Should Churches Live Stream Their Christmas Service?


For many people, Christmas and Christmas Eve church services are high on the list of meaningful traditions of the season. Even though most churchgoers would like to be able to attend their own church’s holiday service, sometimes it’s just not possible to be there physically. But that doesn’t mean they have to miss out on the occasion.

Churches that are willing to live stream their Christmas services not only ensure that all their congregants can enjoy the sermon and festivities, but also invite others outside the congregation to join in, expanding the church community. If live streaming could be wrapped up in a bow, we’d say it’s an excellent Christmas gift, for churches, congregants, and community members.

If your church is considering live streaming their Christmas service, we recommend carefully considering the questions below to make sure you’re fully prepared:

Christmas Live Streaming For Churches: Things To Consider

  • Do you have access to the necessary equipment? You don’t need much to get started with live streaming, but you will need some basic audio and video equipment. If you’re not sure where to begin, take a look at this equipment checklist and this camera guide we created specifically for churches. Much of this equipment is available in varying price ranges, so you don’t have to break the bank.

    Keep in mind that live streaming for churches is becoming more commonplace year-round. In fact, 30,000 Google searches each month relate to finding church services online, and churches that live stream consistently are seeing major benefits. The equipment you buy should be considered an investment in your church’s future that will continue on well after your initial Christmas service live stream.

  • How will the logistics of your Christmas service impact your live stream? Sometimes Christmas services are more complex than regular church services because they may include caroling groups, short plays depicting the birth of Christ, candlelight musical performances, etc. Elements like these may require more thought to ensure good camera and microphone placement; you may also need additional microphones to capture the best sound possible. Work through these logistics well ahead of time to be sure you have all contingencies covered before services begin. There may even be dress rehearsals of these performances which would be a great opportunity to do a test run of your live stream as well.

Beyond buying equipment, do you need help getting your live stream up and running? Download this free guide for seven detailed, easy steps to follow.

  • Can you find the right people to help? No tech department at your church? That’s not unusual—and it’s no reason to forego Christmas service live streaming! Most churches rely on tech-savvy volunteers who care about the ministry to help run the live stream—even if they don’t have much experience in the area. Plus, many churches have discovered that once they started live streaming, a number of young people stepped up to the plate to pitch in. All you need is one knowledgeable person who’s willing to get the ball rolling; from there, they can recruit others. (You might find it helpful to read how one live production director views recruiting at his church.) Additional outside help can also be found with the right live streaming platform provider (see below!).
  • Do you have a platform to share your live stream? Before you can start live streaming, you need to decide how you plan to broadcast. In other words, what online platform will you use to share your live stream with the world? There are two kinds of live streaming platforms: social media networks like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook; and live streaming platform providers like Stretch (and many others).

    Social media networks are no-cost platforms, but you’ll need to be confident in your own technical expertise since they provide little to no support. On the other hand, a good live streaming platform provider will add to the budget, but in return you’ll receive technical support, guidance on equipment and production techniques, and a custom portal designed specifically for your church—all of which will dramatically improve the quality of your live stream. Do your research before you choose, so you can make a more informed decision (and better allocate your resources!).

  • Think about ways you can use the live stream to promote your church. More than half of all Americans plan to go to church at some point during the Christmas holiday. That’s a big jump from the 20% who attend church regularly, so it’s safe to assume your live stream might also be accessed by some folks who aren’t regulars. Plan opportunities during the live stream (prior to or after the service) to point first-timers to your website, talk about your mission statement and/or beliefs, and instruct people how they can get more information about your church, or connect with your church via a digital “connection card” on your website.

Want more information about live streaming for churches? We’d love to help!

Whether you’re only considering Christmas service live streaming or researching the idea of a longer-term streaming program, we’re happy to answer any questions you have about setup, equipment, or live streaming in general. Contact us anytime!



College Sports Marketing Examples & Tips (From An Insider)


We’ve occasionally talked about marketing as a way to increase viewership for your live stream, but for those of you who make a living doing college sports marketing, you know there’s a lot more to promoting your team than crafting a live stream strategy.

It can be tough for a marketer to do his or her job in an industry that has so much riding on something totally out of their control—wins and losses. But we’ve seen some pretty clever ideas brought to life by some of our own clients that we think are worth sharing.

