A smaller crowd means a shorter service. Now let’s plan on a bigger crowd.

MP

We just finished this morning’s Daily Office webcast, and Gwen remarked on its brevity. Attendance was only 14, including one visitor. Lower attendance than usual is what made it shorter, even though it was 2 minutes longer than it’s supposed to be.

But every day we get new people trying us out. The site itself is growing by leaps and bounds, especially because of Facebook and Twitter, and now I’m wondering what we’d do with twice as many people. We need to start expecting them.

Clint led a smooth service today, and even called on me to help read the psalm. I don’t usually read because I’m producing, and we want everyone else to participate as much as possible.

He and I have always worried a bit about how long the service runs. People are busy in the morning, whether they’re with us live or watching later; it’s very common that someone who’s joined us live has to leave before the end of the service, which is perfectly okay. We’re glad every time someone joins us for any portion of the service.

There are several ways to look at the question of service length. The first is that it takes however long it takes. So no apologies.

But the longer it runs, the less likely that someone will join us at all.

Of our 5000 followers, only 0.5% have ever attended a live webcast on any given day. We’re very glad, therefore, that we can record the service and make it available for streaming immediately. H/t Adobe Connect.

We know that a 9 a.m. start time is too late for the East, while a 5 a.m. service is too early for the West. This is a big continent, and no single time will work for everyone. If we had the staff to run four webcasts, starting each one at 7 or 8 a.m. per time zone, that would be ideal. But we don’t have the staff for that, and with only 25 people joining our “big” national webcast, trying to run four services per morning is impractical.

Having said that, I remain a bit frustrated that we run long every day. And my annoyance is compounded by my sad lack of diplomacy and tact, because I don’t feel I can say anything to speed us up without someone getting their feelings hurt.

If we had a 30 minute slot on radio or TV, the management would pull the plug on us at 28 or 29 so the next show could come on. I admit I’ve had fantasies of doing that at times. But this isn’t radio, so we do run on.

Then my frustration builds up until I feel like a diva about to have a tantrum.

Miss Ross, about to give a peon the what-for.

Miss Ross giving a peon the stare-down.

Any number of glitches can slow us down. When we first started webcasting, we spent weeks replaying that old cell phone commercial, Can you hear me now?

Time and technology finally solved that for the most part. Some newcomers actually arrive now knowing more or less how to turn on and mute their microphones. (Thank you, newbies!)

Others just show up, and no matter how hard we try, we may or may not be able to teach them how to participate. We lose a lot of people because they don’t know what a System Preference is. They get frustrated or embarrassed and leave. It breaks our hearts.

We ought to run sound checks on everyone every day before the service, but the regulars are so busy gabbing (including me) we never get to do that. So we end up with Marlene, who’s WAY TOO LOUD, and Pedro who’s …

senior-straining-to-hear

Gabbing, of course, is half the fun. This isn’t radio, it’s church. Seeing each other is part of why we come.

Starting tomorrow I’m implementing two new policies: at 5 minutes before the hour, we do sound checks. The Officiant will announce it and start calling on people in alphabetical order to speak one phrase of the Lord’s Prayer. After each one s/he’ll say, “Too loud, too soft, just right.”

We won’t catch latecomers this way, but it will greatly improve our quality. It will also be a reminder that we’re here for God first, each other second, and the public third – let’s not leave out the public, who are sitting there watching the playback and thinking, “Why don’t they make Pedro speak up?”

But the real issue is something else. (I’ve been working my way up to this, see.)

I never planned, when I first started, that we would spend any time on extemporaneous intercessions. I think it was actually Clint’s idea, and now I’m glad he did it, because it adds a lot to the service, knowing what’s on each person’s mind. Some people come specifically because they’re worried and need to speak their prayer before God and other people. We are glad for every prayer like that. Clint was right.

But when we first started saying individual prayers, I assumed each one would be very brief, like they are in church when the congregation is invited to add their own prayers. In church, people whisper, one on top of the other, and God hears every one. But we can’t do it that way, we’re all mic’d up, so we take turns. Otherwise it’s cacophony. We’ve learned to take turns.

Still, the more people, the more prayers and the longer the service. How do we balance this, when we start having 50 people someday?

Some of our members are very good about keeping their prayer short and sweet. It’s a skill, and they’re thoughtful about it. (You know who you are.)

Some people just let it spill out. That’s fine, we’re not judging the economy of your prayer. It may take you a few words of explanation so we know what you’re really praying about; go ahead, tell us so we can pray along.

But please, no orations from anyone. If someone is sick, just say their name and get it over with so we can move on. Please put the rest of it in the Chat box, once the Suspension period is done:

*Tonya has a new doctor, and she always hates it when she has to see someone new.*

By the way, Clint, that Suspension period (for prayers only, no chatter) is really excellent.

Reminder: do not violate anyone’s privacy. It’s easier to do than you think, even if you don’t say their last name. If you have friends in real time who know that you’re close to Kurt, they’ll know exactly who you mean with this (parody!) prayer: “Oh, Lord, Kurt’s come down with the clap again, so I pray that his penicillin shot will work…”

Say what?

Say what?

I’m also making a structural change in our liturgy starting immediately. Our video hymn will come before the final blessing, which will be pronounced by a priest or deacon if one is present, or by the Officiant.

This is a theological matter as well as a liturgical one. Since it’s my job to watch over both, the change starts now.

Our webcast recording will end with the liturgical blessing, and nothing further will be said. We should send people away with the blessing, and not more mindless yabble from us.

We’ll still bless each other as we depart, but that will take place among friends.++

2 thoughts on “A smaller crowd means a shorter service. Now let’s plan on a bigger crowd.

  1. I just now saw this. Sorry I missed it. I wonder if others may have missed it as well. Since this is different than many of your blog posts, in that it relates very directly to our webcast, maybe you could think of a way to direct everyone’s attention to it. Perhaps a printed line on the morning prayer page directing our attention to it? I’m glad I stumbled on it today. I’ll be sure to implement your ideas, both as a participant and when I lead, as happens occasionally. Also, you gave some good info today after prayers. All made sense to me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s