Churches adjusting, seeing big numbers through online services

Published 7:00 am Friday, April 10, 2020

At the end of the third week in March, the state of Alabama announced that gatherings of 25 or more people were banned, canceling a lot of events and services.

That was the first week that churches moved their services online in order to continue to spread the gospel. In general, the move to online services has proven to work well for most churches, even though some had to overcome the initial learning curve.

“Things are going well. I don’t think we were prepared for this. We were scrambling trying to make ends meet and get good quality stuff put out there,” Happy Valley Baptist preacher John Samanie said. “It’s just a challenge. Challenges are made to overcome them and not let them overcome you. We just had to adjust and figure things out.”

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Throughout the week, most churches have different types of services set up, whether it is a prayer group or bible study class. Churches like Langdale United Methodist have been able to continue those through Facebook live or Zoom, a video conferencing program.

“I have a small group that meets together on Wednesday nights, and we’ve been doing that via zoom instead of meeting together,” Langdale United Methodist pastor Rusty Tate said. “That went extremely well. We’re starting to get a little more comfortable experiencing some of the same things we were experiencing when we were together.”

Even though services aren’t in person, for the time being, the message is still getting across to the parishioners. The online platform helps to spread the message to people around the county and even into other states.

“The turnouts have been overwhelming,” Tate said. “As far as people that have clicked on it and watch it for a few minutes, the first one I did was like 1,500 people. I can’t even fit 1,500 people in my sanctuary. “It’s reaching a broadband of people for sure. That’s what it’s about, just spreading the gospel.”

Refuge Point has also seen the number of views jump on its videos, according to Pastor Matthew Thrower.

Thrower started to publish videos on YouTube about a year ago, ranging on a variety of theological topics.

“After we’re done, there will be probably 200 views, and throughout the week, it’ll grow because people will find it and share it,” Thrower said. “It’ll be up to 800 to 1,000 views [throughout the week], and that’s grown a lot since all of this happened.”

With Easter Sunday coming up in a couple of days, most churches will continue to follow their schedule they’ve had the last couple of weeks.

Refuge Point will have a Good Friday service on Facebook Live, while Langdale has been holding bible studies throughout the week.

Happy Valley was able to hold an Easter egg hunt. Instead of having the families come to the church, Samanie and a couple of parishioners brought Easter Eggs to different houses so the children could hunt eggs in the safety of their own homes.

“We wore gloves when we stuffed eggs, and we wore gloves when we hid the eggs,” Samanie said. “The families just enjoyed the time.”