With that in mind, we asked Matt Hodson, associate commissioner for public relations at the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (disclaimer, WCHA is a Stretch client!), if he’d be willing to give us some sports marketing examples used by his own league as inspiration. You’ll find a few of his insider tips below.

WCHA College Sports Marketing Strategies

College athletics marketing is hard enough as it is, Matt Hodson says, but leagues with multiple teams under their umbrella have an even bigger challenge: nurturing an affinity among fans for the entire league, regardless of the team or school they support.

The WCHA is working hard to make a new name for itself because it’s undergone something of a transformation recently. Once the most recognizable name in college hockey, it had to rebrand a few years ago after some of its flagship schools left to join the Big 10 conference or the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). The 2013-2014 season began with only four of the WCHA’s original teams and a group of new ones; today it includes 10 men’s college teams and seven women’s teams.

Hodson, who handles all marketing and communications for both the men’s and women’s league, says his strategy for successful marketing focuses on two things:

1. Establishing a personal connection to fans.

A couple of years ago the WCHA ran a public service announcement for the league featuring a tagline of “We are yesterday’s heroes, today’s champions, tomorrow’s legends. We are the WCHA.” When mixed with game highlights, the tagline was pretty powerful.

Hodson then took the last line—“We are the WCHA”—and turned it into a hashtag for social media. The hashtag serves two major purposes: to bind together groups of fans who support different schools within the league, and to help with the league’s rebranding efforts. He’s been using the hashtag to run a “fan of the week” contest, where fans are encouraged to submit pictures of themselves watching a game from wherever they happen to be, whether it’s at home on the couch with their buddies or live at the event.

Fan of the Game Stretch Internet

The hashtag strategy seems to be working. “At the end of every game we tweet out a final score and a link to a recap online,” Hodson explains. “A couple of our teams recently had really big wins against highly ranked teams from other leagues, and we started seeing fans of different teams retweeting the recap and using the hashtag.” It’s a good sign that fans are feeling a sense of ownership with regard to the league, not just one particular school.

2. Finding ways to tailor marketing to fans.

Another campaign that was launched this year centered around live streaming specifically—which the WCHA has been doing for the past five years—but played to individual team spirit.

“We were fortunate enough to have a local ad agency—made up of personal friends and hockey nuts!—work for us pro bono,” Hodson says. They came up with a line of graphics using the tagline: ‘You already have the best seat in the house. Stream your team.

College Sports Marketing Examples

Did you know your live stream can generate revenue for your organization?
Use this ROI calculator to explore the possibilities.

“Using this line of graphics, we did geotargeted campaigns on Facebook for segmented fans in each of our 10 markets, and Twitter and Instagram ads as well. We also created a second wave of banner ads for each of our schools, saying ‘They come to play, we come to watch.’ They were custom banner ads for streaming using individual school imagery, so we used the same phrase but showed images of players specific to each school.”

College Sports Marketing Examples

Hodson is waiting till the end of the month to see if it’s had an impact on the live stream, focusing specifically on subscriptions sold, unique viewers, and bottom-line revenue. By then, he says, all the league’s teams will have played a nice sample size of games—a full month’s worth. (Read more about using live streaming metrics here.)

On the subject of wins and losses….

Hodson’s philosophy is this: If you’re doing it right, marketing amplifies the good feelings that come from a win, and makes things more palatable when there’s a loss. “Hopefully that goodwill you’ve put in the bank helps get people even more excited about what’s to come.”

Inspired by these college sports marketing ideas? We hope so. In the meantime, if there’s anything we can do to help with your live stream, don’t hesitate to get in touch—we’d love to hear from you!

Live Streaming Dictionary


Technology is synonymous with change; that’s part of what makes live streaming so interesting (and why it keeps all of us live streamers on our toes).

In an effort to help you stay current—and to provide a reference you can bookmark for some of the foundational terms related to live streaming—we’ve put together a list of key live streaming definitions. And while technology doesn’t stand still long enough for this to be considered a “definitive” list of terms, it is comprehensive enough to be of particular value for those who are new to the field.

