Please know, for my family and for so many others, online church services are incredibly valuable. For us, they have made church accessible again.
My family’s ability to attend church services has been a source of frustration and, at times, pain since my oldest son was a toddler.
I have written about the overwhelming sensory input, Sunday school being more school than church and overall, the disconnect my children and ultimately, my family have experienced as part of our church experience.
One of the most difficult parts of this complicated relationship has been the feeling of shame.
I understand the biblical importance of community and, for my own heart, adore the corporate experience.
One of the highlights of my year in 2019 was being able to speak all day long on Mother’s Day. Four services, from 9 AM to 6 PM. To me, it felt like drinking a ton of water after being out on a long, hot walk.
I share this, because I want you to know that I deeply acknowledge the value of in-person church services. This is not about dismissing anything.
The shame comes from, after almost seven years of trying, not being able to figure out how to make church work for my children.
In the beginning, we thought we were taking a break. Giving the boys a chance to heal from the forced and, sometimes, just plain mean experience they’d had in church made sense.
In more recent years, I’d taken to going alone, although inconsistently and half-heartedly. Not having a shared experience with my husband and kids felt like loss.
We were plodding along.
Then, about six weeks ago suddenly, everyone in the world was unable to do church as usual.
Everyone in the world had to worry about how to replace the church experience for themselves and their families, because it was no longer a healthy option.
Over the course of the last few weeks, we have all celebrated regular church services, including Palm Sunday and Easter at home. Our churches have quickly put together online options, both for messages and for connection.
To me, it’s been absolutely beautiful.
So I have to admit, I was surprised to see some of the negative comments floating around online. (I know, I should never be surprised at this point about negative comment floating around online!).
The summary of the negativity? This online approach to church doesn’t “count.” It is less-than and something we all must endure until we can “get back to normal.”
Today, I’d like to offer a different perspective.
Why Online Church Services Are Actually A Better Option For Some
Families of children with special needs have had struggles with traditional services all along. Every single time my When Church Hurts post gets picked up and circulated, I receive hundreds, even thousands, of messages from families just like mine, feeling stuck between genuinely meeting the needs of their families and meeting the expectations of their church communities.
But beyond just special needs, I think there are far more people from various walks of life for whom this is also true.
Whether we like it or not, traditional church can feel overwhelming, judgmental and if, we are honest, just plain weird to the outsider dipping a toe in the water to see what this Jesus thing is all about.
I remember feeling the same way, as a single mom in my thirties, walking into a church with my babies.
Why did everyone seem so off? And is it just me, or were their speaking voices all higher than usual?
The sheer courage it takes to walk, unaccompanied, into a church lobby, and then sit down with perfect strangers at a time in your life when you are searching for and desperately need a Savior – suffice to say, it’s a lot.
Online church services eliminate this very real obstacle completely.
Moreover, for my family, online church services have given us the opportunity to be consistent. If one or both of my kids are struggling, we can still pull off an hour online. We are fortunate enough to “attend” a church that has a live chat function, music and even a button for prayer requests.
The experience of church online has been healing for us. It has been a chance to reconnect and engage.
I imagine it has been for others as well.
Online Church Services Are Valuable, Incredibly Valuable
When all is said and done, and our communities return to some sense of normalcy, it is my hope that churches will embrace the ongoing benefits of reaching out to others, where they are most capable and comfortable. It seems like a very Jesus thing to do – meet the outsider right where he is, not expect him to come to you.
It is my personal hope that meeting online will become a gateway for my children to feel more confident and able in church community whether online or in person.
Mostly, I am grateful for the impact this is having in my own heart. It feels like I can breathe a little easier. I don’t have to choose between the needs of my family and the needs of my own heart and soul.
Online church services are incredibly valuable. They have become, for me, an absolute blessing.
Good and filled with hope.
For More Thoughts On Church
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.