I am currently doing a Zoom Christian Education course on “Interpreting Scriptures” for the church. It will run for 11 sessions and this Wednesday night I would be doing the third session of one-and-a-half hour workshop.
Tom Cannon, one of our pastoral staff, gave the rest of the staff a basic training on how to use Zoom. It was a good orientation. However, I lacked confidence, so I had to practice on my own, some of the functions needed in my workshops: like how to share screen, and how to use the whiteboard. Even then I needed another staff member, Ethel Shin-Cannon to help me with the organization of the rooms, when participants are put in virtual rooms for work on the scripture texts.
The first session I was too ambitious. I wanted to get past the introduction quickly and crammed all the introductory material in one session. It was too long -two hours. After feedback, and also because there was less content material to cover, the next session was a sweet one-and-a-half hour. I will definitely get more and more comfortable as I get skilled in presenting material online through Zoom.
I can see a potential in this format that Covid-19 has forced upon the church. Before this, it was almost impossible to imagine members fighting heavy traffic, or after work gulping a quick meal to go to the church premises for Bible studies, and then after that take a one-hour commute home. Now with Zoom, they can comfortably go home, have a meal, and even a shower, and tune into a Zoom meeting. He or she still has to be hungry enough to fight the natural preference to chill after a day’s work (perhaps of staring into a computer), rather than to sign up and show up for a course (again on the computer). We are just lessening the number of hurdles that he or she has to jump over.
To keep the level of engagement high, the content has to be formatted in such a way that there is interaction, actual practice segment, and more conversational and less lecture like.
Perhaps it is too early to get over-excited but I suppose with the Covid 19 situation unlikely to improve anytime too soon there will be a need to use technology to build the faith of God’s people. The church staff thinks that even if things return to “normal” we can still reach out to more people for spiritual formation/Christian education courses. So we signed up for annual zoom subscriptions to get a discount on what we are paying currently on a monthly basis.
Welcome to the “new normal” church of tomorrow.