Holy Week: Online worship tips and resources

April 01, 2020

Find the Love Feast video

We know that many churches have been worshiping online even before the COVID-19 outbreak, but for others this is a new way of doing things.  

So in advance of Holy Week, with the help of Congregational Development Director Rick McKinley, we have put together these resources (some you have seen before) as well as some tips and advice that we to help you feel more comfortable and be more effective.  

We hope that you will find this information useful not just for our current reality, but as possible new ways to do ministry and reach people where they are. 


Think Mr. Rogers (HT to Jason Moore). How did Mr. Rogers make you feel? How did he so successfully “enter” his viewers’ living rooms? Watch a video of Mr. Rogers and consider what you make learn from how he spoke to the camera (Hint: slow down!) Watch some clips here 

Pay attention to your background. Distracting pictures, or messy tables, etc. take away from the presentation. 

Audio matters more than video! People will put up with video that isn’t great – they will leave the experience if the audio is bad. If you don’t have a microphone, stay fairly close to your phone or tablet.  

What are you wearing? Don’t let your shirt speak louder than you do. The wrong clothes can be a distraction. 

Invite participation Online worship is much more interactive, so think about ways for people watching to participate.  

  • Have them light a candle as you do.  
  • Invite them to write prayers in the chat/comment feed.  
  • During the offering, ask: What would you offer God today? (Ex. your anxiety, your love, your commitment, etc.)  

The sermon can also be interactive. Think about what might you build into your message to create participation:  

  • Q&A?  
  • A question you want them to respond to? 

Multi-tasking People are probably doing other things while watching you: texting, chasing kids, getting coffee. Think about attention span and adjust accordingly. Create moments that shift things to stir up the attention again.  

Here are some tips from Christianity Today on adapting in the time of COVID-19 

Ending Exit the experience well. Consider shifting to a Zoom* chat to create the fellowship time you would normally have after worship at church.  

Learn more about Zoom and other meeting options 

Zoom is NOT the best platform for streaming a worship experience, particularly if the group is up over a dozen or so. The sound is set up for voices, and any music in the background will sound garbled unless you’ve taken steps to accommodate. That said, Zoom is GREAT for having a time of fellowship after the worship time.  

Here are a couple quick stories about how New England clergy are adapting to the new normal:


Sharon Sagat-Stover serves Community UMC in North Anson, ME. In this small rural community, her older congregation (most are over 70) and the internet, she said “do not relate very well.” 

But they still want to relate to one another as faith community, so they started worshiping together by phone using a free conference calling service.  

Pastor Sagat-Stover admits there was some “weird lag time” and echoes, but for the most part it is meeting her congregation’s needs.  

“We prayed and sang – people are grateful to be together in whatever way we can,” she said. “It works; it’s ministry and it’s joyful and it’s community.”  

For people who remember party lines and what it was like during the outbreak of polio, the phone is comfortable technology, the pastor said.  

“Personalities come through even on the phone,” she said. “You have to have different ears for listening – you don’t have the visual cues – you have to be intentional about listening to one another and be OK with silence.”  

Free Conference Call provides a report on who called in and the duration of the call Pastor Sagat-Stover said, and there is a video option.  

More information about FreeConferenceCall.com 


Rev. Leigh Goodrich, who serves Faith UMC in South Burlington, VT, is offering a noontime devotional via Facebook live. It’s just her and her computer. Her tip: keep it short. Hers are about 3 to 8 minutes.  

While you have to have a Facebook account to watch live, presenters can post the recorded sessions, which are available to everyone.  

“It’s like sitting and talking to your parishioners, then you remember there are more [people],” said Rev. Goodrich, who said she’s gotten comments from across the country. “It’s quite lovely. It’s a good feeling.” 

More information about Facebook Live (text) 

More about Facebook Live (video) 

Rev. Stephen Dale,  who serves Pownal UMC and a new church start in Bennington, VT, created this YouTube video “to help churches set up high quality but inexpensive live streaming capabilities in their places of worship” for this time and the future.  


YouTube is another excellent choice if you’re looking for a free and simple way of offering online worship. YouTube doesn’t have the advantage of letting you know the service is live, but you can link it to a Facebook event so people can get the notice that way. This is especially helpful if people create a YouTube channel for their church. 

Learn more about how to start a YouTube Channel 

Live streaming on YouTube 

Live streaming guide from GCFA 


“You can  please  some of the  people all  of the time, you can  please all  of the  people  some of the time, but you  can't please all  of the  people all  of the time.” – Abraham Lincoln (quoting poet John Lydgate) 

Technology, no matter how good, can’t be all things for all people (and neither can pastors). There are limits, and there will be glitches, but this is a time for the community to be a community, so just do the best you can and know there’s grace. 

UMC help line for online worship/online giving Do you have questions about livestreaming your worship services, using technology to connect with small groups and individuals, or encouraging and promoting online giving? Our Local Church Services team is here to help! As you navigate leading your congregation during this uncharted time, reach out to us. We’re available Monday-Friday, from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. CT, via online live chat (click below) or phone, 888-346-3862.  Chat now 



New England Conference Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar and Conference Lay Leader Rene Wilbur lead a Remote Love Feast for Palm Sunday 2020 with a liturgy written by Rev. Jill Colley Robinson, Vermont District Superintendent. Find a PDF of the liturgy here.

Discipleship Ministries Holy Week resources Includes a discussion of online worship and love feasts among other resources 

Jason Moore of Midnight Oil Productions has created an Easter liturgy available here for free (several conferences across the connection are sharing the cost). Find Hope Unlocked materials 

Dr. Marcia McFee, who has been worship leader at Annual Conference, has  written a liturgy  titled “Comfort Food” that offers a way for people to break bread together in a ritual way while we are not able to gather. 

Order of Saint  LukeA Liturgy for When We Cannot Meet  

Rev. Karen Westerfield Tucker, professor of worship at BU School of Theology, offers these “in-home” worship resources for use in a single home or with a cluster of homes gathered by means of the internet. There is no copyright on the material. Her husband is Rev. Stuart Tucker, who serves the Plainville (MA) UMC.