Ah, 2020. The year that everything changed.
It's also the year that seemingly every single church all of a sudden became massive broadcasters of elaborate events.
You had your local Baptist church making YouTube thumbnails.
You had churches sprout up and try to imitate Steven Furtick.
And, even liturgical churches started talking about online viewers and engaging with their followers.
2020 was the year that pastors became influencers.
But now, two years later, is that still even necessary?
What if I told you that I do not think that every church needs to livestream its service? Now, before you throw me over a cliff for digital heresy, please read my points and then let me know if you still feel the same way.
Churches are all called to practice and teach the Great Commission; but how we do that is different for every church.
In 2020, churches arguably needed to have a livestream in order to reach its people due to limited building capacities and health and wellbeing concerns. At that moment, it was a necessary effort in order to keep people engaged, active, and still receiving fellowship.
However, in 2022, now with COVID-19 arguably ending, it's becoming more and more evident that different cities, communities, and even neighbourhoods have different needs.
Livestreams are a lot of effort. It requires equipment costs and that equipment working every week, subscription costs, and volunteers to run well. And, even then, it could still cost a church tens of thousands of dollars to look well.
And that's not to scare you. That's just the facts.
The question you and your church need to ask is: is that a part of your church's mission?
Now, the answer I get frequently is: Well, we have people who can't make it to services.
Or: But every other church is livestreaming too.
But what did you do before you had a livestream to reach those people?
If your answer was nothing; then what makes a livestream any different? Now they're just watching a service and feeling left out.
If they weren't a focus before, then chances are they won't be a focus for your church now — unless you change that. A livestream isn't necessarily the way to go to accomplish that. It's one step in one way.
What about having members or leaders in the church reach out to unchurched or people who can't/don't normally attend? What about home visits? How about mid-week nightly services? Only you can figure that out.
Successful livestreamed churches often have strong personalities.
Okay, let's be real for a second. What makes some church livestreams so popular?
The pastor's personality.
Think about it. Mark Clark is a very popular pastor in Canada. I love listening to his sermons, and his apologetics messages are incredible. But when he left Village Church, I stopped watching Village Church. Frankly, I had no tie to Village Church or loyalty because I was a viewer. I wasn't loyal to that church.
I realize that sounds shallow (I hope you'll forgive me), but I'm just stating the truth. Village Church was known for Mark Clark the same way that Connexus Church is known for Carey Nieuwhof. Elevation is known for Furtick. Redeemer Presbyterian is known due to Tim Keller. You get the point.
If that's what your church is called to, that's great! I can't speak for God's calling on you or your church. But these guys didn't become big names overnight. It took years and years of following a calling and being persistent, and they knew that their church was meant to have a strong presence through them.
And, frankly, that's how most churches are in every community. Everyone the church based on who's in charge of that particular church. It's just a part of being a public figure in ministry — you're a public figure!
But some are called to be more in the spotlight than others.
So let's say that you know you don't want to or feel called to be an influencer. I think that's very honourable still! Your church can have a HUGE impact in its community, and can still be a phenomenal example of a gospel-honouring church.
Video content doesn't necessarily need to be live.
Let's say that you know your mission involves being a content-creator; what then?
Well first, let me clarify that every church should be creating content. In today's age with social media, content is going to keep you relevant. My previous point wasn't to say otherwise.
However, what content you create is up to you and what you feel called to as a church, and if you can narrow down your church's vision and mission, your content has a high potential to be unique!
For example, you don't necessarily need to take sermon clips and repost them on Instagram; have your pastor create a video in front of a decent camera or smartphone (3 years old or newer) mounted on a tripod, and talk about some points in his sermon. Have it be from his heart more than from a script (though scripts are fine).
Do a Facebook live mid-week or whenever to pray for people in the church who pop on! That's a great way to build engagement and community!
Build online content on YouTube that talk about different points in the Bible in webinar or online course format.
Be a church that creates amazing blog posts.
The possibilities are endless.
Some of my favourite examples are:
- Tim Ross with Embassy City Church. His UpsetTheGram content on Instagram is GOLD.
- Mosaic Church (Erwin McManus) has a great podcast; and their graphic content is always very unique and edgy.
- Life.Church is the biggest church, but is still a great and unique example of a church that has embraced helping other churches expand digitally.
Technology is expensive.
Let's talk about how expensive a decent livestream is.
- A decent Camera = $2000+
- A second camera = $2000+ (you're probably going to want one
- A livestream computer = $1500+ (It needs to be a powerhouse
- Blackmagic hardware = $200+ (depending on camera angles)
- Livestream hosting = $100+ per month
- Cloud Storage = Varies
- A second sound mixer = $5000+
- and there's so much more
Again, we're talking about an intentional quality livestream, not something thrown together.
If your church is serious, then this is just the cost of having a livestream.
If not, then then this might help you focus your efforts elsewhere that you are serious and called to.
Now, I'm not trying to talk you out of livestreaming. This isn't necessarily a sign that you need to grab all your livestreaming gear and sell it on Facebook marketplace. But if you're frustrated, tired, or exhausted about it and feeling like it's just another thing to do, maybe this is encouragement that you really don't need to have a livestream to be successful.
Now, I still think you should film a Sunday service at least once so that new guests can get a snapshot about what it looks like. Bring in a few cameras or a videography company for a Sunday and have them film your service, and then highlight that in your "I'm New" page on your website.
But again, it doesn't necessarily need to be livestreamed.