Churches face a major shift in how to worship in 2020 and beyond. Live streaming has become the go-to solution for churches and parishioners who want to stay connected, engaged, and spiritually fed. Pastors and tech team volunteers recently had to scramble to use streaming infrastructure to reach their congregation at home. Now they’re faced with the challenges of improving their production workflow.
There are several emerging trends for this new way of doing church:
Broadcast vs. Engage
One of the most important decisions a church can make is where they live stream services. This choice determines many factors that will affect congregation participation, outreach, and more.
Most of us are familiar with one-to-many broadcast platforms like Facebook Live or YouTube. There are many social media services that make live streaming simple for both the broadcaster and the viewer. However, there are several challenges with using a social media platform as the sole conduit for live-streamed worship services and sermons.
Many churches are taking a deeper look at how to increase real engagement within their online community. This focus connects people with the worship experience and increases participation among viewers.
Embedding live chat feeds alongside the streaming video can help encourage engagement. This is something that social media apps and streaming services like Church Online Platform offer.
Innovative services like Altar Live provide a more immersive environment to increase real connection among viewers and invite meaningful participation during worship.
Curating a Hybrid Worship Experience
Many worship leaders and pastors know how challenging it can be to interact with an online congregation through the lens of a camera. The truth is that it takes intention and preparation to host a great live stream or hybrid worship service.
Engaging an in-person congregation along with online viewers also requires careful planning by the tech team. They must be intentional to offer a great viewing and listening experience for each group. Live streaming audio quality is the top concern for every church that hosts online worship. Increasing the video production value of the live stream can also create a more inviting and engaging experience.
Avoid a Live Streaming Blackout
Big streaming services like Facebook and YouTube are notorious for shutting down or muting live streams, often without warning. This issue impacts churches that stream a full worship service and feature music that may be copyright protected. A church live stream or video can even be shut down with proper church music copyright licensing protections in place.
To avoid this, it is best to use a streaming service hosted on the church website or other dedicated platforms. Those options are not subject to the algorithms that many of the major social media companies use to block content.
Leveraging Live Streaming Technology to do More
One of the benefits of using live streaming technology is that it prepares the church for growth. This can lead to growth in congregation size, as well as increased small group attendance and community impact.
Churches can leverage their video and streaming technology to expand into smaller multi-site locations. This change allows for a more intimate worship experience. Tech teams have been encouraged to think outside the box when setting-up live streaming solutions on a budget. And online tithing has seen increased use as more churches have embraced streaming worship.
To Go Live or Pre-Record?
One of the most interesting trends in church streaming is how teams are choosing to produce an online worship service.
Some online-only churches are pre-recording the music portion of the service and then producing the sermon live. Others are doing both music and the sermon live. Many churches have chosen to only offer the sermon (no music) for online viewers.
Online watch parties, popularized by Facebook, are a great way to use pre-recorded content for an increased live engagement at a scheduled time.
The advantage of pre-recording content for a live stream is that greater production quality can be achieved. However, this approach can require special software and editing expertise depending on the production quality required.
Using live stream distribution services like Restream.io allows churches to reach several platforms simultaneously with recorded and live content.
It is vitally important that church leaders consider the overall communications strategy before deciding to host worship services online, regardless of the production, technology, and streaming service choices.
Thoughtful planning, setting clear goals, and managing expectations are important parts of a church’s decision-making process, especially when it comes to live streaming.