Live Streaming Definitions You Should Know

Adaptive bit rate (ABR)—ABR is a video delivery technique that optimizes the viewing experience. Multiple versions of the content are transcoded for playback at different bit rates; during playback, the user’s computer may switch between streams as necessary, depending on available bandwidth.

Audio mixer—equipment that combines multiple sounds onto a single track and allows you to control volume, tone, and other dynamics.

Bandwidth—the volume of data that a transmission device is capable of transferring within a certain unit of time. For live streaming purposes, the streamer is more concerned with their upload speed while viewers will be more concerned with download speed.

Bitrate—the speed at which data is transferred from one device to another within a certain unit of time, i.e., higher quality streams will be in the 2.0-5.0 megabits per second (Mbps) range, while lower quality feeds will be in the 0.5-1.5 Mbps range.

Branding—creating a distinct image for an organization that is identifiable by the public. As it relates to live streaming, branding is an important consideration in terms of its prominence on your live stream itself and the platform it is viewed on.

Don’t start live streaming without this handy to-do list by your side!
It also includes a complete list of all the equipment you’ll need to get going.

Buffering—when a device downloads data, it temporarily stores that data in memory to be quickly accessed when needed. Intended to prevent lag time between downloading and viewing, buffering sometimes causes a pause during viewing while the device downloads more content and stores it before playing. This usually occurs for a viewer if they do not have adequate bandwidth to view a stream; for example, a 4.0 Mbps stream will buffer if users don’t have at least 4.0 Mbps upload speed.

Capture device—an adapter that converts video into a digital format that’s recognized by the computer.

Content delivery network (CDN)—a network of servers that copy and store internet content in different locations to make the delivery of that content more efficient. A CDN improves page load times.

Content management system (CMS)—an application or software that gives users the capability to create and manage digital content. In live streaming, you typically use your CMS to schedule broadcasts, download your content, check listener and viewer stats, etc.

CPU—stands for central processing unit. CPU is the main processor inside a computer (sometimes referred to as the “brain” of the computer). Live streaming is a computing-intensive process, and the CPU plays a critical role; typically, the lower your CPU percentage (which indicates how hard your computer is working) the better.

Embed—generally, to affix one thing into something else, as in embedding your live stream onto your website.

Ethernet—a hardwired internet connection; it also refers to the physical plugs and sockets used to create the hardwired network.

Fiber Optic Cables—lightweight cables that contain glass or plastic filaments enabling the high-speed transmission of digital data; used in video production to connect cameras or video control rooms separated by hundreds of feet, or even miles.

Gain—on an audio mixer, gain refers to an increase in the power of an audio signal.

GPU—stands for graphics processing unit. It is a computer chip that creates images, videos, and animation for display on the monitor; for streaming, we can offload the encoding to the GPU to free up CPU resources.

Graphics—computer-generated images or scenes; graphics added to a live stream could be anything from logos to lower thirds to scoreboards.

H.264—also known as MPEG-4 Part 10 AVC (advanced video coding), this is a next-generation video compression standard following MPEG-4.

Hardware encoder—a dedicated device made for video streaming, it converts video input into digital format for playback on various devices.

HDMI—stands for high definition multimedia interface. HDMI refers the cable and connector that allows high-quality transmission of video and audio data from one device to another.

HTML5—for the first time in history, default HTML5 players are available in all current browsers that allow for plugin-free video playback; Flash is no longer required. Additionally, there are high-end HTML5 players that can piggyback off those built-in players to provide extra “bells and whistles.”

Intel Quick Sync—Intel’s hardware video encoder that is integrated into the Intel processor. As a dedicated media processor it enables faster decoding.

Interlaced/Deinterlaced—most video is sent as either progressive or interlaced (that’s what the letter refers to in 1080p or 1080i). This can impact how the video looks to the end user, but the important piece for live streaming is to make sure that you are deinterlacing the video if your camera is sending a 1080i signal. With live sports especially, an interlaced signal will look very “streaky” as the camera and players move around. Using a progressive signal will typically look smoother, and some encoders allow you to de-interlace an interlaced signal.

Internet download speed—the rate at which your network connection pulls data from a server to your computer, measured in megabits per second. Free tools like can be used to check your speeds, though you can’t always take the results at face value. Some Internet Service Providers show a download speed of 100 Mbps but that bandwidth is actually being shared by you and all of your neighbors.

