By Todd Adkins
We are ministering during a very challenging time. Due to federal, state and sometimes even local county and city guidelines and mandates in response to the coronavirus we may have to limit the size of personal visitations and funerals or move these services completely online.
Funeral homes have experience livestreaming funeral services and will have great advice to share during a crisis like this. However if you yourself are hosting a livestream of a funeral there are several things you should know.
1. Understand copyright regulations and licensing.
Many churches stream their services on Facebook live. This makes sense because most people already have a Facebook account and are accustomed to consuming content on this platform.
There’s a “muting” problem that funeral homes are experiencing when streaming funerals over Facebook live. This issue goes back several years when Facebook entered into agreements with songwriters and producers to resolve copyright infringement issues.
This agreement requires Facebook to mute streams that include music belonging to the producers and songwriters. As a result, the Facebook algorithm can kick to mute the funeral service at any time, leaving you with little recourse during the service.
Given Facebook’s strike base system, there have even been occasions when the livestream of a funeral service was terminated completely while it was taking place. Every time the algorithm notes that a user has violated Facebook policy, such as playing a copyrighted song over live stream, that user receives a strike and at some point when you receive too many strikes Facebook will terminate the livestream without warning.
If you’re working with the funeral home they likely have a specific funeral webcasting software platform or you could use an app like Zoom or Skype to stream the funeral service.
Keep in mind the church or the funeral home still needs a webcasting license to stream services that contain music that is under copyright but there is not the same risk of having your streamed service muted or terminated as with facebook.
2. Go the extra mile to personalize the service.
In many ways the objective here is to honor the life of the deceased and minister to their grieving family and friends.
Be as intentional as possible to exceed their expectations of what a funeral service online can be. Consider every element of not only the traditional funeral service itself, but also the rest of the experience and do your best to enhance those elements.
It would be ideal to have online greeters welcoming everyone as they come into the service just like you would be greeted by the staff when walking into a funeral home. Have a digital version of a sign-in book and prompt loved ones with the opportunity to share condolences, words of comfort or stories.
Also consider having a digital program or at least an order of service in a downloadable format such as a PDF so everyone can follow along or have as a keepsake later.
If the deceased had a charity to donate to in lieu of flowers, pin the link in the top of the service feed along with the address where notes and cards can be received in addition to having these at the bottom of the order of service you would normally print.
3. Keep distractions at bay.
Once the service is about to begin encourage those attending virtually by Zoom or Skype to remain quiet and mute their microphone if possible until the service has concluded.
Typing condolences, sharing stories, and commenting on the message will be distracting to others once the service begins.
4. Remind viewers to reach out to the grieving family.
At the conclusion of the service encourage those attending online to send encouragements to the family of the deceased and to each other.
Remind them that the grieving process is often difficult under normal circumstances, but social distancing and forced isolation will increase the effects felt in each stage of the process.
One of the greatest opportunities we have to minister within our churches is when someone passes away. This pandemic doesn’t change the need or the opportunity; it just changes the way we celebrate the life of the one who passed while continuing to proclaim the gospel and the only hope we have in Jesus Christ.
You may not be able to console a person with an appropriate hug, touch on the shoulder, or a handshake, but you can still effectively minister to those that are grieving with intentional love and care.
And this is even true when you have to do the funeral service of their loved one completely online.
TODD ADKINS (@ToddAdkins) is director of Lifeway Leadership and a co-host of the “5 Leadership Questions” podcast.