The pandemic has been difficult on many businesses and corporations, but it also has taken its toll on the faith community as well.
According to the website Pew Forum (www.pewforum.org), “About half of U.S. adults who typically attend religious services at least once a month have replaced in-person attendance with virtual participation (at least temporarily). Surveys show that the coronavirus outbreak will result in large-scale changes in Americans’ religious service habits in the future.”
Typical American in-person services are designed to lead people in worship in big group auditoriums. Many churches had to change their approach on how they lead people into worship.
“We were able to pivot the way we do church in about 48 hours once the pandemic hit,” said Lead Pastor Brent Simpson of ARISE Church in Brandon. “We went online, but we wanted to do it well. We started doing cinematic sermons. We would go on sites or locations to shoot my sermons. We shot some along the Hillsborough River, in downtown Tampa and some out in the woods. I even shot one of my sermons with some sheep. We started acting things out, but not in a cheesy way. We would act out the story as I was talking.”
Like most churches that took their services online, virtual attendance seemed to spike. Many church leaders felt their congregations were growing by leaps and bounds, but if someone watched 30 seconds of a church’s video, it was considered a view. Views didn’t account for engaging the viewer.
ARISE Church stopped counting views and started counting how many times people engage with its videos.
“What matters is how many people are engaging with the videos we posted online,” Simpson said. “We started looking at how many people were commenting, liking or sharing our videos. We started to gear our online ministry towards those likes and comments.”
Simpson’s cinematic sermons paid off because when ARISE Church went back to in-person services, it saw some new faces in its congregation.
“We did see some new folks join us after watching our online services,” Simpson said.
ARISE Church, recently named number 56 out of the 100 Fastest Growing Churches in the county by Outreach magazine, still has online services in addition to its in-person services.
To learn more about ARISE Church, located at 401 Pauls Dr. in Brandon, visit www.myarisechurch.com. Services are held on Sunday at 9 and 11 a.m.