Streaming of services
A view of a live service being streamed for the web at Crossroads Community Church in Fitchburg, Massachusetts recently.

Streaming Church Services from a Producing Standpoint

Here is the vision you need to set for web streaming: Those cameras in your auditorium are like missionaries. What they are capturing is beaming the gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world.

Why do we do video production? 

What’s the point of using cameras?

Streaming everything online is so expensive, and there is the obvious concern that fewer people will attend the church in person as a result. 

Why should we do it? 

If you are interested in learning more about streaming for houses of worship, check out the following session, "Bridging Multi-Site Campuses & Churches with Video Streaming," slated for the WFX Conference & Expo this November in Orlando.

This question and the two others above it, were what I was asked by the head of the live production team at a church that I visited one weekend recently. 

We were walking around the building, taking a brief tour. As he asked me these questions, I stepped into the video control room, and noticed that the team seemed to be just going through the motions. They had a lot of gear, but were not using much of it, and seemed mostly to be doing a very basic presentation. 

I pulled a volunteer aside and asked how they were doing and what excites them about what they were doing for the church. 

The answer I received was anything but exciting. 

This particular volunteer surprised me by saying that he would rather serve on the missions team, or a team that gave them a better opportunity to reach the lost, and to witness to others. 

That statement summed up what was the obvious problem: The team had a lack of vision. 

I knew the senior pastor wanted to begin streaming the services. He had invested in it and felt like it was something they needed to do, but he was approaching it like a technical addition to the church.  

We needed to get the senior pastor and the head of live production in a room, and have them understand the vision behind web streaming. After all, if they didn’t get or set a vision, it would never be effective. 

Here is the vision you need to set for web streaming: Those cameras in your auditorium are like missionaries. What they are capturing is beaming the gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world. 

While many technical volunteers are very shy, the web streaming ministry gives them an opportunity to come out of their shell and belong to a group, one that is literally reaching the entire world for Jesus, without even leaving their hometown. 

The great commission commands us to go into all the world, and to teach the gospel. This is what those techs are doing. They are fulfilling the great commission digitally, leading people to understand, hear and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. 

It’s not just a technical addition to your church; it’s a powerful tool to broadcast the message of Jesus Christ everywhere.  

Once you have set the vision, what’s next?  

1. You need to create a compelling reason for people to watch. 

When I say compelling, I don’t mean creating a circus or a crazy plug to get people to watch. What I mean is that your broadcast needs to be done with excellence. 

Essentially, to the best of your ability, create a broadcast that is easy to watch, flows and is professional in its composition. Don’t just set up a phone and broadcast what’s happening on the platform. 

If your purpose is to reach the lost or get the gospel outside the church’s walls, you will want people that want to watch. 

Always look at things from the consumer’s viewpoint. What makes this easy for them? 

2. Your broadcast needs to have some fluidity to it. 

Long periods of nothing happening, experiences meant for only the room or full-screen graphics that essentially hide what is happening in the room, can cause people to tune out quickly from the stream. That is why it’s important to be able to switch for your web stream to something different than what you are switching in the room. 

You don’t have to go crazy with this and yes, I understand there is an associated cost, but having the ability to show the room, play an opener or closer video only for those viewers on the web or to switch to something relevant for the viewer at home, can help you keep fluidity to your stream. This will not only keep viewers watching longer, but will attract new viewers as well.  

3. Have a clear engagement with your audience. 

Many churches completely ignore the online web broadcast in the midst of a service. They will greet their campuses and the people in the room, but they don’t clearly also greet the people watching online. 

The purpose of your service is to communicate with your audience, regardless of how they are experiencing the service. 

Also, statistics show us that your online audience will typically not watch the entire service. They may watch five minutes, or they may stay around to watch 45 minutes. They also tune in at different or several times during a service. 

If you have the ability, use lower thirds visuals to briefly put up the name of the person talking, to help those viewers who might have begun watching in the middle of the service. 

You need to clearly engage the online audience at least three times during a service,and to welcome them as well. This welcome may only be heard by the online audience. Meaning you may have a prerecorded voice or a graphic that only they hear or see to welcome them. Be creative in how you do it but be sure that you do it.  

4. Translate every “in building” communication to the online audience. 

Another mistake that churches often make is they do things in their building that their online audience is unable to participate in. An example would be handing out a brochure in the middle of the service. When you do this, make sure there is a website that can be talked about, where the same information can be gained. 

When it comes to tithes or offerings, if you pass the plate, have a way for the online audience to participate as well. Try to look at everything you do through the eyes of the online audience, so to understand how it translates to them. 

5. How people look for a church is changing. 

Potential new first-time visitors for a church don’t initially visit in person anymore. Often, they opt to first check out two or three different churches online. Yes, your “in building” experience is key and important, but if your web stream is lackluster or doesn’t engage the online audience, the assumption could be be that your “in building” experience is falling flat as well. 

Therefore, you should put as much time into how your web stream will present, flow and be understood, as you do for your “in building” experience. 

Think it through. 

Be strategic. 

Never forget that your web stream is a part of fulfilling the Digital Great Commission. 

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