Sunday, May 3, 2020

Couch Potato Church in the Zoom Era

Back in the 1970’s someone (maybe a cartoonist) used the phrase “couch potato” to refer to those watching long hours of television while sitting on couches or easy chairs, maybe eating potato chips, and possibly turning their bodies into a potato shape for the lack of exercise! 

The phrase came to me again on a recent Sunday as I sat on my couch and watched a Zoom-based worship service. Since I could also see other participants sitting on couches and chairs, I realized, I’m a couch potato in a couch potato church service!

Like many who have been “safer at home” for these past 50 days, I have done a lot of sitting.  I also know I need to get up and move around more frequently. After participating in several recent Zoom-based worship services, one thing I’ve come to notice is I can’t just sit on my couch for more than 20-30 minutes without needing to stand up.  Sure, there is lots of sitting in a typical in-sanctuary service, but even then those who are able are invited to stand for singing, praying, and greeting each other.   

With sympathy to all those who are scrambling to adapt their church services and ministries to these days of Covid-19, I’d gently suggest worship leaders ask people to stand during the livestream (or recorded) service, even in the comfort of their own home. 

Stand to pray together, stand to sing a hymn or song, stand to do some sort of unison action (maybe an echo pantomime where the leader calls out a phrase and demonstrates an action, which then the rest say and do).  

Of course, with video church seen at home, the participants have the freedom to get up or not, but I think worship leaders could find ways to keep people more physically involved in worship. 

It’s just a small detail that has been overlooked in the effort to provide worship experiences in this strange time.  I hope worship leaders will find a way to bring standing/sitting/even kneeling back into at-home screen-based worship.

Post Script: I shared my thoughts about "couch potato church" with the pastor of the church I've been attending, and in this morning's service he invited us to stand four times during the one hour service: during a short prayer/doxology at the start of the service, for a short song he taught with hand motions, as a stretch time before the sermon/message, and at the end of the service to repeat the short song and hand motions learned earlier. These were simple ways to get the Zoom congregation up and moving and to be more physically engaged.

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