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Zoom Tech Training for Congregational Volunteers

By Erica Baron

Picture of computer with Zoom on screen

Let’s start with getting up to speed on using Zoom—both the basic and the advanced features. Zoom: Basic to Advanced video by First Unitarian Church of Baltimore is an excellent introduction. The video is an hour long and will cover most of the things you need to know about how to use the tools on Zoom for a congregational worship service.

Here is the accompanying PowerPoint presentation.

Then, let’s look at how two congregations set up their Zoom hosting responsibilities:

Organizationally, there are two basic orientations to how to structure your volunteers for worship on Zoom.

One way is to have as few people as possible, which means that everyone is doing a lot of different tasks. This has the advantage of needing to recruit fewer people, but on the other hand, those people need to know how to do a lot of different things, and multitask. This is probably an easier strategy if your services are relatively simpler, for example, using no videos or only a few, only using prerecorded music, not a lot of chat activity, no breakouts during the service, etc.

The other way is to have as many people as possible, which means each person just needs to do one or two things. You’ll obviously need more people, so that might be harder, however, those people might only have to learn to do one specific thing, so that makes the job easier. You definitely need more people if you have a particularly complex service, such as those that involve many different videos, live music, chat that needs monitoring, admitting people one at a time from a waiting room, etc.

Of course, most congregations far somewhere along a spectrum from very few to very many people, and there is not one thing that will work everywhere. The question is, what works for your congregation. Here is an exercise to help you figure out what your congregation needs, and how you fit into that personally:

First, take a moment to write down the types of content that your congregation regularly uses in your worship services these days, and what needs to be done to make them work.

  • Do you have people speaking live in Zoom? Do you spotlight them? Note speaker, and spotlighter if you use them.
  • Do you have pre-recorded speaking? Note play recorded speaking if so.
  • Do you use images or projected text through screen sharing? If so, note screen share images.
  • Do you have pre-recorded music? Note play recorded music if so.
  • Do you have live music? Note play music and run live music settings if so.
  • Do you have times when participants are invited to unmute and speak? Such as joys and sorrows? Can they unmute themselves or does someone unmute them? If they need unmuting by someone, write that down.
  • Do you have chat active throughout the service? Is it often used? Or do you have specific times when participants are invited to put things in the chat? If so, include monitor chat.
  • Are breakout rooms used during the service? If so, note create and run breakout rooms.

Now think about how people enter the service:

  • Do you have a Zoom waiting room enabled? If so, note admit people from waiting room
  • Do you have anything happening while people are gathering? Music? Announcements? Just chatting? If something is playing and you haven’t already, note play recorded music or show images.
  • Are there settings that change as the service starts? Like muting? Turning off the chat? If so, note change participant settings
  • Do you livestream to YouTube or Facebook? If so, note begin livestream

Now think about what happens after the service:

  • Are there settings that change at the end, such as unmuting or turning on the chat? Add that role if necessary
  • Are there breakout rooms after the service has ended? Are they random or specifically assigned? Add that role as necessary

And finally, let’s add the set-up pieces.

  • Whose zoom account do you use for services? Who can login as the host? Note host the meeting
  • There are probably specific settings that you have made ahead of time, and others that need to be checked on Sunday morning. Note arrange meeting settings.

You should now have a list of the things that someone needs to be doing in your specific context. Now, go through that list and think about the things you already feel comfortable doing. Probably things you’ve successfully done before, in your congregation or in some other context. Make a note to yourself of those things.

Now, go through your list and note the things you personally already know how to do well, and can do with confidence (probably things you have already done in other contexts or in your congregation). Next, note the things you know how to do in theory, but need a little practice. Next, note the things you have some questions about in theory, but would be willing to do if you could learn. Finally, notice the things that you don’t ever want to be responsible for.

Are there things on the list that you can do - or would be willing to learn to do—that you’re not already doing in your congregation? Let the organizers of your Sunday zoom volunteers know! You may want to have a practice time where your team can mimic the conditions of Sunday morning (like the settings and various worship elements) and let new volunteers practice so they can make sure they are confident before working a job on Sunday.

For answers to some of the questions we have received, and links to lots of other ways to get help, see Tips for Zoom slide presentation, created by Chanel Gomez.

About the Author

Erica Baron

Rev. Erica Baron joined the New England region staff in 2019, focusing on helping congregations live into their missions and develop their gifts for spiritual leadership. Before joining the Congregational Life staff, she served as parish minister for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the...

For more information contact conglife@uua.org.