Internet upload speed—the rate at which your network connection transfers data from your computer to a server or another system, measured in megabits per second. See Internet download speed for information on how to measure.

Live production switcher—an all-in-one video switcher that helps mix and manage production sources and gives you the ability to live stream your output in real time.

Live streaming—broadcasting live video and audio over the internet.

Live streaming platform—the vehicle used to broadcast and deliver a live stream to the web.

Local recording—recording directly on your streaming machine or camera.

Metrics—a way to measure or track something, usually to assess performance.

Mi-Fi—a brand-name portable wireless device that connects to a cellular network, acting as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.

Mobile live streaming—the use of a mobile device to produce a live stream.

Monetization—turning a non-revenue generating asset (like your live stream) into something that earns money, as with pay-per-view or sponsorship.

Natural sound—the audio produced by the video showing on-screen, i.e., the sound of people talking in a crowd shot, or the sound of the players moving around on a basketball court during a basketball game.

NDI—stands for network device interface. NDI is a standard developed by NewTek that allows cameras and other video sources to communicate over a local area network (LAN).

NVENC—a hardware video encoder embedded into NVIDIA graphics cards.

On-demand viewership—viewers who watch a live stream after its initial broadcast, whenever they want.

Optical zoom lens—a camera lens that captures a closer shot of a faraway image by adjusting the focal length; it offers a better quality image than digital zoom.

OTT—stands for over-the-top. OTT film, television, and live streaming content is accessed via high-speed internet connection (in contrast to content accessed through traditional cable providers). There are many OTT devices available on the market, some of the most popular include Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire.

Overmodulation—when audio levels are too hot (amplified above a certain level) and audio gets distorted.

Paywall—limits access to digital content to paying customers only.

Portal—the landing page or “container” for your digital content. This is where viewers will navigate to consume your content.

Pre-roll—the short commercials that run right before live video airs.

Processor—the energy center of your computer, which determines how much you can do and how quickly you can do it.

Production workflow—repeated processes and resources typically used to produce your live stream. Can also refer to the specific equipment you use to get your live stream up and running.

Production value—the quality of a broadcast, usually impacted by elements such as single camera vs. multi-camera, lower third graphics, audio sources, etc.

RTMP—stands for real-time messaging protocol, designed to transmit real-time audio, video, and data via the internet.

Scoreboard integration—a scoreboard overlayed on your live stream that pulls in real-time scoring data during a game.

SDI—stands for serial digital interface. The transfer of digital video from one device to another over coaxial cable; an SDI connection enables video signal transmission of up to 300 feet without amplification.

Signal amplification—boosting the strength of a video signal through the use of an electronic amplifier.

Software encoder—a program running on a laptop or desktop computer that converts video input into digital format for playback on various devices.

Sponsorship—support for a live streaming event or program (usually monetary) provided by businesses or organizations.

Telestration—illustrating a live stream broadcast by adding freehand drawings, spotlights, magnifiers, lines, arrows, etc.

Tripod—a 3-legged stand to support and hold steady a video camera or recording device.

White-balancing—adjusting the colors in video so they appear more natural.

Wi-Fi—abbreviation for wireless fidelity. Enables an internet connection over radio waves, without using wires.

X.264—similar to H.264, X.264 is a software library used for encoding but released as part of a GNU General Public License for open development.

Any questions about these or other live streaming concepts? Get in touch! We’ll do our best to help. (Plus, we’re glad for any excuse to chat about live streaming!)


Northwoods League: Why We Started Pay Per View Live Streaming

Northwoods League - Stretch Internet

Thinking about transitioning from a free-to-view live stream to pay-per-view streaming (PPV)? You’re not the only one—lots of organizations are making the switch.

The Northwoods League, the largest organized baseball league in the world (and a Stretch client) switched to PPV nearly seven years ago. And according to Glen Showalter, VP of Operations, they’ve never looked back. We talked with Glen recently about the League’s PPV experience and why they decided to switch to a paid live streaming model in the first place. (For more background on how the Northwoods League manages its complex live streaming operation, check out this article.)

