Church members travel and are unable to physically attend church every week. People turn to the Internet to find answers about God. Other people are not ready to physically attend your church, but are willing to “attend” online.
Providing an online stream of your worship service can provide each of these people a way to connect with your church and stay connected when they cannot physically attend.
Halfheartedly putting a video of the worship services online can do more harm than good.
Here are 5 key truths to remember when providing online streaming.
1. Be committed and consistently show up each week
Imagine constantly inviting people to come to your church building but periodically you decide not to have a worship service. I am not talking about emergency or weather related closings. I mean that you just decided it was not worth the effort that day, never unlocked the doors, and never let anyone know ahead of time.
That is exactly what it is like when you develop a pattern of streaming your worship service to the Internet and then skip one Sunday. It is the equivalent to leaving people standing on the “church steps” in the heat or cold. They will be less likely to come back next week or maybe ever.
It is better to have a vision for online worship than simply livestreaming the worship service.
2. Be prepared for a large crowd
“Large crowd” is a relative term to each church. You need to be prepared for whatever size crowd is larger than normal for your church. For a physical church service, you probably have an overflow plan. For online streaming, make sure the solution you have in place can scale to accommodate as many people as desire to connect.
Two areas to consider:
- The web host for the web page that presents the video stream: One church I know was having issues with people accessing their online stream. They discovered the hosting company for their website (where the page was hosted that presented the online stream) was limiting them to 50 people connecting at the same time to any one page on their site. Some of the lower-end, cheaper hosts may place unreasonable limitations like this. Check with your web hosting company to make sure they do not do this.
- The video streaming provider: There may be a limit on the bandwidth and/or the number of people who can simultaneously view the stream. Some streaming providers offer different amounts of bandwidth and connections based on the package you have with them. Most of the providers today will allow for the unusual circumstance and not prevent anyone to view a stream. If the number of people viewing continues to rise each week, it may require you to upgrade to a larger package. Be sure to ask your streaming provider how they handle this.
3. Be Welcoming
Whether it is the pastor or someone else welcoming people to the worship service, be sure to welcome those “who are viewing online” as well. This does at least two things:
- It helps those viewing online to feel welcome and more a part of the live service,
- It helps those physically present in the church building to realize they are part of something bigger than a building.
4. Provide a way for “online attenders” to engage
While they may not be physically present in the church building, today’s technology affords the opportunities and methods for people to participate in worship in the following ways:
- Singing: Provide the words on the screen so people can sing along.
- Prayer requests: Provide a form so people can submit prayer requests to the church.
- Conversation/chat: Provide a chat room where "greeters" can welcome people, answer general questions, and lead people to a deeper connection with the church. Be sure to also provide a way so the online attender can turn this off if it is distracting.
- Giving: This is a part of our worship to God. Provide a way for people to give online. During the offering time, be sure to point out to the online attenders that they can participate also by giving online.
- Communion: I recognize some denominations may/may not include this from a theological point of view. That is a discussion for a future blog post. For the purposes of this example, some churches encourage online attenders to participate “using juice and a cracker or in spirit and in truth.”
5. Install and Monitor Web and Streaming Analytic Tools
Seeing a room filled with people provides one indicator that the church is meeting a need at some level to those who physically attend. However, from the pulpit it is not easy to know whether the online stream is reaching people.
In actuality, online metrics can provide a very reliable sense of the breadth of reach for the online stream as well as identify locations for starting Bible studies, planting a campus, or planting a daughter church. For more details and ideas about this, read my post, How Your Website Can Identify Church Growth Opportunities.
- Develop the processes to ensure your video stream is available each week at the publicized time.
- Be sure your website hosting company and the online streaming company can grow with you to allow everyone to view the stream who wants to view it.
- Incorporate opportunities for online attenders to participate.
- Use the analytic tools to identify and plan for more targeted ministry opportunities.
- Want to take your streaming to the next level? Read my post, 5 Strategies for Streaming Worship Service Video.
What other items need to be included to take online streaming beyond a simple broadcast of the worship service?