Waipā churches are stepping out, for some into uncharted waters, to keep their congregations connected via technology during the nation-wide Covid-19 lock-down.
In Te Awamutu, services in town are shifting online – in either the form of live video broadcasts or video content uploaded to YouTube and then shared with the congregation via social media pages.
At Te Awamutu Assemblies of God, Reach Church, senior pastors Ariki and Pam Ashford are already seeing how online content could shape their church meetings in the future, even post lockdown.
Pastor Ariki said as he shifted his message to YouTube it was the first time he had done anything like it.
“And certainly, the first time I’ve done anything without being in front of a live congregation.”
After just one online offering though, a pre-recorded YouTube play list, Pastor Pam said they were surprised by the reach it achieved.
“As a church, we’ve been challenged recently by the phrase ‘when was the last time you did something for the first time?’ and for us going online is definitely an example of that.
“We’ve even had people contact us who used to come along to church, but have since moved out of town, and they just said how nice it was to hear pastor Ariki again,” she said.
The Ashfords have been pastoring at Reach Church since 2001 and thanks to a “great IT man” they have a busy upload schedule planned during the lockdown.
“And certainly, it’s the first time I’ve done anything without being in front of a live congregation.”
Every day between 1-2pm, they are hosting a live chat, as well as uploading bible study content every Tuesday, and online prayer night gatherings tonight and each Friday thereafter.
The church is also holding a virtual cafe as announced for children, and family prayer times on Thursday at 9am.
In cases were technology is not an option, they have also been writing letters to other congregation members.
Te Awamutu Bible Chapel interim senior pastor Bradd Trebilco said they are using live streaming on Sunday mornings.
He said online content was a valuable tool in helping provide a sense of normality for the congregation.
In addition to Sunday morning messages he plans to broadcast daily devotional messages each weeknight at 7pm and will look to start and online marriage seminar.
Christian ministers and pastors in town are also having regular zoom meetings.
Those wanting to keep up with the two churches online can find their services online by either visiting Reach Church on Facebook at www.facebook.com/reachteawamutu/ or Te Awamutu Bible Chapel at www.facebook.com/teawamutubiblechapel/