The 21 Best Church Websites

The 21 Best Church Websites

We’re not much for top 10 lists around here (why does it always have to be 10?), which is why we didn’t think twice when we went looking for some of the best church websites on the internet and came up with a list more than twice the size—21, to be exact.

We like these websites for lots of different reasons, but you’ll see the words “welcoming,” “simple,” and “straightforward” mentioned quite a bit in the explanations below. Live streaming aside, these churches did an awesome job (in our view, anyway) at designing sites that drew us in and made us want to stay awhile. So if you’re a church looking to revamp your site, check out some of the entries on this list as well as our previous article on web hosting options for churches. Between the two, you could probably come up with a nice wish list for your own acreage on the web—maybe even a top 10 list, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Are you ready to join the ranks of churches that are live streaming their services? This free guide has everything you need to know to get started.

The 21 Best Church Websites

1. New Vision Baptist Church

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Why we like it: The visual on the homepage drew us in immediately; it feels warm and inviting. We think a lot of people tend to shy away from churchgoing because they feel intimidated, so a “warm” welcome is key. Also, the navigation on this site is very straightforward—only four options—and prioritizes the things the church wants visitors to be aware of (I’m New, Events, Watch Live, and Give).

2. One Church

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Why we like it: The design is simple and straightforward. Within 10 seconds of looking at the site, a visitor would have a good idea of what this church is about and some of its core philosophies. Admittedly, the navigation is a little cluttered, but we still think it’s effective.

3. The City Church

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Why we like it: We like the clarity of this site’s design. There is very little vertical scroll; when you do scroll, you are presented with campus locations and upcoming events. It’s clear this site has a singular mission—to connect people to the church by telling them when and where they can participate. But there are navigational buttons if visitors want to find out more.

4. The Grove

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Why we like it: This one is worth highlighting for the somewhat bold strategy of autoplaying a video of the lead pastor when visitors load the site. This strategy is high-risk/high-reward as it can turn some people off immediately or draw people in who otherwise wouldn’t have played the video on their own. Other than that, the site does a good job of visually representing its worship space and gives visitors a good idea of what to expect.

5. Red Rocks Church

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Why we like it: We like the visual appeal of this one, which makes good use of color in its branding to tie in with the Red Rocks name. It also offers a media section that includes nicely produced videos of various events—baptisms, roundtable discussions, and location launches (there’s one in Belgium)!

6. First Church

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Why we like it: Visitors see three prominent calls-to-action right away: watch a sermon, join the congregation on Sunday, and learn more about the church. The design is modern, clean, and welcoming. We think it’s important to represent the tone of your church with your design and color scheme—do you want to be soft and welcoming or are you trying to express action and urgency with a bolder look?

7. Bethel Church

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Why we like it: Bethel Church’s website seems to “unfold” as you scroll, which has a nice feel to it. Upcoming events, testimonies, and learning courses are attractively laid out and well organized. The site as a whole has a peaceful, welcoming feeling to it (kind of like the website says—“on earth as it is in heaven”).

8. The Summit Church

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Why we like it: The juxtaposition of navigational images is lively and interesting. Plus, visitors are introduced to the pastor and his blog right on the homepage, which we like because it lends a more intimate, personal feel to what could otherwise seem like a very large church. Every page makes good use of white space and is easy to read.

9. Flatirons Community Church

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Why we like it: The hoverable side navigation is unique and lets the main images take center stage (it only pulls out when you place the cursor on it). Church members can immediately find service times and locations as well as ways to give online. There are also video sermons along with discussion questions, making it a great resource for learning.

10. Southeast Christian Church

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Why we like it: Scroll down on the homepage and you’ll see neatly delineated sections for upcoming events, “Life @ Southeast” (social media postings), locations, and information for new visitors. We also like that they have a “Statement of Faith” page that links the church’s core beliefs with scripture references—a unique and powerful way of stating who they are. Attractive visuals and sparse text combine to make an inviting site.

11. Fellowship Church

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Why we like it: The current promotion on this church’s homepage shows it has a sense of humor (“Family Business” refers to a series of teachings about the purpose of family). We also liked the messages that accompany the visuals on the homepage, from “We’re saving a seat for you,” to “Welcome to the best hour of your week,” to “Fellowship Church loves kids!” The message is enthusiastic and clear—join us!

12. NorthRidge Church

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Why we like it: According to NorthRidge, it does church “without all the churchiness.” The text conveys the message well, coming across as friendly, casual, and welcoming—and maybe a little different than the next church, too. A beautiful, clean design also helps.

