Your Church & COVID-19

The Portable Church Advantage in the Midst of The Crisis

Livestreaming Best Practices

With church going online, Kevin reminded us that “churches are all equalized now; they’re just a click away.” Your church now has the same tools to bring content to your people as every other church out there. 

Even so, with the church entering the digital realm like never before, there is a spectrum of scaling content up or down. Some churches have scaled up to high quality productions with clear presentation; others have scaled down to make their content more personal by engaging with people where they’re at. Some churches fall in the middle ground by trying to produce high level production but they don’t quite have the equipment or means to make it happen. 

The reality is that people will go and click where they feel connected. Content that isn’t highly produced might not necessarily connect or engage. However, there is something to be said for scaling down and making that personal connection. 

There is also a struggle with the viability of keeping people’s attention. There are so many distractions. At this point, the average engagement time on average is now only 17 minutes, instead of the usual 45 minutes to an hour we are used to having. So, in these moments of distraction and so many options for producing our content, do we scale up or down?

Solutions for connecting with your people

Some church leaders might need or want to take a step back from solely focusing on the weekend content. Your weekend experiences are a big piece of the puzzle, but there’s also a great opportunity for midweek connection points. This could be quick Facebook Live segments, evening prayers, or quick encouraging messages throughout the entire week. Surround your people with daily content from your church, rather than focusing all your energy into one epic show on Sunday. This scaling down can be more effective in encouraging that personal connection and might also be refreshing for your people. 

People everywhere are hungry for community, and this is the community we get right now. You are allowed to (and should!) overcommunicate with your people at this time. Doing something every day will engage your people more during the week and ultimately during your Sunday services as well. That engagement is an important connection to make. If you’re not in front of your people, it’s as if you don’t exist. 

Returning to mission

Now that most of our churches are largely set up to live stream (or however you’re connecting with your people online), leaders need to remember that we’re created for good works. Now that we have this engagement, we need to remind our people that there is still mission. As we walk through this season, we need to continue to push our people and ourselves back to asking why do we exist and what is it that God has called us to do? The mission hasn’t changed. The model and the form is different, but we should still be thinking about how we can serve those people in our communities today.

The Culture and Resources of Portable Church 

This is just a moment, not the new normal. However, there are a few things that are happening at this time that make portable church appealing. There are two things portable churches in particular possess to serve the community: these two things are culture and resources. The nature of these qualities of portable church speak to this changing moment and offer insights into how we can do church in some powerful and helpful ways. Portable church is set apart by its culture and it has some specific resources that portable churches can leverage at this time.

Culture of flexibility

Portable churches are used to regularly having to make quick decisions and adjust to meet the needs of the church within any number of surprising situations. The flexibility of portable church helps us all ask the question, how can we be the church right now? It’s never been about the building but about how we can be the church right now. We are already flexible and we are built to be creatively solve these problems, so let’s use that creativity to serve. 

Culture of ownership

According to a study performed by Portable Church Industries and Leadership Network in 2018, portable churches typically have higher percentages of volunteers. These volunteers are really sold to the vision to regularly serve the mission. The teams of portable churches are already mobilized and engaged in that way on the regular. 

Culture of openhandedness and teamwork

There is a relationship of exchange between the portable churches and their venues and, more broadly, with the communities in which they move. These are existing relationships that might be open to spiritual connection right now, as this is a time when people outside the church are fearful. Portable churches have an awareness of the needs in their communities, and those needs are something they can be looking to meet in their own locales.  

Culture of giving

Many churches are experiencing a drop in giving. Churches that primarily use an older model of simply passing the plate are experiencing a 50% drop in givings on average. Churches that have adopted a culture of online giving are experiencing a drop of only 15% in tithes. Churches that have adapted to that culture of an online system of finances are showing that it is helpful to have that style of system in place. Portable churches are already set up in that way to allow for mobility and it enables a culture of giving to continue fairly seamlessly. 

The resource of volunteers

The biggest resource portable churches (and most churches) have is their people. For portable churches, responding to this moment could mean taking their teams that already exist and cutting them loose to serve. Those people are used to serving missionally and intentionally every week, and they are essentially a group of logistics experts that are always thinking about how to make things happen. Portable churches can be looking to tap into these people and leverage their teams to get things moving to help our communities. People want and need to be safe, but they also don’t want to be on the sidelines. They want to hear from their leadership about how to engage in serving others right now.

Financial resources

Because the finances of portable church are set up in a different structure than most churches (they don’t often have mortgage costs or have to pay rent while they’re not meeting), they may have more funds to spend on outreach. These funds could be put towards meeting the needs of your church’s usual venue or the organizations and even the other churches within your community.

Equipment and gear resources

With the freedom that portable church presents, equipment is being freed up as well. While we can’t necessarily meet in public under the current circumstances, you can be thinking about the needs that already existed in your community that might be exacerbated by this situation. When and where possible, take your systems into the neighborhoods to serve and bring the gospel out to people. Work alongside your partners, your venues, and your communities to fill their needs or needs that they know of. Now is a great time to keep your ear to the ground; those community needs are likely going to become even more pressing as time goes on.

Ideas for outreach 

  • Ask volunteers to help fill the needs of people who are stuck at home
  • You have vetted childcare volunteers who can help those in the healthcare with childcare, so consider opening the church building and designate one classroom per family. If you are a portable church without a dedicated meeting spot, look for churches or community spaces who might want to help in this way.
  • Partner with Boxes of Hope to fill needs
  • Send pictures and cards to nursing home residents 
  • Call elderly members of the church to check in
  • Have ministry leaders call their volunteers to check in 
  • Deliver groceries to seniors and/or food to students
  • Create take-home egg hunts for children or virtual egg hunts online
  • Partner with school systems distributing food via buses
  • Use churches as distribution points
  • Partner with food delivery services for vulnerable populations to call in, get connected with a shopper who will shop for them, and deliver their items to their home

Question and Answer

Is creating content really the answer? Is there a risk of creating too much content?

If you’re just pushing information, then yes, creating too much content isn’t great. However, if you’re pushing out connection and relationship, it’s what people are looking for and needing right now. Develop your content with the focus of encouraging that connection and relationship. There’s a connection to be made in seeing your leaders do life themselves. Have the key people in your church do daily devotions to share where their heart is at. Content doesn’t always need to “We’re walking through these verses together.” It can be fun and relational stuff that sees people get connected and plugged in. We as leaders need to figure out where our people are at and then target our content towards that. Pay attention to what people’s needs are and what they’re thinking about.

How are you turning the corner from a community helps effort to the Gospel? How do we bridge from the “good thing” to the “God thing”?

There is value in helping people because that is what we are called to. Sometimes it’s even easier to reach out in a virtual realm. People find it easier to come and experience church because you’re sitting in your living room together in a space that is known and comfortable. It can be a very natural progression and an easy conversation. We can also be offering to connect people with churches in their local area and communities if they have a need. 

Some of our friends outside the church are also seeing the good works of the church in places that they naturally go to (social media, apps, etc.). We are using apps and platforms that we’ve never used before to connect, and there’s an opportunity here to turn the corner from help to the Gospel. Ask your people to share the content from your church on their threads and accounts and then follow up with those who interact with this content. 

We need to be both proclaiming and demonstrating that this is Gospel in action. Moments like this are the church’s greatest hours.

Track with Portable Church Industries

Is your church struggling with launching or running live streaming right now? 

Portable Church Industries has offered a free hour of consultation to help you and your team! Go to portablechurch.com, click the drop-down menu, select the “Talk to an Expert” tab, fill out the form, and let the Portable Church Industries team that you watched this webinar to access this free consultation!


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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.