Online church service viewership in La Crosse going better than anticipated

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Local churches were forced to adapt to worship services virtually when the pandemic forced the closure of many organizations.

For three months, the atmosphere in a church service was full of echoing sermons with nobody to answer them.

“We immediately panicked,” Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Pastor Harald Bringsjord said. “I mean, it was like, ‘okay, how are we going to do this?'”

Good Shepherd Lutheran did not a camera system, but others did.

“We shut down for one week only,” English Lutheran Church Pastor Mark Solyst said. “The next week we opened up, had full video equipment ready to go.”

“So English Lutheran, Good Shepherd Lutheran and Our Saviors Lutheran all joined together for an online service,” Bringsjord said.

“Our numbers those first weeks blew us away,” Solyst said.

Solyst says more people than usual suddenly wanted to worship online.

“We were doing like 500 logins, which for the industry standard which I’m told is 1.8 (people) per login,” Solyst said. “That would be 900 people.”

The church has even added a puppet show.

“The puppet show is more that my sermons,” Solyst said with a laugh. “But that’s helped keep the kids engaged.”

He says this isn’t what church is supposed to be about, but he’s adjusted to this new way of worship.

“We’re doing video and that’s gonna be a part of life of our congregation for the unlimited future,” Solyst added.

Yet he knows preaching in an empty church can’t last forever.

“There’s nothing than this place just rocking with music,” Solyst said. “And we miss that. We miss it so much.”

Solyst says the number of people watching live streams has settled down. However, worship services are still averaging up to 300 logins.

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church will be holding a drive-in service this upcoming Saturday at 4 p.m.