13. Bayside Church

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Why we like it: Visitors will know right away if they can identify with this church thanks to well-designed text boxes that “pop” against the black-and-white background image, each briefly encapsulating the church’s mission. We also like that this site doesn’t try to do too much: As this is the main website covering all campuses, only the essentials are provided—locations, who they are, and media clips. From there, visitors can navigate to the websites of each individual campus for more information.

14. Ada Bible Church

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Why we like it: With visually appealing curated lists of everything from the latest happenings to “next steps” for congregants interested in moving their religious journey forward, Ada Bible Church’s website is both beautiful and easy to find your way around. The blue faded background visuals play nicely with the main images throughout, so what should stand out, does.

15. Church Of The King

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Why we like it: The Church of the King site tells visitors everything they need to know, with a more unique look than many of the other churches on our list. The circular navigation icons are attractive and thoughtfully designed to command attention. The top part of the homepage (not pictured here) gives priority to promoting the current discussion series. There’s no endless scrolling here—it’s a short way down, but you can easily get what you came for.

16. Gateway Church, Austin

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Why we like it: Gateway clearly invites people to come as they are—“no perfect people allowed.” All of its content reinforces that message. The bright green and black color combination is lively with a touch of sophistication and serves to highlight important text. It’s easy to navigate and enjoyable to look at.

17. Judson Memorial Church

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Why we like it: Everything about this website is striking, from the homepage to the FAQ page. It treats everything a little differently than other church websites, including the fun navigational icons, the words and design for the navigation menu at the top, and the bold font that stands out (that last part we’re not crazy about, but it works with the rest of the site design). Clearly this is a different kind of church.

18. Trinity Church Boston

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Why we like it: The accent colors of blue and gold tie everything on this site together, giving it a more sophisticated, stately look (red is also pulled in under the menu items). Nicely chosen images and a well-organized layout make for an attractive, appealing website.

19. Connexus Church

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Why we like it: Two words—clean and clear. There’s no chance of getting lost on this website, and you’ll enjoy roaming around while you’re at it. Attractive illustrated icons direct visitors to “take your next step” midway down the homepage. And rather than just relying on a “contact us” menu item, the church comes right out and asks if you have any questions that haven’t yet been answered, which leads you right to a contact form. Finally, the “About Us” page shows a friendly team of church leaders and invites visitors to learn more about each one. You’ll find yourself wanting to spend time here.

20. The Old North Church

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Why we like it: The website for Old North Church not only has to reflect the fact that it is Boston’s oldest surviving church building and a historical site, but it also has to be modern in design. This site covers both these angles, with a unique brick background on the homepage, an authentic historical font, and clear and attractive navigation boxes and menus as well as social media links.

21. Mount Pleasant Christian Church

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Why we like it: This church does a better job than most at keeping a consistent look and feel throughout the different parts of its site—including on the homepage, where the scrolling images are different but clearly part of the same whole. The brown, tan, and green color scheme makes that possible and is used to good effect throughout. (Plus, to us it feels homey and warm.) It also includes a prayer wall where visitors can post prayer requests, making the site interactive.

Have something to add?

It’s impossible to cover all the best church websites—but we’re pretty sure you can help! Tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know what we missed!

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People Are Looking For Church Services Online: Should You Offer Them?

Church Services Online

For those of you involved in some aspect of church leadership, here’s a number that should be of interest: 30,000.

What’s the significance? According to our research, 30,000 is the approximate number of Google searches per month related to finding church services online. Some of the most popular Google searches involve “church online,” “church services live,” and “live stream church service.” (The first keyphrase gets 3,600 queries monthly, and the last gets 1,300!)

Those are fairly large numbers already, but it’s likely they only reflect a portion of the overall interest in live streaming church services. There are certainly hundreds of variations on search terms that our research doesn’t reflect; and on top of that, we focused only on the generic term “church”—other denominations, languages, and religions will all have their own search volume and demand.

Don’t forget that Google isn’t the only way people search for things (though it might seem that way). They might also be using Yahoo, Bing, or another search engine; searching directly on YouTube; or asking friends via social networks. In other words, there’s a lot more interest in church services online outside the 30,000 monthly searches currently taking place on Google.

Why all this interest in live streaming church services?

30,000 isn’t only the number of Google searches happening monthly; it’s also the number of things competing for people’s attention every day! (We have no evidence to back that up—it just seems like it must be true.) Seriously, there are a lot of things keeping people from physically going to church these days, including illness, vacation, work, family commitments, school events… the list goes on. And while this may not be surprising to you, church attendance in the traditional sense is declining. In fact, research has indicated that only 20% of the population actually show up on a regular basis.

