Should You Offer An Online Church Service & Live Stream?

Should You Offer An Online Church Service & Live Stream

Still weighing the benefits of live streaming your church services? And here we thought this article would lay all of your doubts to rest.

But if it didn’t, keep reading. So many churches have started live-streaming their services that there are plenty of success stories out there; for that reason, we’ve included lots of links to other articles we thought might be helpful. If, after reading, you still have questions about online church services feel free to give us a shout.

Will live streaming my church services impact attendance and participation?

Physical Attendance

Top of mind for most pastors with regard to church live streaming is attendance. With attendance rates already in decline, it’s understandable that the idea of offering people yet another reason to stay home seems counterintuitive.

Churches that have instituted live streaming do, in fact, notice a shift in attendance patterns, but not in the way you think. New Hope Chapel in Massachusetts experienced an increase in attendance among young people under the age of 21 thanks to its live stream. Other churches, too, have noticed that many online viewers eventually start to attend mass in person at a church they first discovered online and liked.

If attendance rates do decline in conjunction with church live streaming, the two phenomena are not necessarily connected. It could be that there are deeper issues at work.

Engagement

Once upon a time, attendance was the only way to measure a church’s success, but today, that’s no longer the case. There’s much more to a healthy, growing church than the number of people who physically, or even virtually, attend a service. A more important indicator of success is engagement among your parishioners. After all, the real goal is to encourage as many people as possible to help spread the word.

As you might guess, it’s incredibly difficult to measure how well any church achieves engagement—as Christianity Today puts it, “transformed lives, healthy congregations, [and] exercising faith, hope, and love” are intangibles that can’t usually be directly evaluated. But you can be certain of this: The more people that are actively engaged in your ministry, the more you are fostering a high degree of discipleship.

Do the phrases small staff and small budget describe your church? You can still offer church services online! Download this free guide to find out how to make it happen.

Live church services that are also archived on your website help foster engagement in the following ways:

  • During a live stream, viewers can engage with one another via Twitter, sharing ideas and increasing understanding of your message.
  • Your live streamed resources are accessible by anyone, any day of the week—not just Sundays! Congregants can satisfy their need for learning and fulfillment often, which helps speed the engagement process.
  • Live stream viewers, already online, are more likely to share inspiring parts of the service immediately via social media, spreading your message even further.

In what ways will live streaming impact my church physically?

Some churches are bucking the declining attendance trend and heading in the opposite direction—they’re growing. Live streaming is helping them achieve that growth in an unexpected way: by expanding onto multiple campuses. The latest trend (some are calling it “the new megachurch”) isn’t about having the largest audience under one roof; it’s about having multiple campuses open in different geographic locations. In the past 15 years, more than 8,000 multisite churches with five million congregants have been founded in the U.S. (As this article shows, multisite isn’t for everyone, though.)

Live streaming makes the multisite concept easier. It’s both cost- and time-efficient—one pastor giving one sermon takes the place of multiple pastors doing the very same thing or one pastor giving multiple sermons on the same day. That leaves more time for more pastors to concentrate on their congregants and their staff. Multisite live streaming also enables a small church team to have a big impact, making it possible to cast a broad net over a large geographical area.

Will live church services help reach our fundraising goals?

It’s entirely possible! You can set up your live stream to allow viewers to contribute to church offerings online while your in-person congregants carry out this task inside the church. (The right live streaming platform provider makes it easy to do this!)

Some churches have seen live stream viewers give even more in the way of donations than physical attendees. One of the churches described in this article receives a third of its total income from online viewers and, some weeks, sees more donations come in online than its congregation gives in person.

Can I afford to live stream our church services?

Live streaming isn’t that expensive. From an equipment standpoint, there’s a good chance you can rustle up almost everything you need to get started from the equipment you already have (or from a congregant or two who haven’t used their old, dust-covered video camera in a few years). Start with the most basic setup (even an iPhone or iPad will get you rolling), and add on over time. Depending on the streaming provider you choose, they might be able to help you build out a workflow over time by identifying your long-term streaming goals and then proposing a multi-year plan to acquire the necessary equipment (our production department handles this for our clients).

How will church services online benefit my existing congregants?

It’s not just about growth; live streaming your church services is good for your existing congregants, too.

First, it fills a void for those who are unable to attend church for one reason or another (including blizzards!). This article by Religion & Ethics Newsweekly gives several great examples of parishioners who’ve been able to stay connected to their church despite the fact that they can’t get there in person, including two seniors with physical challenges that make it hard for them to leave their home on Sundays and a family that continued attending church even while on vacation in Israel. Lifehouse in San Antonio says that 60-70% of its live stream viewers are already active church members; they’re simply unavailable to attend on the occasional Sunday due to out-of-town commitments, or they like to participate in additional services other days of the week.

And what about former church members who’ve moved away, students who’ve left for college, or congregants who split their time between two homes? If they’d prefer to remain connected to your church rather than find a new one, live streaming gives them that opportunity. Does your church support missionary work? If so, it’s probable that your missionaries would appreciate a way to stay connected even when they’re far away from home.

Live streaming also paves the way for potential new members, who may prefer to see what a church is like before attending in person. (This article suggests that newcomers to any town may watch a church’s live stream an average of six times before deciding to visit in person!)

Ready to learn more about live streaming your church services?

Why not give your church the chance to spread its message beyond the walls of your gathering hall?

We’d love to help. We’re a live streaming platform provider that works with churches, sports programs, production companies, and all kinds of other community organizations to help them share their live streamed events with interested viewers. And while some live streaming platforms are free of charge—like YouTube and Facebook—their “hidden” costs come in the form of time, lack of technical support, and prioritization of their goals over yours. With Stretch, your goals as a church come first.

If you’re still considering whether or not to live stream your church services, take the next step forward and talk it through with an expert. Schedule a 30-minute consultation call with Stretch, where we’ll help identify your live streaming goals, suggest equipment, and clarify the process—whatever you need. (No commitments necessary!) We can guarantee you’ll come away feeling more knowledgeable about the process—and you’ll be one step closer to the live church services that are helping so many other churches thrive.
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