While the restrictions on religious gatherings are being eased in Singapore, many churches are likely to continue with online services for some time as they figure out how to re-open safely and responsibly. Here’s 5 ways to make the most out of attending church online.

How many of us think about what we’re going to do when we get to church? Perhaps we’ve been on autopilot for too long. The current COVID-19 crisis gives us the perfect opportunity to pause and think about what we’re doing, how we do it—and, most importantly, why we do it.

Hebrews 10:24–25 reminds us of the motivation to turn up at church regularly:

Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

But the challenge of these words goes deeper than the “why”. The first sentence doesn’t say, “let us spur one another”; rather, it says: “Let us consider how we may spur one another.” We are to pause and think about how we can contribute to the body of Christ.

This means we can ask ourselves questions like: What will be encouraging? Whom we might encourage? Who might be sick, alone, struggling, fearful, anxious, or even terrified?

After all, church isn’t just about recharging our own batteries for the week—it is about recharging other people’s batteries every week. If we all do that, our batteries will also stay fully charged!

Before COVID-19 struck us, these would have been good questions to ask ourselves before we left home for church. Right now, however, we’ll have to think about how to make the most of turning up for church online.

Sometimes, online churches can tend to become a one-directional download experience: go to YouTube, search for our church’s latest video, and watch. In these difficult and dangerous days—in spiritual as well as physical ways—however, we need to consider how we can also encourage others at other times.

Here are some tips to consider as we prepare for church online:

1. Tune in properly

Get prepared for church by getting out of your pajamas, and find a place to watch the online service where you can focus properly. Plan ahead: Will you put it on the TV or a large computer screen? Will you sit as a family or couple? Will you wear headphones so you can hear properly?

Fight the temptation to multitask and give your full attention to the service. Don’t tidy up the house, surf the Net, or check your emails. Most importantly, take a minute beforehand to pray that you’ll be able to encourage others and be encouraged yourself.

2. Participate properly

Have a Bible with you. Look up the Bible reading and references during the sermon, and take down notes. Download the talk outline if there is one. If there are children’s activities, videos, participation exercises, get your kids to take part. During praise and worship, join in.

It might seem a bit awkward if everyone’s online, so mute your microphone (you will probably need to anyway, because having everyone singing over the internet probably won’t work well). I recently watched a recording of our online church and realised that very few people were actually singing—and I was the No.1 culprit. So join in by singing along at home. At least lip sync.

3. Join a small group

Connecting with others is difficult in larger churches, so it is a great idea to join a small group for prayer, Bible study, mutual encouragement, and fun. Hopefully, your group can continue to meet online and connect through one of the many video conferencing apps available now.

If you’re not in a group, let me urge you to join one. This might well be the best means to put into practice the call of Hebrews 10:24–25 to “not give up meeting together” and to “encourage one another”. If your church doesn’t have small groups, ask your leaders if they will help you get one going.

4. Reach out to people during the week

Don’t wait for the Sunday meeting to care and look out for each other. Stay socially connected through Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, FaceTime—or a simple phone call. (It’s easy to forget that smart phones can still be used as phones!)

There’s never been a better time to call and encourage one another than now. You can even read a bit of the Bible together, chat about the recent sermon, and pray together.

5. Keep on giving

Even as the COVID-19 restrictions are slowly eased, the times remain tough and are likely to get tougher. Countries around the world are bracing for more unemployment and economic challenges. It will affect not only us, but others in church and our ministry staff as well.

So, if you can keep giving to support the ministry of your church, please do. Many churches accept online or ATM transfers now, ask your church what it would find most helpful. And be generous.

Dave McDonald lives in Bonny Hills in the New South Wales, Australia. He and his wife Fiona have four children and a number of grandchildren. Having lived in Canberra and worked in university ministry, church planting and pastoring, and sports chaplaincy, Dave is now the pastor at Salt Community Church in Bonny Hills and he mentors and supervises others in ministry. Dave blogs at macarisms.com, and is the author of Hope Beyond Cure.