Now that I’m mostly homebound, I’m grateful that our church broadcasts its service. Several friends have said they sometimes watch, or they watch if they’re in the mood, or they watch a broadcast from a larger church to be inspired by the message. When I tell them I find that hour on Sunday to be one of the most meaningful of my week, they sometimes ask how that is. Here is my answer.
DECIDE WHY YOU’RE WATCHING
Are you watching to be inspired by the message? Are you watching to bgt your “religion points” for the week? Are you watching so you can have fun being catty about the choir and the pastor and the person who runs the camera afterwards? Or are you watching because you are dedicating this hour on the Sabbath to worshipping God? (And yes, these are good questions to ask, even if you’re able to attend a physical church!)
While many of those are fine reasons, let’s cut to the importance of this hour and decide we’re going to watch the service as an act of worship.
MAKE THE COMMITMENT
Decide this is something you’re going to do each week. Set the time aside. Tell God (though you’ll be together all week) you’ll keep your end of the assigned meeting on Sunday.
PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME
If your own church or house of worship broadcasts its service, ask to get a bulletin or program as soon as one is printed. Here in our senior complex, they have a list of who wants bulletins and one appears in my mailbox on Friday or Saturday.
Also find the kind of hymnal they’re using if they use a hymnal. See if you can borrow one from the church, or have them order an extra you can pay for. You can also order one yourself from the hymnal company online. Short of that, you can find the lyrics online and print them out.
One of my favorite things to do, once you know which hymns you’ll sing, is to look up their history online. Almost every hymn has an interesting background and reason that the lyricist or composer wrote it. Knowing this will make the songs mean more to you as you sing.
You can also read the scripture passages in advance and look up writings about them online.
PREPARE THAT MORNING
When Sunday comes around, treat it like a day you’d be going to church. Have breakfast early. If you can, put on special clothes that give you a feeling of occasion. Getting dressed differently alerts you that something special is happening, that you are giving this hour respect.
As the time nears, switch off the phone. People will get used to calling you before or after church when they understand this is your schedule.
If you’re ready before the broadcast, put on music or hymns that put you in the spirit.
Use this time to look up the scripture passages and have them at hand.
When the service starts, remember that you’ve come to worship.
The Prelude is especially important. It’s your call to pray, to enter into this time together with God, to open your heart and ask to be blessed and be a blessing. You’re going to church with God, not with the woman in the funny hat. I mean, the lovely hat. Use the Prelude to prepare your spirit.
Follow along in your Bible when the Scriptures are read.
Sing the hymns, pay attention to the words and ponder the stories behind the songs.
Make notes about the prayer requests and truly PRAY for them during the service and during the week to come.
Take notes about anything that inspires you during the sermon.
HAVE YOUR OWN COFFEE HOUR
It may be right after the service, or it may be later. If you were going to design your own coffee hour food and drink, what would you offer? Have those on hand for yourself.
IF YOU CAN, HAVE A SERVICE-WATCHING BUDDY
If you can’t be together during the service, set a time you’ll call to talk about church and the meaning of the service and the content of the sermon. When I was a kid, we went home and had a lovely Sunday dinner and talked about the sermon. Hearing what others have to say–and talking about it to find out what you think–is the best way to carry the service with you during the week.
Remenber always that the point of the service is for you to worship God. No matter how much you feel the choir or pastor might improve, that experience is on you.
DURING THE WEEK
See if your church office can have a point person for you and others watching at home. Keep praying for those in need. Send them notes or give them a call, if appropriate. Keep up with their situation. You are likely in a unique position to be a prayer warrior for them. Take this seriously.
Occasionally email words of encouragement to the pastor and music director. Tell them what during last week’s service has helped you through this week. As a former pastor I can tell you this will mean the world to them.
+++HOW TO BE OF HELP IF YOUR CHURCH BROADCASTS A SERVICE+++
Consider the homebound a true part of your congregation.
Help them obtain a hymnal and make sure they have a Bible handy.
Print the bulletin as early as you can, and get them a copy before the service.
Have a point person who will contact them, or who they can contact, to stay in touch. If there is a prayer list, make sure they get a copy.
BILL WEBBER was a pastor in the Midwest and in California for 40 years. He has now retired to be near family in Pompton Plains, NJ.