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Holding Church Meetings in Bad Weather

Posted by Matt Postiff March 12, 2014 on Matt Postiff's Blog under GeneralĀ 

One use of technology that we have found very helpful at Fellowship Bible Church is the conference call. When there is very bad weather, as today, we invite our people to participate in our Bible study and prayer meeting by telephone.

We set up an account with The services gives you a phone number to call and a passcode. We are able to use the free level of service. There is some cost associated with using the service because our church members must be able to call a long distance number either on their land line, or be willing to use cell phone minutes to make the call.

From caller's perspective, the service is easy to use, if perhaps a bit awkward at the first for those who have not done a conference call before. The caller dials the phone number, enters the access code followed by the # key, and then is connected to the call. When they hear the signal, we ask as a matter of etiquette that they announce their presence on the call. There is a special touch-tone command *6 that they can use to mute their side so that the rest of the callers cannot hear background noise (say, children making noise in the background). Pressing that touch-tone command again will unmute their side so they can be heard on the call if they wish to say something. If the person wants to speak, they might ask the moderator, "Pastor, this is George..." and await an acknowledgement from the moderator before "taking the floor."

From the moderator's perspective, it is also fairly easy. While people are joining the call, he can welcome each person and others will also say 'hello.' After a couple of minutes when most people have joined the call, he can begin the meeting. The moderator has "special powers" and can mute everyone on the call simultaneously with a special code (*5) if the accumulated background noise is too much.

Tonight, I plan to lead the call in prayer or ask someone to do that who I know is ready and willing to do so. Then I will start off with my Bible study by reading the passage and then saying what I want to say about it. This takes some adaptation from regular preaching since there are no visual cues such as body language. (We have not ventured into video conferencing yet.)

I then plan to ask people to share prayer requests. This part is a bit tricky because everyone might start talking at once. A good moderator will help by asking the participants in a round-robin fashion if they have prayer requests. I might start with some folks I know already who have some, for example, some of our leaders or people who are not shy. Then I will ask other people by name and go around until I have gone through everyone I know to be on the call. After this, I would ask several to lead in prayer and then conclude the meeting.

Since the prayer time is short on the call, I usually request that after the call, the people spend more time in their family units praying for all the requests that have been mentioned, or other things they wish to pray about. I might also ask them to take a moment to call someone else in the church who was not able to participate in the meeting just to greet and connect again.

Sometimes people do not announce themselves at the beginning of the call. That's OK if they want to stay somewhat to the background. Also, the service sends a log after the call to the email address registered with the account. That way, I can see a list of all phone numbers that participated.

This technology is a nice way to have a meeting if the weather constrains travel, or if a person is not able to get out due to some health issue. We do not do it often because church requires real contact with real people, but as a backup it is helpful.

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