Worried about live streaming with a small staff and a small budget? This free guide has seven easy steps to get you started live streaming, and includes tips on working with a small team.

But people aren’t just busy—they’re also getting more selective about the churches they want to be associated with. It isn’t just about geography anymore. People want to know what a church body is doing to make a difference in the world, and whether the church fits in with their family’s lifestyle. The ability to choose a church they feel comfortable with and can connect with on their own terms holds a lot of appeal. (Incidentally, people are also searching for specific church services online, like the Zion Church online or Life.Church—they could also be searching for yours!)

So is it in my church’s best interest to live stream church services?

The answer is different for every church, but most churches that have started live streaming have seen incredible benefits, from more engaged youth to more satisfied parishioners. Engagement levels increase, too, because people now have a way to watch additional sermons during the week, and can even search for sermons on particular topics whenever they choose. And don’t worry about finding enough volunteers to help—it’s more than likely that your tech-savvy youth members will jump at the chance.

If your greatest fear is that attendance levels will decrease if you offer church services online, consider this: Live streaming actually has the potential to increase attendance.You’re making participation possible for people who can’t come physically, and leaving a door wide open for potential new members who may be reluctant or anxious to attend in-person. You can be sure that your flexibility and willingness to embrace modern technology will not go unnoticed by those in search of a new church family.

You know people want it—are you ready to provide it?

Start connecting with more people by live streaming your church services. If you’re uncertain about how to get started, let us know. We’re more than happy to help any church new to the live streaming world—and experienced streamers, too!—with honest advice about the technology you’ll need (including an evaluation of any equipment you may already have) and how you can meet your church’s live streaming goals. Take the first step, and get in touch!

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5 Organizations Doing Live Streaming Right

5 Organizations Doing Live Streaming Right

2017 is poised to be the year of live streaming, according to Social Media Today.

Lately, so many brands are finding creative ways to incorporate live streaming into their marketing strategies—and we can all learn a thing or two from them. In hopes of sparking some inspiration, we gathered some of the more intriguing use cases to share. Hopefully you’ll see something here that could be translated to suit your own organizational needs. If not, consider it a challenge: Come up with something original and tweet us about it!

5 Organizations With Creative Live Streaming Strategies

1. Corning Museum Of Glass

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One of the world’s premier collections of art and historical glass is in New York state, but that doesn’t limit its reach. The museum makes excellent use of live streaming, so if you’re interested in the science and technology behind innovations in glass, you can enjoy much of what the museum has to offer no matter where you live. It airs regularly scheduled live streams of glassmakers at work and archives them for viewing anytime; special museum events are also aired via live stream.

2. Oculus

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Virtual reality (VR) company Oculus is no stranger to the idea that VR is a difficult concept for people to understand. You almost have to see it to get it—which is why encouraging users to share live footage of their gameplay is a smart idea. It also raises awareness of VR for consumers. All that on top of the fact that it’s just plain cool to watch your friends battle Wielders live in 1880s London.

Raise the bar on your organization’s live stream with the right live streaming platform—this free guide has everything you need to know before you commit.  

3. T-Mobile

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T-Mobile’s unconventional (and America’s “sweariest”) CEO John Legere has embraced live streaming as a way of connecting with his customers. His creative live streams range from rants about the communications industry, to company announcements, to cooking shows (you heard us—the January 15 episode of Slow Cooker Sunday had more than 500,000 views!). I think his live stream strategy is working.

4. GE

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What began as an experiment in 2015 returned in 2016 as a proven success: GE’s Drone Week. GE’s work is wide-ranging, which can make it difficult for consumers to relate. The idea behind Drone Week was to make concrete connections between what the company does and how its products impact people’s lives. In 2015, it employed a drone to crisscross the U.S. and capture footage of five remote GE facilities; in summer 2016, the drone flew over dams and other infrastructure facilities in Rio to show GE’s contribution to Olympic facilities there.

5. Wendy’s

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Wendy’s partnership with influencer Cody Johns had nearly 300,000 viewers gobbling up a step-by-step demonstration of how to make the chain’s flagship hamburger, the Baconator. Wendy’s ran ads in advance of the live stream, which only lasted six minutes. It worked because it made Cody the center of attention (not the burger), which served to build interest without being overly promotional. (It was also a finalist for a Shorty Award.)

What’s your organization doing with live streaming?

Tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know, and your efforts could be featured in an upcoming article!

