You can get most anything you’re after from the comfort of home nowadays.
Shop online. Work online. Date online. Now you can get absolution online as well.
Video conferencing company TelePastor is offering 100,000 churches across the U.S. an extended free trial of its video calling service in an attempt to bring religious counseling services into your home. There’s clearly an audience for a remote service given that the largest group of church attendees are age 65 and over, the time of life when mobility and travel becomes most problematic.
However, security aside–that’s a legitimate concern when you’re discussing personal details of your life online–there’s little advertised by the TelePastor service that you couldn’t replicate with most video conferencing services.
There’s also a chance TelePastor may have more than one motive in offering video conferencing for churches.
Church Counseling Meets E-Psychiatry
Just quickly on that last point, as the TelePastor website attests, the platform is owned by My Client Notes, which specializes in voice recognition note keeping and billing services for behavioral health specialists.
It is also partnered with e-Psychiatry.com, which offers paid video conferencing services to the public, and to private companies. That same web page also mentions that 95% of church pastors refer members to a psychiatrist or counselor each year.
There’s nothing wrong with a pastoral service adopting a robust, professional-grade video calling service to replicate the kind of security a professional counselor would insist upon. However, it’s worth noting that any church that takes up the free TelePastor trial is getting involved with a service that has a seamless link to paid psychiatric services.
That caveat aside, TelePastor has certainly considered a bunch of different ways a reliable VC link could help a church community.
Virtual Church Services
TelePastor offers all the benefits a basic video calling service could offer a congregation. With an easily accessible two-way link, presumably provided at no cost to parishioners, you can:
- Remotely attend a group meeting with one or more members online
- Speak face-to-face with your pastor or church leaders without leaving home
- Keep in touch with your church if you move or travel
- Extend the privacy of counseling services by letting people avoid physically attending the church
There are a few others you can add to that list, with a few little wrinkles:
- Add anonymity to the counseling service by letting people access a common, account-free calling link and simply switching their camera off
- Attend an actual service, and even conduct a scripture reading by having your voice, if not image, broadcast in the church
- Collaborate on multimedia in-service presentations through screen and document sharing
- Create a virtual choir by gathering voices across the nation in a group video chat broadcast during a service
Of course, all these services are available on a number of video calling platforms, and many of them are free for small groups.
Video Conferencing Tailored for Churches
What’s more, there are a number of services that can match TelePastor’s HIPAA standard security–HIPAA being the legislation that deals with security in medical record keeping.
We’ve personally reviewed a number of services that offer more dynamic features than the advertised TelePastor operation. Such features include video call recording, storage and playback, central control over caller microphones and presentation, active speaker tracking tech, customizable video calling rooms, and access for non-subscribers.
Furthermore, there just doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of church-specific tech baked into the TelePastor service, which means there’s little incentive to choose it over any other service you have previous experience with, or over one that is favored by the business market.
By all means, invite your church and your fellow members into your home. Just remember to consider the entire field of VC services when you sit down to work out how best to do it.
Image Source: Flickr CC User Josh Applegate