Putting Together an Online Good Friday Service
You, like most church leaders, are probably pulling double duty right now. Easter is approaching and that means it's all hands on deck as you prepare for your biggest service of the year.
So maybe you're not even thinking about Good Friday services right now—but we'd encourage you to consider it. Taking time to meditate on the gravity and consequences of our sins is a powerful way for people to prepare their hearts to truly celebrate the Good News of Easter morning.
Now that we're far removed from COVID, we wouldn't usually recommend hosting an online-only service. However, we know hosting an in-person Good Friday service AND Easter Sunday service isn't feasible for every church. So an online version may be the best route for you and the health of your staff.
With that said, here's an outline you can use to build your Good Friday services, including media that can help you engage your audience online (all cleared for use online).
It's always a good idea to have a buffer on the front end to give people a chance to join the stream before the actual content starts. Some churches do a slideshow of announcement slides; some opt to use one of our countdowns. Whatever you choose to use, just keep it under five minutes, and it's probably a good idea to start a couple of minutes before the start time and end a minute or two after the published start time.
Find more announcement slides like these in our title graphics category.
While it's technically categorized as a sermon bumper, this video is a great way to set the tone for and transition into your Good Friday service.
Straight out of the above video, you'll want to have someone on camera welcoming your viewers and establishing expectations for the service. It's good to give them a quick outline, let them know roughly how long it's going to last, and share with them what you hope they'll get out of the service. This service will rightfully be more somber than most, so the tone you want to set is warm but serious.
Generally, the content of a Good Friday service is focused on the weight of our sin, our need for a Savior, and Christ's work on the cross—heavy, heart-rending stuff. Most songs that contain those themes also (rightfully) tend to turn toward the Hope found in Christ's completed work, which might feel like they're working against the goal for which you're aiming. If that's a concern, you might omit those verses, or save worship until the end of your service.
Here are a few songs we think work well for Good Friday:
If your church is new to streaming, you might assume the best way to display lyrics is like you normally do during a live service—full screen, on top of a worship background. When live-streaming, people tend to feel more connected if you have your worship leader on screen, so you may want to display lyrics differently.
We have a ton of lower thirds tucked away on our site underneath title graphics that are designed for this exact use. They're listed as "Transparent PNG" under the download format options. Find the entire list of the products that include this option here.
A TIME OF PRAYER
You can pretty naturally flow out of music into a time of prayer, possibly with your musician(s) continuing to play instrumentally underneath. On-screen, I'd suggest transitioning to full screen graphics (a great place to use worship backgrounds), periodically updated with prayer prompts and Scriptures to guide the time. Here are some suggestions for those:
Ask God to search your heart and reveal any sinful way in you. (Psalm 139:23-24)
Ask God to show you any ways you've wronged someone else for which you need to ask for forgiveness.
Ask God to show you any areas in your life that you're withholding forgiveness from someone else. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Ask God to show you any way you deny Christ by your actions. (Luke 22:54-62)
Ask God to help you reorient your understanding of your own difficult circumstances, in light of the suffering that Christ endured for us. (Romans 8:17-18)
Ask God to help you better understand the gravity of your sin.
A perfect way to transition out of the time of prayer is to show the Igniter original mini movie Sounds of the Cross (specifically the Good Friday edit). It's a harrowing retelling of the last few hours of Jesus' life that realistically portrays the stark brutality of those moments, while still being family-safe.
A BRIEF MESSAGE
At this point, about 25 minutes have elapsed since the beginning of your service, so you don't necessarily need to have full-length sermon ready. Two worthy goals for this time are 1) to encourage people to spend the next 36 hours continuing in the prayer and meditation they started earlier and 2) to remind them that even though "It's Friday...Sunday's Coming."
One of our all-time most popular mini movies, Sunday's Coming.
A CLOSING SONG
We're always a fan of reinforcing Truth by giving people a chance to respond in song. Living Hope by Phil Wickham (in the playlist above) is perfect for this spot. Really, anything that proclaims the Gospel will work here.
Take a couple of minutes at the end to reinforce your message, and invite people to join you to celebrate on Sunday morning. It's also likely your last chance to encourage people to invite friends and family to join them on Easter. Be sure to let them know where the best place to point people is (your website, Facebook, YouTube, etc).
What are your church's plans for Good Friday? Is there anything we missed or anything you'd do differently? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.