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What Churches Can Learn From Joel Osteen’s Live Videos

What Churches Can Learn From Joel Osteen’s Live Videos

No doubt about it, Joel Osteen’s live church service is a phenomenon. His home base, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, has more than 52,000 members—the largest membership of any Protestant church in America. On top of that, over 10 million additional people are watching his televised church service every week. Clearly he’s doing something right.

It’s true that Osteen has the best resources at his disposal, including an expert production crew and, in all likelihood, top-of-the-line equipment. Even if you think that sets him a world apart from your situation (maybe two or three worlds, even), there are some real takeaways to be had from a closer examination of his broadcast. Turns out, the success of any church live streaming its services is more about thoughtful preparation and less about money.

Live Streaming Church Services: It’s Not About The Gear

According to Osteen’s audio engineer Brad Duryea, it doesn’t require more than basic, functioning equipment to do a solid broadcast. He was referring to audio equipment, of course, but we think that theory applies to just about every aspect of production. Now your budget does have some impact—you need the basic equipment, in good working order. And while it’s nice to have the cash to upgrade your tech, it’s not absolutely necessary to get the job done well.

There are ways to improve your broadcast without expensive equipment:

  • For the audio: Place your microphones strategically. As long as viewers can clearly hear what’s going on, the visual is less important. Spend time on the positioning of the speaker’s microphone, the ambient mic (or mics) for crowd and background noise, and the mic used for music. Any of these can be muted as necessary. Shift their placement occasionally to capture new sounds and to ensure you’re getting the best sound possible.

Also, much of your broadcast’s sound has nothing to do with electronics. Other important components include the acoustics of the stage and the room, the quality level and volume output of the instruments, the skill level of your audio engineer, and the musicians themselves. Play around with ways to improve the acoustics of your space. Try to isolate any issues you’re noticing and work on improving them one by one.

  • For the video: Shift your camera positions occasionally to give viewers some variety. Your primary camera should focus on the action, but play with your secondary camera (or two) to incorporate new angles.

Have a small staff and an even smaller budget? Download this free guide to find out how your church can start live streaming services now.

Another tip comes from Worship Tech Director: Your cameras can essentially “shrink” the size of the room with the use of close-up shots. It’s understood that the camera director takes a close-up shot every time Osteen looks directly at the camera, so it appears that he’s connecting on a more personal level with remote viewers. Experiment with your shot selections to produce a similar effect with your broadcast.

  • For the lighting: According to Church Production, lighting is one of the most overlooked aspects of live streaming church services. Mostly, if people don’t notice it, you’re doing it well enough—but you can strive for better. The use of backlighting helps counteract inevitable dark spots and adds depth to your projected image. Also, overhead lights should be shifted to shine at an angle instead of directly down to avoid shadows. All of this can usually be accomplished with the lighting fixtures you already have.

Taking it a step further, lighting can also be used to great effect, as evidenced by Joel Osteen’s live church service. His production crew uses dramatic lighting to set the scene for a more emotional experience. Different-colored bulbs instantly add drama, and those shadows we mentioned earlier? They can also be used for dramatic effect if done right.

Make The Most Of Your Broadcast  

Aside from the technical aspects of production, Joel Osteen’s live church service succeeds for a number of other reasons.

  • It’s personal. Osteen isn’t afraid to draw on personal experiences in his sermons, using his life as a springboard to illustrate concepts or hammer home a point; he also sometimes references the experiences of congregants. Tactics like these help him to connect with his audience, as they evoke emotions rather than logic.
  • He cultivates his brand. He understands the importance of consistency across all platforms, so that all of his outlets—from his website, to his print materials, to his live stream—look the same and are immediately recognizable.
  • He surrounds himself with the right people. By “right people,” I mean a team of individuals who can pool their varied knowledge to produce an excellent product. That includes not only people knowledgeable about technology but also people who have high-level interpersonal skills, marketing skills, and organizational abilities.

Need help with any aspect of your live church service streaming? Get in touch. We’ve helped a number of churches increase the reach of their message by streaming their services online. We’ll work with you to simplify your process and improve your broadcast at the same time. And, no more stress over technical difficulties—we’re always just a phone call away!

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How To Prepare Your League (& Its Teams) For Live Streaming

Today, we bring you Live Streaming: The Supercharged Edition. Twenty summer collegiate baseball teams, 600 players, 700 games a season—and it’s all live streamed. We’re talking about Northwoods League, the largest organized baseball league in the world.

