Improving online altar calls and prayer

The key lies in making transitions into the prayer room welcoming and seamless

Isn’t it wonderful that we can tap on technology to connect in times when social distancing measures are in place? Here are some simple ideas for pastors and prayer teams to keep in mind while ministering to people via Zoom.

1. Welcome participants before they step into the Zoom

Smooth transitions are helpful in encouraging people to take that step of coming (or clicking!) “forward” for prayer. For instance, if your church provides Zoom prayer after your main online service, include a slide that clearly shows the Zoom link or QR code as the service draws to a close. 

At the same time, the pastor or team leader in charge of the Zoom prayer can also consider posting a friendly invitation in the platform’s chat box, along with the Zoom link. That personal touch goes a long way in transitioning a person needing prayer from the outside, and then into Zoom.

2. Make long links user-friendly

Make long Zoom links appear more manageable by using free URL shorteners such as BitlyTinyURL or Rebrandly. Visually, the links look less fiddly, which is helpful especially for older folk who may find technology daunting. 

Another idea is to minimise the number of steps (or literally, clicks) that take people right into Zoom. If your altar call period is relatively short (about 15 minutes or less) you could consider doing away with the password into the specific Zoom call altogether, so that a single click on the Zoom link takes people right into the Zoom call (or Waiting Room). 

3. Talk participants through what they can expect

Another critical place of managing transitions is at the point where people dial in to Zoom and hang out in the Waiting Room, if you decide to have one at all. This is where you can share brief points in the chat box on what they can expect when they are let into the main Zoom “lobby”. 

4. Have a “Behind-the-scenes” prep

Organise who does what – Minimally, besides the prayer team, there should be a a) prayer team leader or chairing person b) a team member to help with the administrative details of letting people in from waiting room, taking care of any screen shares, assigning breakout rooms etc.

Decide what materials you’ll need – Is there going to be an explanatory slide for participants to view when they’re in the Main Lobby? Is there going to be music as participants wait in the main zoom lobby? Are there other online follow up forms that you’ll need them to fill?

Pre-assign the prayer team members 2 or 3 people (rather than just 1 person) to a breakout room for accountability purposes.

Debrief – After ministering to participants, prayer team members can return to the main Zoom lobby for a debrief with the team leader or chairing person. It’s also a good practice to have brief notes from each prayer team member about who and what was being prayed for. Again this is for accountability, but even more importantly, for follow up purposes so that people can receive the care they need (if needed) after that single session of prayer. This can be done via email or an online document sharing system e.g. Google Drive, Microsoft One note, Dropbox etc.

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