Northwoods League: The Decision To Switch To PPV Streaming

The Northwoods League has been around for almost 25 years, but didn’t begin live streaming its games until about 10 years ago. At that time, the League started broadcasting on a no-cost platform.

“For that first year or two, I believe the League was trying to understand the live streaming platform and the process, and was doing its best to get personnel on all the teams up to speed,” explains Glen. (The League included about 16 teams at the time.) Back in 2010, he says, getting involved in live streaming was a much bigger challenge than it is today. The cost of equipment was higher, and fewer people knew about live streaming, making it more difficult to get answers when they ran into trouble.

The Northwoods League considered offering PPV in 2010, but Glen says, “I think it was probably something that would have been difficult to do right out of the gate. I believe the League had an internal expectation that it needed to deliver a certain level of quality to our customers before we could start charging for content.”

Wondering how much revenue you could be generating with your live stream? Here’s your chance to find out. 

Soon after the live stream launched, it was clear that the broadcast wasn’t attracting the right demographic on the free platform. There were a large number of viewers, but viewing times were short—approximately 20 seconds on average. Most viewers weren’t really interested in watching the whole game (or even a few minutes of a game!), but dipping in and out of free hosted streams on the same platform was easy for casual visitors.

Over the next few years the broadcast improved, but the viewing times didn’t increase significantly. Eventually, the conversation came back around to pay-per-view streaming.

Live Stream Pay-Per-View: Benefits For The Northwoods League

The benefits of pay-per-view streaming became clear pretty quickly: The overall number of viewers dropped, but the ones that remained were watching for a longer period of time—more than 20 minutes. This indicated that the PPV broadcast was hitting the right demographic, and was keeping audiences engaged.

The goal of PPV, according to Glen, was to provide a better product in the long run. “Unlike most organizations, for us, [live streaming] is not a moneymaking venture. The cost of our live streaming operation is significant—with 20 teams, 4 cameras per team, 20 switchers, etc.—and the numbers get pretty big. By going to PPV, we can recoup some of those costs and put money back into the program, making [the broadcast] better for future seasons.” This strategy has worked well, as witnessed by the League’s continuously improving quality of their live stream.

The professional-quality live stream is also an important marketing and branding tool for the League. It’s helped to improve name recognition well beyond the Midwest. The Northwoods League is viewed as the premier baseball league for all summer college players, drawing approximately 800 players each year from around the U.S. Odds are good, Glen says, that anyone interested in collegiate baseball has heard of them, and their live stream only helps boost that profile.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, the live stream is extremely valuable to fans of the League. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to offer to players, their parents, their family members, and friends. Players come from all over the country—from schools in every state. For parents in California to be able to watch their son play in a league in the Midwest is terrific, especially when it’s a high-quality broadcast they can watch with Apple or Android TV, or another home streaming device. They can really see what’s going on and hear the action.” When parents found out that the games were being live streamed, most were thrilled that they could watch their kids play without having to drive for hours or take a flight out to see a single game.

The Northwoods League’s Live Streaming Program Today

Today, the Northwoods League uses Stretch as its live streaming platform provider to stream more than 750 games, for 20 teams, every 3-month summer season. Its viewer numbers continue to rise.

Glen says that moving to pay-per-view streaming was the right decision for the League, made at the right time. Part of the reason they’re able to continue pulling in so many viewers is their flexible subscription model, powered by Stretch. Fans can choose to watch as many games as they want—from a single game, to a half-season, a whole season, championship games only, and more. Giving people choices makes them more willing to buy.

And with such a huge live streaming operation, Glen notes what a relief it is to have Stretch for help with both production issues and fan support. “We found that, with some platforms, the support isn’t there. It’s hard to get in touch with an actual person. Stretch customer support is great.”

Are you interested in trying pay-per-view streaming?

Consider the benefits your own organization or sports league might get out of live stream pay-per-view; is it time to stop giving away your valuable content for free?

If you’d like to learn more about the Stretch live streaming platform and our monetization options, give us a shout or schedule a free demo. We’d love to help you make the most of your live stream!