Glen Showalter, VP of operations for Northwoods League, is intimately familiar with the prep work required to pull off a successful season of live streaming in a complex environment. In his view, both the league and its individual teams play critical roles:

“The league’s role is to identify the infrastructure and equipment needed to produce a good quality product and to put into place the processes that allow the teams to be successful at doing that. The team’s role is to execute that plan.”

Whether you have 20 teams or five teams, you’ll find something in this article you can use to make your own process go just a little bit smoother.

Preseason Preparation: Live Stream Setup

According to Showalter, when a season ends in August, he waits a couple days—then starts prepping for next season. Topping the list of preseason planning concerns are:

Equipment

Your live stream technology is the foundation of a good product, so spend a fair amount of time sourcing your equipment. Make sure you have exactly what you want, and research tools that will see you well into the future. Much of this depends on your budget, of course.

For Northwoods League personnel, a huge amount of time and energy are put into selecting and configuring equipment. Currently they have a four-camera HD operation in all 20 ballparks. (The league started with analog in 2010. Last year, half the league upgraded to HD equipment; this year, the second half is upgrading.)

Equipment is standardized across all the teams—computers, wiring, cameras, etc.—so it’s easier for league personnel to provide technical support when needed. Every team’s computer can be remotely accessed by the league so they can help if problems arise. The same goes for potential wiring issues or camera problems. Any upgrades also happen at the league level. Want a new computer? Multiply the price times 20. Upgrading is an expensive proposition, one that’s partially funded by their streaming subscriptions. A significant number of viewers (many of whom have ties with any one of the more than 600 players) are willing to pay to watch, helping to offset the equipment and operating expenses.

Staff Training

You can have the best directors in the world, Showalter says, but if you don’t have camera operators who can react to their instructions and work as a team, it doesn’t matter. That’s why training is so important when it comes to preparing a league of any size for live streaming.

Northwoods itself has a fairly complex operation when it comes to staffing. Each of its 20 ballparks has its own broadcasting crew—two directors and three camera operators at a minimum. In addition to that, the league has its own central studio, which employs a production staff during baseball season, including an executive producer and an operations team. He makes sure there’s a technical expert among them—someone who knows the industry and has a fairly wide breadth of knowledge.

Don’t have a technical expert? A good platform provider will handle the tech for you! Find out what else a platform provider should do for you in this free guide.

Showalter and his team have produced several in-depth training videos that explain their equipment in detail. (The standardization of equipment makes this kind of training possible.) He prefers to start training as early as possible—at least several months before a season starts. Once the season is in full swing, there’s simply too much going on to spend time training.

Processes

Aside from the equipment and staffing, there are processes that need to be put in place. With 20 teams spread throughout several states, communication and coordination are critical in getting things done. Standardizing certain processes and procedures helps things flow more smoothly on game days:

  • File transferring. Every day the league produces a pregame show about the previous day’s results. It is distributed daily from the studio to all the teams that have a home game that night. The transferral method must be reliable, quick, and allow easy access to the show, so teams can air it at the appropriate time before the live stream begins. Showalter says they’ve used FTP sites in the past; they currently use Dropbox.
  • Coordination of air times. At the beginning of the season, league personnel coordinate with individual teams about what time to air the pregame show and when to cut over to the live feed at the ballpark.
  • Graphics production. Northwoods League uses a variety of graphics for each show, including intro graphics and lower thirds for players’ names and stats (600+ of them!). All of these are developed before the season starts. They also teach the team webcasting staff to cut highlights, use basebugs to show the location of players, and coordinate instant replay—things that are controlled at the league level.

Ready to supercharge your live streaming?

Your live stream might not have 10 games a day and 20 viewing portals (you can probably breathe a sigh of relief for that!), but preparation always makes or breaks a live stream—no matter the size of the operation.

Need help preparing? We stream more than 65,000 events every year (Northwoods included!), so we’ve seen it all—from sporting events, to church services, to beauty pageants. Get in touch if you have questions about your live stream setup or technology or if you’d like to find out more about our customized live stream portals. Lots of organizations rely on us to give their live stream a professional, branded look that wows viewers and keeps them coming back for more.


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How To Manage Athletics Live Streaming For 10+ Collegiate Sports

How To Manage Athletics Live Streaming for 10+ Collegiate Sports

We talk a lot about how to produce a successful live stream, but if you’re in college sports, you know it isn’t about just a single stream—it’s about producing and managing five, 10, 15, or sometimes even more, depending on how many athletics you’re live streaming.

