lot more intentional about it.

Our conclusion? Virtual church works well if you are too ill to attend worship or are in a work situation that has caused you to miss service. It is not and probably should not replace attending a “regular” church and being an active part of that church family.

Yes, church families are filled with people who sin. It’s easy to want to avoid those “annoying” people, by attending church virtually. While we might miss being aggravated by someone, we are also missing the opportunity to grow spiritually by learning how to truly love that person. Virtual church as it is now, loses the accountability, encouragement and spiritual growth potential of a brick and mortar church family. For that reason alone, your family probably needs to spend almost all of your time worshipping in a “real” church.

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Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking. Their daughter Katrina, who has been an integral part of their service adventures, attends Pepperdine University.

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