Why Should My Church Keep Streaming After Coronavirus?
I think many pastors fear the online concept will take people away from onsite attendance, but our research indicates otherwise. Our online ministry is another front door and side door into the church.
Ryan Scott, Online Campus Pastor, Seacoast Church
Because of coronavirus, churches have suddenly been forced to move from the typical way of doing ministry from the past 500 years to being thrust into a new paradigm with new challenges of how to reach others without being physically present. In the middle of this, we know that with these challenges and as we watch the troubles of the world around us, we as the church have the opportunity to turn this into a creative way to show and share the love of Jesus with the world through technology and online streaming.
The amazing thing about technology is that even in isolation, our reach can extend. Many churches have seen dramatic growth in “virtual attendees” spanning a new, much larger audience across the globe. Not only is the local community watching, but the world is watching, and the world wants answers that only faith in Jesus can provide.
We know that the biblical church was not defined in terms of a building – it was described as a community, or “ekklesia.” “Ekklesia” refers to an assembly of believers gathered together in some public place. The emphasis is on those who gather together – the assembly of believers – who anywhere, are united into one body.
So why should we continue with this expanded community through technology, and how do we make sure it is healthy, sustainable, and excellent?
Why a church should keep streaming after COVID-19:
The effects of COVID are not over.
Coronavirus has affected the culture of the world in a way that has long-reaching ramifications, and has affected us all differently. Even after coronavirus is contained, those who are most at-risk (such as seniors) will continue to rely on the availability of options like live streaming to engage with their church and communities remotely.
Online continues to be the best “front door” and marketing tool.
75% of church visitors report checking out a church online to get a feel for the culture and experience before attending physically. Some call this the “front door” attendee. The goal for these viewers can be to connect them to a physical campus, encourage them to continue to engage in online community, or both.
It increases giving.
Churches that offer online giving in addition to live streaming see an average annual giving growth of 32%. Look for ways that you can maximize this by encouraging online giving in your service and enabling easy ways to respond by giving.
The geographic barrier has been removed.
When churches begin streaming, many are surprised to find that they have a new global reach! Along with the possibility of first-time guests, streaming is a great way for missionaries, military members, and other expatriates to continue to be involved in their local community. Geographic analytic tools, such as heatmaps, are a great way to visually display this global audience.
It helps your church grow
According to a recent Barna study, before Coronavirus hit the USA, 8-13% of churches reported growing. Now, 49% of churches are reporting growth. That means, churches now have more online attendance than they did in person + online just a few weeks ago. Building a digital strategy is now a key part of growth, and is here to stay.
It provides fantastic return-on-investment.
Live streaming is a simple way to reach a large audience with minimal cost and multiply ministry resources for the greatest impact. Ministry dollars can go much further when a physical space is not required for every attendee and digital content is used instead of physical materials. Streaming costs just a couple hundred dollars per month for most, compared to the increase in giving, the return is great.
It helps those that can’t attend physically to stay engaged.
On average, people attend church once a month. For many, they would like to attend more often but are unable to due to work, school, children’s sports commitments, or other obligations. Streaming allows a continued connection to a church community even when they can’t make it in person.
Streaming provides the opportunity to reach exponentially more people. It gives people different ways to engage and can help people see church as relevant and not outdated. Online is key to how young people interact today so it shows we know people and how they live their lives. We know that people aren’t physical or digital—they’re just people. They don’t see themselves in two camps. Digital lines can engage people quicker and differently.
Matt Welty, Director of Information Technology, Crossroads Church
The biggest concern of churches at this point, especially church leaders who may want to stop streaming, is that online viewers won’t be physically committed to go to church again, and will turn to more sporadic attendees (and therefore sporadic givers). In a recent study conducted by Leadership Network, overall, 46 percent of church leaders said they “strongly disagreed” or “disagreed” that “online church hurts attendance at our physical church.” Only 20 percent said they “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that online church could hurt in-person attendance.
The survey also asked church leaders to identify if the growth of online church has been a good thing for the Christian movement. Over half of those surveyed (59 percent) either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that online church has been good for the Christian movement.
So, where do we go from here?
1. Build a healthy online community (not just a window into your service).
Establish an environment that reflects the community inside the church – this will also encourage those who can to visit and attend physically! Support your online campus in the same way that you support your physical community and attendees. Use a platform like Church Online Platform or Brushfire, which offer tools like chat, prayer request submission, and other engagement features, and staff it appropriately with volunteers or pastors.
What drives us is the love of Christ that compels us to try to reproduce the church experience the best we can online for those who can’t attend. It’s also our God-given passion to make disciples that reinforces our online vision.
Dan Hickling, Online Campus Pastor, Calvary Chapel
2. Focus on excellence, in the same way that you would for those in the room.
You wouldn’t be ok with the lights flickering, so why be ok with a bad stream? 40% of people will leave by one buffering wheel and almost 70% by two. With typical streaming options, whenever the internet has problems, your users will be watching a pixelated stream or a buffering wheel. Living As One has developed the only protocol to resend and correct data on a 2-minute delay, thus reducing stream complaints by over 85% on average.
From here, take steps to ensure that your message is clear, understandable and not distracted. Audio and lighting play a big role in this. Use an audio feed mixed specifically for broadcast, or at least from the house audio output of a mixer, and implement soft, even lighting without hotspots or dark areas across your stage.
3. Choose your streaming destinations wisely.
Social destinations such as Facebook and YouTube are great for church live stream marketing in order to reach attendees that would not normally come to your website, but often distract viewers from your content with other videos or content. Viewers will typically engage with church live stream content around 2-5 minutes on Facebook, 15-20 minutes on YouTube, and up to about 40-55 minutes on a church website. In order to have the best engagement with an online community, your website is usually the best primary streaming destination, but can be utilized with social media platforms for greatest impact.
4. Reach out to others for help.
Talk to other churches and learn from their experience with online ministry and mistakes! And of course, reach out to us at Living As One and we are happy to help you, even if it’s unrelated to our platform.