For Mike Wells, associate director of athletics at Occidental College in Los Angeles (Oxy), this is familiar territory. He’s been broadcasting live sports at Oxy for six years and now manages the production of more than 10 live streams. He sat down with us briefly to give us the lowdown on how he makes it all work (though he’d be the first to say that, sometimes, it doesn’t all work!).

Athletics Live Streaming For 10+ Sports

How many live streams do you typically have going at once?

For us, event start times are usually staggered. In the spring, we stream baseball, softball, women’s lacrosse, and women’s water polo. In the winter, there’s swimming and basketball. In the fall, there’s volleyball, football, soccer, and men’s water polo. Sometimes, two events happen simultaneously, which we can broadcast on our two channels provided by Stretch, but there are rarely three things going on at once.

How do you ensure that you have the right equipment for a variety of venues?

We have five facilities—two outdoor fields, a stadium, a pool, and a gym. For most outdoor events, our setup is pretty standard and very portable: a tripod, one camera, a MacBook Pro, a mixer, and a headset. We use one camera for most events, but we do have a couple other cameras in case one is needed for another event taking place at the same time. The quality of our cameras varies, so if we have simultaneous streams, I’ll pick and choose cameras appropriately, depending on the type of the event and the venue. The gym, on the other hand, has a remote-operated camera controlled from inside the media room, which I believe is a pretty standard setup.

We try to upgrade equipment occasionally. That’s possible thanks to the monetization of our live stream, which makes some people happy and others unhappy! But the money really helps. At the end of the year, we typically break even with our live streaming costs, which includes our live streaming platform and our student helpers. Sometimes there’s money left over to invest in another laptop or another camera, or to swap out cords, etc. Often we’re just trying to maintain the program, but we do try to upgrade when we can and get a better camera, for instance, to improve our live stream.

What’s your staff like? How many people help out?

We’re like most Division III schools, where you might have one or two sports information directors (SIDs) and maybe a graduate assistant to do the work. (I was previously a SID at Oxy before becoming associate director of athletics.) I also have a lot of excellent volunteer help, and we’ve had great success with interns. The good thing is, our students are smarter than we are. So once you teach them how to do the basics, they usually run with it. Students receive compensation similar to that of a work-study program—for instance, the same as you’d pay a scorekeeper working at a game.

How do you train your volunteers?

As a SID, you have to recruit as much or more than coaches do—at least if you’re doing your job right. I’m always looking for people on campus who have a passion for sports and some type of background in sports. Maybe they play a sport one season and are willing to work in another or played lots of sports in high school but aren’t currently on a team. I find them, start training them, and try to get a feel for how reliable and committed they’ll be as a worker. If I think it’s a good fit, I’ll invest time in them as a person so that they essentially become an extension of myself, because I can only be in one place at a time. The better your students are, the better your chances will be of juggling a number of different responsibilities. Treat them well so they want to stay involved.

What are your primary areas of focus in terms of managing multiple live streams?

Managing staff is the biggest one. In addition to training them, you have to plan in advance to ensure you have the staff to work every event and that everyone knows what they’re doing the day of.

Multiple event streaming requires even more preplanning. Make it all go smoothly with this handy live streaming checklist, including what needs to be done before, during, and after every live stream event.

You’re also constantly involved with troubleshooting during any live sports broadcast. You’ll bump into technical issues occasionally, and 90% of them are related to the strength (or lack thereof) of your internet signal. Where you can, I’d advise plugging into ethernet, like we can in our stadium and the gym. But always be prepared for a variety of technical difficulties, and remember—things are bound to go wrong. Don’t let that stop you. Most people are appreciative that you’re making the effort. Live streaming has become the expectation whenever possible. If you can, you should be doing it.

Is your athletics program ready for live streaming?

If you’re ready to either start broadcasting live sports or need help implementing and managing multiple event streaming, we can help. We stream more than 65,000 events every year here at Stretch, many of which are collegiate sports (including all of Oxy’s games!). We’re always happy to talk you through your setup or give honest advice about equipment, processes, or anything else related to your athletics live streaming efforts. We’ve got your back!


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Live Streaming Trends & Predictions

Live Streaming Trends & Predictions

We don’t have a crystal ball here at Stretch (or maybe we do… in storage somewhere?), but what we do have is a keen understanding of the live streaming industry. All of us are passionate about our trade and make it our business to keep a finger on the pulse, so to speak. Knowing what might be coming around the bend helps us serve our clients better, and drives our business forward. (Plus, we admit it—we just can’t get enough.)

Based on our observations of live streaming trends already in the making, here are our musings about what we think is coming down the pike.

