When the pandemic started, members of Council Grove Dunlap UMC were not strangers to live streaming worship. However, when they resumed worship in person, they found new technology was needed to provide the in-person and online experiences they desired.
The church’s streaming worship service started with humble beginnings in 2019. A member of the congregation had a procedure that required him to be hospitalized for several months. Since he wanted to continue engaging in the weekly service, the congregation began using a cell phone and a tripod on Facebook live.
When the pandemic closed the church building, the congregation was familiar with live streaming and made quick adjustments.
“It wasn’t a leap for us at all to go to continue our live-stream worship service when they shut down buildings,” Rev. Brenda Davids, pastor of Council Grove Dunlap UMC said. “It was a bit of a leap to get it more intimate.”
Throughout the pandemic, they got better at providing a streaming option in which viewers felt a part of the service. However, when the building reopened, the camera person moving around became a distraction to those worshiping in person.
“We wanted to provide a hybrid worship service - continuing to worship with our online congregation,” Brenda said. “We have a pretty large following online now.”
As one of the only United Methodist Church in their area to offer a live stream worship service option, Council Grove found a niche broadcasting its weekly service. Although it is hard to estimate exactly how many people participate online after the livestream is ended, the Facebook recording receives numerous views throughout the week.
The congregation looked at options to provide an intimate worship experience in person and online and found a video solution with MSM Systems in Lawrence. There was only one hurdle.
“It was more money than we were expecting,” Brenda said. “We’ve had zero investment in this. We were using our own phones and Facebook live is free so we had no bank to do this project…. We had to come up with some money and that’s where we leaned back into our investments with the Foundation.”
Before an online service was on their minds, the finance committee chair had a dream of starting an endowment program. The congregation worked to start an endowment and opened investment funds with KMF.
“When we got the endowment started, I don’t think we even had $1,000,” Brenda said. “It really didn’t have anything, but what was important was starting it.” Congregation members could now leave an estate gift to the endowment fund to be used at a future date.
Through the endowment program and the faithfulness of congregation members to give, the church had immediate availability of funds to upgrade the cameras for the online service. Through these gifts, their legacy will live on in the church and community in a way they would probably never have imagined.
“Our live-stream worship service is missional,” Brenda said. “We were serving our own congregation and we were serving people who we don’t even know we’re touching. We don’t know when the next thing is going to happen where we would need a vital way to reach people.”