5 Examples Of Unique Pay-Per-View Live Streaming Events

Pay-Per-View Live Streaming Events

When you understand that there are endless types of events people would like to watch in person but simply can’t, it becomes clear that pay-per-view (PPV) live streaming is a smart way to do business.

In fact, we’re seeing an increasing number of organizations (not just sports organizations) realize the value of their live stream content. Where companies once offered live streaming for free they now charge for access, and many are either covering their costs or turning a profit.

You could say PPV is breaking out of the box—both in terms of the boxing ring (traditionally associated with pay-per-view) and in terms of the types of events that are now being streamed at a price.

Below are some of the more interesting instances we’ve seen of pay-per-view live streaming, some of which may be well on their way to becoming commonplace. How might your content play into the mix?

5 Examples Of Unique Pay-Per-View Live Streaming Events

1. Yoga classes and events.

Kundalini yoga exercise classes, Q & A sessions, in-depth discussions—you can get access to all of this via pay-per-view live stream at RA MA TV (courtesy of the RA MA Institute). Not all of its content is PPV; some is offered for free. Their special pay-per-view-events are considered premium content, and include things like workshops and courses with master teachers (the New Moon Total Solar Eclipse event, for instance). They also offer bundles of live-streamed workshops at package prices, and give discounts for pre-registering to virtually attend an event. Their PPV strategy encourages participation and expands their global “RA MA Community,” and makes money at the same time.

Pay-Per-View Live Streaming Events - 1

Get our free guide to learn about options for generating revenue with your live stream.

2.  Funeral services.

According to the Telegraph, 50% of all funeral homes and crematoria can now broadcast funeral services online—but we’re not sure that nearly that percentage of the general population knows about it. People seem to be divided on the trend, though the younger generation seems more accepting of it overall. For faraway family members who can’t attend the event in person, live streaming offers a chance to “connect with the collective emotion of the event.” Many funeral homes are doing all they can to limit viewing to family members and friends of the deceased, including password protecting the broadcast. Although the majority of funeral live streams are offered for free, some charge for access, like the U.K.’s Coychurch Crematorium (which also sells audio and video recordings of services).

Pay-Per-View Live Streaming Events - 2

3. Battle rap.

Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg vs. Luke, Common vs. Ice Cube, and LL Cool J vs. Canibus—they’re some of the most memorable battle raps on the books. But even if you missed those, you can still see some of today’s all-star rappers compete thanks to Watch Battle Live’s HD PPV. Acknowledging that not nearly enough fans will have the opportunity to attend most events live, Watch Battle Live hopes that viewers will get a “firsthand experience, like you are in the building, feeling all the energy in the crowd.” From a peek at one of the previews, we’d say that’s a good assessment of what viewers can expect.

Pay-Per-View Live Streaming Events - 3

4. Intimate concerts and events.

A pay-per-view live streamed musical event might not sound so unusual, but here we’re talking about limited admission to a virtual concert filmed in the artist’s living room. Oh, and did we mention that the artists take requests from their viewing audience and stop periodically to chat with viewers? Website Stageit pulls off these types of events regularly, featuring not only musicians but also comedians, chefs, and magicians. Shows are not archived (which only makes the live event even more valuable) and performers can collect tips in addition to the money earned from ticket sales. This is a new way of thinking about live streaming when it comes to events and so far, it seems to be working. (Anyone else up for a Jimmy Buffett concert?)

Pay-Per-View Live Streaming Events - 4

5. Every sport imaginable (almost).

Move over, boxing. We found pay-per-view live streaming opportunities for a multitude of sporting events, even some of the more unusual ones:

Pay-Per-View Live Streaming Events - 5

What did we miss? If you know of other unique pay-per-view live streaming events then tweet us @stretchinternet—we’re always interested to hear other creative ideas!


20 Intriguing Live Streaming Statistics

We probably don’t have to convince you of the popularity of live streaming—if you’re here on the Stretch website it would seem you’re on the right side of things already. But it’s useful to evaluate the current state of things occasionally by looking at industry statistics. Statistics tell us where we’ve been, where we’re going, and what we should be on the lookout for somewhere down the road. If you’re as passionate about live streaming as we are, the stats below will be of interest to you as well.

Individually, the following live streaming statistics are interesting, but together, they tell a story: Live streaming is here to stay, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.