Live Streaming Trends & Predictions

First, we think the live streaming process will become more standardized.

The soaring popularity for live streaming as of late is a testament to the fact that there are certain things that are just better to watch live: that wedding you couldn’t afford to fly to, that sporting event that sold out before you could get a ticket, and that business conference you wished you could go to but couldn’t find the time. As a result, live streaming can’t be ignored. People are starting to expect it, and they want it to look flawless—like video on demand (VOD).

Not live streaming yet? Prepare your organization for the future with this extensive guide to live streaming—it includes everything you need to know to get started!

But compared to VOD, live streaming is harder to pull off correctly. It will never be as easy as VOD, and while it might never reach the same level of simplicity, there’s plenty of room for improvement. With both demand and expectations skyrocketing, this is where we’ll be seeing huge progress in the near future. As more companies enter the live streaming space, their research and work will help set the standard for best practices that make live streaming easier. This leads us to our second prediction….

Live streaming providers will turn to middleware solutions to make live streaming production easier.

End users want excellent live streaming video quality—period. To make that happen, companies will have to look to outside vendors and solutions for help.

We expect that big companies experimenting with live streaming will realize they need to be just as agile as small companies, which means that sometimes they will have to step outside the box and partner with a small company, or take advantage of alternative solutions (like open source software) that help them solve a specific problem.

Similarly, small companies hoping to compete in the same space as larger companies may need to partner with larger players who can help reduce their workflow. Why create something new on your own when someone else’s solution will do the trick? Streaming provider Wowza, for instance, offers organizations the ability to deploy its streaming engine using servers built by Amazon. We’ll see more of this sharing economy as companies of all sizes realize they don’t need to build everything themselves if someone has already done it well. Partnerships like these will propel live streaming forward.

As live streaming progresses technically, other issues will become more important. This leads us to our third prediction…

Live streaming providers will increasingly put more emphasis on differentiating features.  

History repeats itself. VOD has advanced to the point where a video on its own is no longer enough—there has to be some additional value-add. The same will happen eventually with live streaming as it becomes more commonplace. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are all entering the live streaming space, and people will inevitably demand more. Simply providing a live streaming solution won’t be sufficient in the future, so providers will have to be creative to stand out from the pack.

For instance, it’s great if you can see this event or that game, but it won’t be long before you start wanting relevant information alongside the live stream. Examples of this and other differentiating features that are already on the live streaming horizon:

We’re curious to know about the live streaming trends you’re seeing, and where you think live streaming is headed! Leave us a message in the comments below.

Everything_You_Need_To_Know_About_Live_Streaming_Your_Church_Services_Stretch_Internet

4 Top-Notch Leadership Books Pastors Are Reading Today

4 Top-Notch Leadership Books Pastors Are Reading Today

We asked Tim Ahlman, senior pastor at Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran Church in Gilbert, Arizona, to share with us his thoughts about the best leadership books for the modern pastor. Here’s what he had to say!

Most pastors are in this business because they love people and love Jesus. But despite those genuine intentions, some pastors really struggle with leadership skills. I strongly believe that pastors need to invest in leadership books that are both sacred and secular, so they can grow in their ability to connect with their congregants and with the community.

There are so many great leadership books out there I could recommend—but these four (organized alphabetically by last name) are worth checking out as soon as possible.

1. The Four Disciplines Of Execution

By Sean Covey, Jim Huling, & Chris McChesney

The Four Disciplines of Execution” is an excellent book for those who want to become better leaders. It walks through four distinct rules good leaders tap into: focus, leverage, engagement, and accountability.

While this book is written from a secular business perspective, its themes can easily be applied in a church setting. Many churches strategize well, but when the rubber meets the road and it comes time to carry out a plan, they get stuck in what this book calls the “whirlwind”—or the day-to-day grind. This is a very helpful read for anyone who feels like they may be stuck.

(If you want a sneak peak into the theme of the book, check out this Q&A with Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel and the three authors.)

2. Simplify: 10 Practices To Unclutter Your Soul

By Bill Hybels

Bill Hybels is a long-time pastor from Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago area. He is one of my favorite authors in the Christian leadership genre because his work is so practical and applicable. “Simplify” talks about how the exhausting pace we live at can leave us spiritually drained—and offers advice on how you can break free from this harmful pattern.

3. The Ideal Team Player

By Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni is a best-selling author of many business leadership books, including “Death by Meeting” and “The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive.” In his most recent book “The Ideal Team Player,” Patrick identifies three different values or characteristics that define a key teammate: someone who is humble, hungry, and smart. This has been instrumental in helping me identify ways to interact with my non-paid and paid leadership staff.

