As more churches move to include web-based ministry, many are using a recently developed app called Amplify to assist with worship and class meetings. Amplify was developed by the United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH) as an online streaming service and resource library for local churches and small groups. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased interest in the service.
“The vision behind Amplify was to develop one go-to resource that would allow churches and small groups to do Bible studies, devotions, prayer meetings, and other gatherings from anywhere, in-person or virtually,” said Audrey Kidd, chief revenue and customer experience officer for the Publishing House. “This gives you instant access to quality media resources whether you’re meeting in church, at home, a coffee shop or on a retreat or mission trip.”
Amplify contains thousands of videos, podcasts and other media developed or approved by Abingdon Press, an official United Methodist imprint. The content offers a consistent Wesleyan lens and contains material produced by some of the top names in the United Methodist publishing world today, including Adam Hamilton, Mike Slaughter, Tom Berlin and others. The app also included vetted resources from outside publications and companies such as Sparkhouse. Amplify also allows churches to upload and maintain their own media library through the site, making live video or audio and recordings of worship services available to everyone.
Making Amplify user-friendly and relevant to United Methodist leaders was of upmost importance. “We listened to churches engaging in virtual media to hear what they were doing, what issues they were having and what they imagined being able to do,” Kidd said. “We put together a panel of church leaders from a variety of ministry contexts (small and large churches, urban and rural ministries, younger and older adult ministries, etc.) across the connection. They helped us with everything from naming the platform to determining what functionality was most important.”
The Rev. Zach Bechtold was among the leaders on the panel. Bechtold serves a three-charge appointment to Choteau, Brady and Dutton United Methodist churches in rural Montana. Most of his members are senior citizens.
“Some of my members did not have computers or internet when I started,” Bechtold said, “but we were patient in helping them learn. One way I was able to sell my congregations on using Amplify was to show them how they could now access all their media for worship, Sunday school or small group in one convenient place.” Bechtold’s podcast series “Bearded Theologians” is one of the resources available on Amplify.
The Rev. Tim Constein of New Covenant United Methodist in Douglasville, Georgia also found Amplify particularly helpful in reconnecting homebound members to the life of the church.
“Most of our members are in their 70s and some were unable to attend service in-person anymore. When we started offering live-streamed/recorded videos of the service they were thrilled. We also found it helpful for Sunday school because now we can send video links to class members ahead of time to be discussed in class,” Constein said.
Churches who purchased Amplify early on find themselves relying on it more and more to keep their people connected during a time of social distancing. “We bought into Amplify in February and started using it before the quarantine began. This made the adjustment to virtual worship and small groups a little easier for us,” said The Rev. Wayner Dickert of Bryson City United Methodist in North Carolina.
The Publishing House anticipated more churches would find Amplify helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We offer a 14-day free trial for any user,” Kidd said. “They sign up for a monthly plan based that is based on the estimated number of members who will be using the site. We’ve also made certain content available completely free including our most recent Lenten series along with adult Bible study resources, children ministry videos and popular devotionals. Anyone is able to access these resources without having to sign up for a subscription.”
Day. Amplify’s free resources will remain available to the public while most of the United States is under quarantine.
The Rev. Dale R. Cohen of First United Methodist in Florence, Alabama, has been a user and strong supporter of Amplify.
“I think the real potential of Amplify is in the ability to share resources peer-to-peer,” said Cohen, who is also a member of the UMPH’s board of directors. “Some of the best Christian media resources today are no longer just coming out of Publishing House or general agencies, but rather local churches themselves. Amplify is one way United Methodists everywhere can connect and learn from one another.”
Learn more about Amplify here.
Philip J. Brooks is a writer and content developer with the leader communications team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Contact him at [email protected].