The Decision to Stream Church Services
Streaming church services online has never been more important. As churches across the country are trying to figure out when and how it’s safe to meet again in person in light of COVID-19, more and more churches have begun streaming services online. As the pandemic slowly comes to a close, churches will begin opening again. However, the behavior of congregants may be changed forever. Families enjoying online worship together may continue to do so even after the coronavirus is a distant memory.
Those churches hoping to grow for years to come must figure out how to lead both a physical and digital church. Every day thousands of churches are considering streaming online church services for the first time. As your church considers streaming for the first time there are a few basic decisions you need to make.
Why you’re streaming
Before doing anything else, your church should determine why you’re streaming. Is your goal merely to create a stop-gap that will fill the hole while in-person services aren’t possible? Or, are you beginning a new ministry that will impact your church for years to come? If your church plans on holding online services long-term then it’s important to fully think through online church choices. You may need to invest more time, energy, and money into building your church’s online presence.
Who you’re streaming for
Your church must also determine who you’re trying to reach with your online services. If you are only interested in keeping your consistent congregants connected, then you may make different decisions than if you were trying to reach the world with the message of Jesus online. Whatever the case may be, identifying your audience is a must.
What you’ll stream
Once you determine why you’re streaming and who you’re trying to reach you can consider what you plan to stream. The good news is, there’s no right answer to this question. In some ways, we’re living in the wild, wild west of online church streaming. People all over the world are digesting online church content for the first time while thousands of churches are putting out content for the first time. As online church media continues to mature, your church might need to experiment with content and delivery methods.
However, based on the content your church typically creates, you have two main choices- will you stream your entire service or just the sermon?
Streaming Just the Message vs. Streaming the Entire Service
Streaming Just the Sermon
This will be the easiest and quickest way to begin streaming church content online. All you need to get started is a phone and access to Facebook or Youtube. If you plan on streaming only your sermon, carefully determine where you record. Try out a few locations in your house or in the church to ensure the best lighting and look.
Also, use caution in what you call your recorded sermon. Promoting your recorded sermon as your church’s “Live Sunday Service” could give people expectations that your stream will contain all the parts of a typical Sunday service. Try naming your stream something that more accurately reflects the content you’re offering like, “Join us for a live message this Sunday.”
Streaming the Entire Service
Many churches have begun streaming their entire church services, including all the pieces typically found in a live service. Service elements might include a greeting, music, sermon, and a closing. In order to stream your entire service, you’ll need to invest in equipment (camera, microphones, computer, streaming service). If you plan to stream the music you’ll also need to make sure you have the correct CCLI streaming license.
You’ll also need to determine if you would like to stream your services live, or share pre-recorded messages.
Streaming Live vs. Pre-Recorded Church Services
Churches can stream services as they’re happening live. This is especially helpful for churches hosting in-person services while wanting to share their content live with those who are not able to attend physically. Watching an event live helps people feel more connected with an event they know is taking place at that exact moment.
When streaming live, it’s important to have a high-speed internet connection. It’s also important to choose a trusted streaming provider who is able to handle increased web traffic each Sunday. Regardless of your internet connection and streaming service, streaming problems pop up from time to time. These problems seldom occur, but the fear of potential streaming issues has led some people to choose to stream pre-recorded services instead of streaming live.
Pastors can pre-record services and make them live at a predetermined time. Pre-recorded services take the stress and worry out of your live stream every Sunday. However, knowing that a church service was previously recorded may lessen the desire or urgency to watch it now. A potential watcher could feel they could watch it anytime later because it’s not live.
How you’ll stream
Once you’ve worked through the why, who, and what you’re streaming, it’s time to choose how you plan to stream. Your choice of streaming equipment and platform should align with your church streaming goals and budget.
The easiest and cheapest way to stream is through Facebook or Youtube. Both platforms have a “stream live” button where a user can stream live at any time. However, if you plan on streaming your services long-term you should invest in a camera and microphone for better quality. Once you have the appropriate equipment you’ll need to find a streaming provider. If you plan on streaming to multiple platforms (church website, Facebook, Youtube) at the same time, you’ll need to choose a streaming provider with multi-stream options. Some common options include The Church Online Platform, Vimeo Premium, and Boxcast.
Streaming and your church website
In many ways, your church website should act just like your church, especially as churches are unable to meet physically. If your church is choosing to stream their services live it’s important to make sure your church website clearly moves people to watch church services for the first time. Your church website should have a page dedicated to online church. If possible, you should stream weekend services on your church website (among other places).
If you only stream on Facebook and Youtube, then you’re forced to send new visitors on your church website immediately away to other places, which means losing out on valuable analytics, behavior metrics, and opportunities for deeper engagement. Be aware that not every church streaming platform allows for embedding directly on your website, so this is a huge factor to consider when making your selection.
A strong page on your church website dedicated to online church can offer a watcher many of the same elements presented when visiting a church physically. A church online page can give watchers an opportunity to connect, pray, give, and make decisions to take the next steps with Jesus. As you consider streaming your church services take some time to integrate your plan with your church website.
As your church navigates COVID-19, now is the perfect time to invest in your church’s online presence. As you consider streaming for the first time, ask yourself why, who, what, and how you plan to stream. Streaming church services right now is like eating a piece of cake- there’s no right way to do it. The important thing is that every church jumps in and attempts to share the message of Jesus with people online.
As you begin streaming online church services, you’ll need to experiment. Try out shorter services, recording in different places, or even live conversations about various topics. There’s no end to the creative possibilities open to churches attempting to share the most important content on the internet right now. As your church begins thinking through your online presence, Missional Marketing is here to help. Click below to schedule a free appointment with one of our helpful church growth consultants.