You can learn more about Patrick and his work on his website.  

4. Communicating For A Change: 7 Keys To Irresistible Communication

By Andy Stanley & Lane Jones

Andy Stanley is the pastor of North Point Community Church in the Atlanta area, and Lane Jones is the executive director of membership development there. Together, they created “Communicating for a Change,” which is a must-read for pastors today. In it, you’ll learn seven critical methods to connect with your congregants, like moving them through a “one point” sermon.

(Also, check out Andy Stanley’s website—he hosts a wonderful monthly podcast!)

What leadership book are you reading today?

Tweet us @strechinternet and let us know, and your recommendation might end up in an upcoming article!

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How To Increase Church Attendance & Membership (With The Internet’s Help)

How To Increase Church Attendance & Membership (With The Internet's Help)

We asked Tim Ahlman, senior pastor at Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran Church in Gilbert, Arizona, to share with us his thoughts on how to increase church attendance and membership—check out his insight below.

Is church attendance and membership dwindling? If so, why?

The macro Christian church—both Catholic and Protestant traditions together—is losing traction. Smaller churches are getting smaller, and larger churches are getting larger, but the net result is a decrease in weekly church attendance.

Consistent average attendance for someone who says they are engaged in a church body is attending a weekend worship service roughly once every three weeks. In previous generations, engaged members of the church body would attend far more regularly.

But today, there are so many other things competing for people’s attention. Additionally, churchgoers want to know that a particular church will meet their needs:

  • Is the church making a difference in the community?
  • Are they going to meet my ministry needs?
  • Do they care about societal ills?
  • Will the church be judgmental and focused only on filling its pockets?
  • Will the church have the things my family and I need?

Today, if the programs for a smaller church are not what people think they should be, they will go elsewhere.

Our congregation has experienced pretty rapid growth—we’ve gone from about 450 people at Sunday worship to over 1,000 in about three years’ time. We feel that God is helping us look outside of ourselves and is leading us into creative ways to engage our community.

How did Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran increase church attendance and membership with the internet’s help?

Video

Our culture is so visual. Spoken word is one thing, but to see people share their testimony and message in real time is very compelling. Therefore, video has been a major part of our ministry. Two years ago, we came up with our “3E” church mission and our tagline “Experience, Empower, Expand—Join the Journey.” We wanted to get that message out through in-service and online videos, so we invested in a professional videographer. He produced about 10 really compelling videos for us, which had great results.

Social Media

It’s critical to meet people where they’re at, and our congregation lives on social media. Two years ago, we weren’t engaged consistently and intentionally on social media—but today, we utilize it frequently. Our primary social outlet is Facebook, but we’re beginning to put more effort into Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. All of our sermons, special videos, event information, and weekly announcements are shared across social media platforms.

If we just post a video on our website, it doesn’t have near the amount of views as when we promote it on social media. Facebook and other social platforms allow individuals to have a digital conversation with me or other church leaders, which is great for community engagement.

Live Streaming

We’re not yet doing live streaming—but it’s something we’re in the process of setting up in the next couple of months. We see live streaming as a way for our church body to stay connected to the message from afar as well as an evangelical tool to reach members of the community who are disenfranchised from church.

Being in Arizona, some of our congregants are “snowbirds,” or winter visitors. They love staying connected with us and worshiping with us from their summer homes, so live streaming will be an ideal option for them. Millennials and community members outside of the church body are also more likely to engage with us online and check out the vibe of the church before attending physically. We see it as a huge value-add.

What advice would you offer other churches that are looking to increase church membership and attendance?

If you want to increase your church attendance or church membership using the internet, you have to start somewhere. Sometimes I think church leaders don’t think incrementally enough! If you’re not doing anything online, ask tech-savvy members for their help. If you want to reach youth and millennials, ask them where they’re hanging out online and then as a church leader, meet them there.

We started out simply putting our videos on YouTube—then we progressively started  doing more and more. It doesn’t mean your first foray into using the internet to increase church attendance has to be live streaming—just think incrementally. If pastors and leaders of other churches would just start sharing their messages via social media and video—even prior to having the resources to do anything dramatic—it will really set the stage. So just start doing it!

Even if live streaming sounds daunting to you, consider looking into it. Stretch is very cost effective—even for smaller congregations—which means churches of all sizes can start soon.

A big thanks to Tim Ahlman for discussing this with us!


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