At the time that I write this, a lot of churches are coming out of the Quaran-coma that we’ve been wrapped up in for weeks now. We’re taking our first steps into the light and tightening our masks as we prepare to worship in-person for the first time since mid-March.
During that time period, livestreaming has not just been a luxury, but an obligation. Churches that have never used Facebook live before – whether because they didn’t think they had the time, money, or experience to do so – have been forcibly pushed into the 21st century out of necessity. For better or for worse, your church now has a livestream presence and at least a certain segment of your audience is used to engaging with you through it.
But should it continue? Now that you’re meeting in-person, why should you still go through the headache of livestreaming your services?).
- It’s Easy. I know that may seem silly considering what you’ve just went through in the last few months, but now that you’ve got the kinks worked out of your system (camera placement, audio, slides, etc), you have a much better idea of how it should look moving forward. A simple investment into a livestreaming services like Restream, Wirecast, or Castr can make livestreaming as simple as hitting a few buttons and having a deacon on hand to man the livestream. Or, if you want an even cheaper alternative, try using Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s got a wide range of features and is relatively intuitive.
- It Reaches More People. Face it, there are some people that will never step foot inside your church building, or, at the very least, won’t until they feel super comfortable with who and what you are. Livestreaming allows you to put a face on your congregation that people can identify with, making the transition easier. Plus, if you stream to social networks, you can leverage the power of community to find a wider audience with every service, beyond just the people in your auditorium.
- You’ll Get Real-Time Engagement. Recorded videos or audio clips are great, but one of the biggest benefits of livestreaming is the fact that people can comment and interact in real time, whether with the person in charge of the livestream or with each other. You can even convert those real-time visitors into possible connections for Bible studies. With a static medium like recorded videos, you’ll never really know who engages with your content. Advantage: Livestream.
- It Creates Instant Shareable Content. Here’s the process for most churches that only record their sermons: record, cut, post, and that’s it. For people who are at the assemblies in-person, there’s little incentive to share those sermons on social media, because, well, most people don’t want to sit for 30-40 minutes on Facebook and watch a sermon – not because they’re agnostic, but because that’s not what Facebook is for. When you’re sitting in services and your church notifies you that you’re livestreaming your service, it takes two seconds to share that notification in hopes that other people can hop on as well. And by “other people,” I don’t mean christians that have decided to take the morning off, but people in different time zones, those who are traveling, and people in other parts of the world. Because of real-time livestreaming, I’ve been able to worship with saints in other countries during the Covid crisis, and it’s been incredibly uplifting for my faith. Recorded sermons just don’t have the same type of digital, real-time connection.
- It’s Encouraging. Your local members likely don’t care how many views your recorded video gets online (if they do, congrats!). But what is encouraging is when you count up how many people were in your assembly in person AND watching online at the same time. A church of twenty people that has a reasonable online presence can easily triple that number online. I know numbers aren’t everything, but there’s no denying the encouragement factor for a local congregation that feels like they’re connected to Christians elsewhere.