If I’ve learned anything about church management from my decades as a pastor’s kid, it’s that church leaders have a lot on their plates, and it extends far beyond pastoral work. Sure, they preach and counsel and visit sick people. But they also run teams, hold meetings, deal with budgets, manage conflicts, and oversee basically everything. They’re like CEOs in clerical collars — or snazzy sneaks, depending on your denomination. Oh, and they answer to God. So, yeah, lots of responsibility.
I preface this post about livestreaming church services with that tidbit in order to acknowledge that church leaders have some unique considerations when it comes the technology their churches will be using. You’re considering the factors common to all organizations — like budget and bandwidth — plus weightier factors like the mission and members of your church. And those factors make every decision more significant.
The truth is that, due to the ubiquity of iPhones and Wi-Fi, it’s possible to livestream your church services to Facebook, Youtube, or elsewhere without spending anything or hiring anyone, making bandwidth and budget less of a concern. But how will livestreaming services affect the members of your church? How will it aid in the mission of your church? These are the most important questions.
To help you answer them, here are eight ways in which livestreaming can benefit the people within your church and the people on its fringes:
It provides community to missionaries and church planters.
Livestreamed church services can be a major encourager for missionaries serving in areas in which churches are either rare or illegal. They serve both as a reminder of missionaries’ sending communities and a regular touchpoint with their home church. The same can apply to church planters who are still getting their new churches off the ground. By participating in livestreamed services from their sending churches, church planters can ease the transition from their old churches to the new ones they’re building.
It’s a balm for sick members and new parents.
This winter when my husband and I were battling bugs, we were so grateful for our church livestream, which let us keep up with the service in real time without infecting anybody. It made me realize how crucial livestreamed services could be for those who are homebound due to age or longterm illnesses.
Additionally, for new parents — whether because they don’t want to expose their little ones to bugs or because they’ve been up all night and can’t handle another early wakeup call — the ability to watch a livestreamed service can be a huge help.
It’s an unintimidating way to welcome visitors and community members.
Walking into an unfamiliar church — especially one where you don’t know anyone — can be super intimidating. Where do you sit? How should you dress? What should you expect? Of course we want new visitors to feel welcome when they’re physically in our church buildings, but livestreamed services enable them to get a glimpse of what they’re walking into before they literally walk into it. Livestreamed services simply accommodate the way people seek information in the internet age. When people know what to expect, they tend to be more comfortable. Additionally, streamed services are easy for your members to share on social media, providing a new way to invite guests to church, one that mirrors the way we share other aspects of our lives these days.
It provides continuity for travelers and weekend workers.
As church leaders know well, not everyone has a Monday-Friday workweek, which makes it really hard for some church members to make it to weekend services, despite their best efforts. From flight attendants to physicians, many people have unusual schedules that make Sunday service times unworkable. Livestreamed services provide a way for these people to stay engaged without your having to add an entirely new service time.
It saves time for those who are new in town.
Moving is one of life’s most stressful events, particularly if you don’t yet have a church community in the town you’re moving to. And unless you want to hit up multiple services times in multiple locations every Sunday, you can only visit one church per week, which can make finding a new church a months-long process. (And no matter how committed you are to avoiding “church shopping,” sometimes it just takes a while.)
By streaming services online, churches allow people who are new in town to visit virtually, helping them narrow down the churches they’d like to visit in person and thereby speeding up the whole process. This even allows people who are anticipating a move to find church options in their new city pre-move, which could decrease the amount of time that they spend in between church homes.
It lets everyone participate in music and prayer.
I love sermon podcasts as much as the next person — especially for allowing me to keep up with my former churches from different states and stages of life — but a service encompasses much more than just a sermon. By livestreaming your entire service, you enable people to participate in music, prayer, and scripture readings too. Imagine the encouragement your sick members or missionary members would feel at hearing themselves prayed for during times of prayer. This is completely missed in most sermon podcasts.
It’s safer in some weather situations.
From a purely practical standpoint, livestreamed services provide a safe alternative on wintry days for members who live out in the boonies, as we like to say in Kentucky. (Actually we said that in every state I’ve ever lived in.) Whereas driving may be safe for those who live closer to the church building, people who live farther may not always have the benefit of snowplows and salt trucks arriving before 9 in the morning. Making the decision to call off a service due to weather is always a difficult one because conditions that are safe for some members may not be safe for others. Livestreaming lets you err on the side of having the service while also providing a way for farther members to participate without endangering themselves.
It facilitates connectedness for everyone.
An obvious concern raised by churches about livestreaming is the fear that it will disincentivize people from gathering for Sunday services. I don’t want to minimize this concern, but I’ve seen livestreaming actually enhance the community of a local church when implemented strategically. Much like a podcast, it doesn’t have to be a replacement for gathering together, but it can provide a way to keep everyone connected despite work schedules, distance, weather, sickness, and other hurdles that used to prevent people from being part of the service at all.
If you’re interested in streaming your church services, be sure to subscribe to our blog to learn all the best practices. (Next up, how to include worship lyrics in your church livestreams.) Until then, check out our post on doing your first simple livestream or, if you’re ready for something more in-depth, our technical how-tos series.