News

Churches turn to Instagram, YouTube to spread holiday gospel

Churches turn to Instagram, YouTube to spread holiday gospel

HIGH TECH HOLIDAY: Churches are increasingly turning to social media to spread the gospel. Photo: clipart.com

By Elizabeth Dilts

(Reuters) – The Christmas holiday brings peak attendance for most churches, and an increasing number of U.S. religious groups are using the boom time to wow parishioners with virtual choirs on YouTube and Instagram advent calendars.

More than 500 churches will stream Christmas sermons online this year, up from just a handful in 2007, said DJ Chuang, host of the Social Media Church, a podcast with church leaders about social media. Hundreds more started Instagram and Pinterest accounts this year to post photos of baptisms and quotes from the gospel, he said.

“Instagram is like the modern day stained glass window,” Chuang said. “They use it to tell the stories of the church.”

The online churches appeal to those who have moved away from their own parish, people who may be reticent to walk into an actual church and people who wish to attend a service outside normal times.

The New Jersey-based Liquid Church has had an online pastor since 2009, and took to YouTube last Christmas to share a virtual choir using videos from roughly 500 church members who attend services remotely.

A technician overlayed the voices from each of the videos to create a cohesive song and video of individuals in front of their computers at home singing “Silent Night” in three-part harmony, said pastor Kenny Jahng.

This year, the church will hold virtual communion, the religious sacrament where worshipers drink grape juice and eat bread. When members log on to the service, the pastor will tell them to get a glass of grape juice and any household bread.

Evangelical pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, which is based in California, is exploring how to get a PlayStation channel to stream its church services similar to the way Netflix streams movies.

The California megachurch, which was a pioneer in digital worship, already streams 168 services on its website every week, and will have services every hour on the hour the week of Christmas.

“Imagine church services on a Wii,” said Jay Kranda, the lead pastor for Saddleback’s online services.

The practice is not popular with all churches, however.

In November, the United Methodist Church declared a moratorium on all online sacraments, and said in a statement that communion must be administered with a “physically gathered community.”

(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts; editing by Edith Honan and Andrew Hay)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

This weekend in entertainment history

rainman

A look back on some of Hollywood's most memorable headlines.

in Music

This week’s top pop songs

markronson

LISTEN: This week's top pop songs, according to the latest Billboard chart.

in Entertainment

Angelina Jolie crowned world’s top feminist icon

Angelina Jolie arrives at the 20th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards at the Hollywood Palladium on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, in Los Angeles.

Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson top the list of the world's foremost feminist icons.

in Entertainment, National

Celebrities protest new Indiana law

George Takei poses for a portrait at Quaker Good Energy Lodge with GenArt and the Collective , during the Sundance Film Festival, on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 in Park City, Utah.

Celebrities call for an Indiana boycott after the passing of a controversial law that could lead to discrimination against gay couples.

in Entertainment

REVIEW: ‘It Follows’ is the best American horror film in a decade

In this image released by Brigade Marketing, actress Maika Monroe appears in a scene of It Follows, directed by David Robert Mitchell. “It Follows,” has been arguably the buzziest American film at Cannes next to Bennett Miller’s wrestling drama “Foxcatcher,” which boasts a far more famous cast and a major premiere at the Palais des Festival.

"It Follows" is a horror movie worthy of classic comparisons.