Livestreaming your services and events can be a fantastic way to reach new people or to help people stay connected, if they cannot be there in person.
If you’re interested in diving in, though, there are a few things to consider before going headlong into the deep end.
Livestreaming can be a great way to reach others with the love of Christ.
First thing’s first, start with why.
Just because everyone else seems to be livestreaming doesn’t mean you have to, or that you need to right now.
Think honestly about if it makes sense for you, and if it makes sense for your team of staff, elders, and volunteers.
Most importantly, think about if it makes sense for the people that are attending your services.
If it doesn’t seem like the right fit, or the resources are not adding up, consider things like podcasts (which are continuing to grow extremely fast). They serve as another great way to get your content out there.
That said, if you do want to explore what it takes to livestream and to do it well, here are some first steps:
Define Your Vision
Words are important and doing this foundational task at the outset, will help you and others stay focused on the goal, when you get into the weeds.
At Manchester Christian Church, our vision guides everything that we do, including our Online Campus: “More people in the Kingdom of Heaven in the shortest time.”
Everything points back to this.
When we consider our Online Campus and initiatives to improve it, we always check to make sure we are on track.
We ask ourselves the question, "Will this actively and directly aid our efforts to add more people in the shortest possible time?” This also helps us set a bar for excellence.
Some tasks will require more, others will require less.
Define Your Audience
Who are you trying to reach? Resist the temptation to simply say “everyone” and consider a few questions.
Are you mainly trying to keep those who already attend connected, when they cannot be there in person?
Is the goal for your livestream to be a “front door,” which ultimately moves people from online into your building?
Are you trying to create an online space that feels and functions like its own campus?
These are important questions to ask and while you may want all of those scenarios to be true, focusing on one will help guide your efforts.
For example, as a front door to your church your video stream may not require things like chat or other interaction.
However, a full online campus will require pastoral oversight, chat, prayer, maybe even the ability to stream things like small groups.
Additionally, if your goal is mostly to resource those who are already attending, you can set the bar a little lower, when it comes to polished audio, video, and service flow.
Those who have already bought in and are committed to your community don’t need any convincing to join online and/or in person.
Your production should still be good, since enough distractions will push even your most loyal attendee away from participating online.
Examine Existing Resources
Take a good look at what you have. What can you do with it already? What would it take to do a single camera video feed? What about a multiple camera feed?
Take stock of your current hardware, software, and volunteer resources and set some achievable goals to help get you started.
When we began livestreaming at Manchester Christian Church, it was a relatively small leap to take since we were already capturing a multiple camera video feed. The church was already scheduling between 11-14 technical volunteers at our broadcast location each week to accomplish service. We already did IMAG, used lower-third graphics, and captured everything for distribution. The only component we were missing was a live online broadcast.
You may or may not be working with those resources, but the questions about using and leveraging your existing resources will always be a valuable one.
Do it Now or Do it Right
The ever-present tension we all face … You want to get it done quick, cheap, and properly, and you can only have two of those options.
The truth of the matter is that navigating this tension is part of the job.
Hopefully, I can release you a little bit, by saying that you and your team need to do one thing here: define “good enough.”
We’re never going to be a great or polished as “those guys,” (church, studio, etc.), but setting our own standard helps us reach our goals without the constant comparison and accompanying discouragement.
I do want to be clear though, when you put yourself online, you are out there with the big guys. You are effectively opening a campus right next door to Life.Church, Elevation, Saddleback, and others.
All at the same time.
You should be honest about the standard you set, the goals to want to reach, and the comparisons you make to others.
Livestreaming can be a great way to reach others with the love of Christ. The ability to connect with people via the internet is truly amazing and it is only becoming more and more normal for people to connect in this way.
Additionally, once we put something online, then we instantly have a global audience and that is pretty incredible.
As you make next steps, I encourage you to give yourself freedom to fail, freedom to explore, and freedom to learn how best your community can share the love of Christ with others.