Live Streaming Statistics

1. The live video streaming market is estimated to grow from $30.29 billion in 2016 to more than $70 billion by 2021. (PR Newswire)

2. Internet audiences are viewing more live content than ever before—81% viewed more in 2016 than they did in 2015. (Mediakix)

3. Thirty-six percent of Internet users said they watched live video as of November 2016. (eMarketer)

4. 63% of millennials have watched live content and 42% have created it, making this group the largest consumers and creators of live video. (eMarketer)

5. Eighty percent of people would rather watch live video created by a brand than read a blog. (Livestream)

6. The search term “Facebook Live Stream” has increased in popularity more than 330% since Facebook Live’s debut in August 2015. (Mediakix)

7. As of June 2016, most of the companies publishing on Facebook Live were outside of the U.S. At that time, the top publisher was Mercedes-Benz, with a total of 38 live videos. (Socialbakers)

8. Facebook Live videos are watched three times longer than videos that aren’t live. (Mediakix)

9. In June 2016, organizations streamed almost 200 live videos on their Facebook pages—six times more than they streamed only six months earlier. (Socialbakers)

10. Research on Twitch and YouTube shows that streamers who generate content on a regular basis for a dedicated audience are likely to generate three times more income over a span of two to three years streaming, compared to those who produce inconsistently and have a less stable audience. (Streamlabs)

Interested in monetizing your live streamed content? Find out more about this trend and how you can take advantage of it with this free guide to monetizing your live streaming productions.

11. In 2016, Facebook paid more than $50 million to media companies and celebrities to produce live content. (Those deals were not renewed in 2017.) (Business Insider)

12. Live content on Facebook receives 10 times more comments than regular videos. (Business Insider)

13. Seventy-eight percent of Facebook users watch live streaming on the platform. (Zero Gravity Marketing)

14. Twitter and its partners created 600 hours of live video content from a total of 400 events in the last quarter of 2016 alone. (Adweek)

15. Twitter’s live programs in the last quarter of 2016 were primarily about sports (52%), news/politics (38%), and entertainment (10%). (Adweek)

16. About half of Twitter’s live video viewers are under the age of 25; 33% of viewers are from outside the U.S. (Adweek)

17. In Q4 2016, 31 million unique viewers tuned in to Twitter to watch various types of content. (Adweek)

18. Animal Adventure Park saw its YouTube live views count surpass 232 million during the pregnancy of the world’s most famous giraffe, April. (It garnered more than 7.6 billion minutes of live watch time, total.)  It was the second most live-viewed channel in YouTube history. (YouTube)

19. Twitch ranks 84th on the Alexa ranking of the world’s most popular web pages—one spot ahead of the New York Times. (Sports Illustrated)

20. The record for most concurrent viewers for a single stream was set in 2017 by eleaguetv, a professional esports team, with 1,027,493 viewers. (TwitchStats)

Know of any other interesting stats? Tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know!


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.


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.

The 10 Best Resources & Blogs For Tech-Savvy Churches

Thanks to the internet, these days no one has to try anything new without help. That’s just as true for churches, that, luckily, have tons of resources at their fingertips which can help with everything from writing marketing email subject lines, to building mobile giving apps, to setting up digital libraries for church members.

Sometimes, though, there’s almost too much help to choose from, which is why “best of” posts tend to come in handy. You may already be familiar with some of the most popular church resources and blogs on our list, but we tried to dig a little deeper to offer a few additional resources you may not have yet discovered. We hope you’ll give them a read to see if they line up with your church’s goals.

And, of course, if live streaming your church services is anywhere on your tech to-do list, you already know where to go for help!

Not ready to start live streaming your church services but want to know more about it? Download this free guide to see what’s involved before you take the leap.  

The 5 Best Church Resources

1. Courageous Storytellers

Its mission is to help church communicators tell the story of their church in the best way possible—so it provides all the tools you could ever need to get the job done. Resources, knowledge, training… it’s like having an extra person on your team who has all the answers, even for those questions you didn’t know you had. Some resources are free; there’s also a membership option to get access to new monthly resources along with everything Courageous Storytellers has ever created.

