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Live Skype calls during worship link those near and far

If you are around teenagers often, you probably have seen them glued to their computers, chatting via Skype. But Skype is far from just a teenage tool. It also offers your congregation an ideal and inexpensive way to communicate often with missionaries and others whom you want to stay connected to your church.

Skype is a free download for any computer, so this communications tool that lets users hear and see each other is not a budget breaker.

Skype can enlarge its users' world and shrink the distance between congregants, cultures and countries. Consider using Skype to:

  • Connect with students away at college.
  • Hear from and worship with missionaries.
  • Bring your faith community to homebound or hospitalized members.
  • Worship and talk with members or their children serving in war zones.
  • Have a mission team report from the site where they are working.
  • Celebrate World Communion Sunday with a church halfway around the world.

Skype can bridge international gaps – and local ones as well. Use Skype to bring your congregation together with a sister church. You can virtually pass the peace with other United Methodists as members of each congregation approach the microphone and share prayers and blessings.

The Logistics of Skype

Before you begin sharing your worship service via Skype or connecting with a missionary, sister church or distant members, you need to understand the logistics of using Skype. First step:  Find out the bandwidth and connection speed of the equipment used by the people with whom you'll be calling. This table will help you determine if your bandwidth is adequate. Find out the requirements for communicating with Skype.

Here is additional technological guidance for using Skype in your ministry or worship service:

  • Know the specifications of your computer and your webcam. Make sure your computer's central processing unit (CPU) is fast enough to make using Skype possible.
  • Use a webcam that is either USB 2.0 or IEEE 1394/Fire Wire-based. You can also use a digital video (DV) camera or Fire Wire converter.
  • Have at least six feet of cable.
  • Position the webcam so that it faces the speaker.
  • Think about the projection. Do you need additional lighting?
  • Position your caller close to the webcam and microphone.
  • Make sure you click full-screen.

You can use a laptop camera rather than a webcam, but it's better to send a video feed through a video card or Fire Wire converter. Find more tips for using Skype on the big screen.

The quality of your audio and video can make or break the Skype experience. Be certain you understand the numerous video and audio options available.

The power of Skype to break down distance barriers is tremendous. Think how a hospice patient or homebound member can be ministered to by being part of a worship service or prayer. Think about the power of reaching out to a soldier fighting a war thousands of miles away or the missionaries who are often in a remote presence at best.

Through Skype, all of them can worship with your congregation — even when they can't occupy a pew.