Church in the Time of Covid

Church services, as well all know, have been disrupted for most of this year. While the internet certainly has offered a wonderful way for Bible teaching and preaching, it is not the only one. Additionally, watching or even listening to a church service via the internet is not available to all.

Pastor James, SlimJim, wrote about the need for equipping church members with the means to receive internet church here: Donate Electronic Device so At-Risk Members can have Church service online.

How have other churches reached their members apart from the internet? I’d like to hear about it. Please comment.

When Parkside Church began limited services at the end of August, it did so outside. Church was on the grass, with families physically distanced (don’t you like that term better than socially distanced? Courtesy of a Minnesota Epidemiologist.) Those who chose could simply park in the parking lot and listen. What, open windows and try to hear? No. On their car/truck radios.

Using a very low power FM transmitter is legal for use in the United States. Not all low-power transmitters on the AM and FM broadcast band that are sold on Amazon are actually legal, as they are not “Type Accepted” by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC regulates broadcasts over the air in America.

Parkside’s transmission of a Sunday evening service to the parking lot was probably stretching the distance for which these low-power transmitters are useful. Of course, that’s the idea. License-free broadcasting is designed for a very limited use, also limiting its interference capabilities.

Some American manufacturers claim their products reach much farther, even a couple miles. However, this is pretty misleading, as the specifications by the FCC are such that the transmitters are not capable of such range. In fact, they must produce only the most minimal received signal at even 200 feet. Parked in a car under 200 feet from the church, the service might be heard, if the transmitter is legal in the US.

So Parkside, for instance, isn’t going to be able to broadcast throughout its community using its FM transmitter.

Pastor James might be able use a transmitter like this to reach at-risk members of his congregation, but only if they park in front of the church. This is possible. However, during the Spring, in Michigan, just parking in a parking lot was “illegal,” and subject to law enforcement action.

So, any other ways to reach out without internet?

The FCC has opened up a pathway for community broadcast stations. The licensing fees aren’t cheap, but much cheaper than commercial broadcast licensing, which is hard to get and can cost in the millions of dollars. Unfortunately, these community broadcast licenses aren’t all that easy to obtain either. From what I’ve read, the application process and review by the FCC is difficult, usually requiring experienced legal teams. And then there is the FCC review process, making it more difficult.

Two long-standing ways to broadcast a sermon are “buying air time” on local radio and television stations. Radio is by far cheaper. In Susanville, CA, in 1985-86, Lassen County Christians made thirty-second public service announcements (PSA) to reach out Christian messages. Local churches aired their sermons on Sunday morning. And larger churches in more populated cities had their Sunday service broadcast on a local television station.

For the last twenty something years I’ve not watched TV over the air, having subscribed to either cable TV or Satellite TV. These days, my wife and moved entirely to internet use. Perhaps there are some Sunday church services that are viewable in your area. As for the local radio broadcast stations near me, there two FM stations that broadcast exclusively Christian content, one mostly music, while the other does broadcast syndicated content from the large ministries.

Would a local radio station broadcast a pastor’s Sunday service, like back in the days before internet? Might be worth asking. However, it’s not going to be cheap. It’s not going to be affordable to a small church pastor that just wants to make sure his people are able to at least hear the Sunday Word.

Any other ideas? Yes. Next time, L-RD willin’

L-RD Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

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