2. That Church

The founders of That Church believe in doing and changing, not listening and following. To that end, all of their company’s resources and events are geared toward helping church leaders inspire change. They provide a podcast, an online magazine, mobile apps and a TV app(!) for easy access to all of their material; they even have a live stream of their annual conference. You can get anything you want, however you want to get it.

3. Pro Church Tools

Ninety percent of the weekly content Pro Church Tools publishes is free and was designed specifically for the purpose of helping churches reach their audiences. It has an extensive collection of audio, video, and text resources; members of the Pro Church Academy get access to even more video courses, cheat sheets, templates, and formulas. The idea here is that anyone can succeed in getting their church noticed—despite small budgets and no experience.

4. Church Technical Leaders

Developed for church technical artists, this site intends not only to be a learning resource but also to serve as a place for like-minded technical individuals to foster relationships. On its website, “The City” makes connection-building easy, giving users a way to meet church and technical leaders anywhere around the world. It also has a terrific blog (“The Sacrifice Of My Pride” by Martha Shafer is recommended) and offers day-long LeadLab events periodically to learn more about church tech.

5. Church Media Spot

Church Media Spot has an exhaustive list of resources to improve your church communications, including videos, graphics, photos, music, websites, and fonts, as well as links to a variety of learning resources like conferences and church blogs. If you’re looking for practical tools to get your message across more effectively—and wow your audience while you’re at it—this is the place to go.

The 5 Best Church Blogs

1. Church Tech Today

Articles in this blog cover a range of faith-based technology subjects, arranged under the broad topics of communications, software, hardware, worship, and “kidmin” (youth ministry). (There’s even a live streaming subcategory—hands in the air! See “Live Streaming As Ministry” for some great advice on getting started with live streaming.) This one is worth following.

2. Faith Engineer

Written by the pastor—and, pretty much, tech director—of a growing church in a rural town (formerly a design engineer), this blog stands out for its truthfulness in showing the difficulties small churches face in utilizing technology. If you’re in a similar situation and are searching for some real-life perspective on the subject, take a look here.

3. The Creative Pastor

With articles like “10 Items Under $20 That Every Church Tech Booth Needs” and “Four Simple Steps To Improve Your Church’s Social Media,” this blog is direct and practical. The Creative Pastor (aka Kendall Conner) is a self-described “media geek” who wants to make church media simple for even the most inexperienced folks, putting awesome within everyone’s reach.

4. Ministry Tech

Technically a magazine that publishes articles online, Ministry Tech is all about technology and software and how they can be used to support ministry. Its articles cover everything from online giving and security to church management software and effective church blogging. You can even subscribe for free and get the newest issues as soon as they’re published; or, subscribe for monthly tech trend reports.

5. Steve Fogg

Steve Fogg describes himself as a “church communications person who is keen on the power of utilising social media” to help churches grow online. His articles mainly revolve around digital branding, communications, and marketing, with the occasional podcast and ebook offerings. Steve’s writing is clear, simple, and from the heart, which makes his posts easy and interesting to read. It’s an excellent resource for churches seeking technology solutions for bolstering their brand.

We’re sure there are more gems out there—do you know of any church resources or blogs we should add? Tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know!


Our 10 Most Popular Live Streaming Blog Posts

Our 10 Most Popular Live Streaming Blog Posts

When we say we have freakishly good support (what, you haven’t watched the video about our super support powers yet?), we’re mostly talking about the always-available, hands-on help we provide for our live streaming partners. But we’re pretty proud of our live streaming blog, too, because it’s another way for us to support live streamers everywhere who are as psyched as we are about always learning and improving.

After some data-churning, it became clear that the live streaming blog posts below are our top 10 most popular, so we rounded them up for easy access. Here’s hoping that you count our blog among your favorite live streaming resources going forward—if there’s anything you’d like to see more of, just give us a shout.

1. High Definition, Three Camera Inputs, One Laptop, $3,500

An oldie but a goody, this classic live streaming blog post was written by the director of multimedia and production at Harvard University Athletics. Everyone wants to know how he pulled off a small production setup on a tight budget; he provides the details here.

2. Evaluate Your Live Streaming Platform On These 4 Features

Shopping around for a live streaming platform? Don’t make a move until you’ve read this article, which describes the four areas that define the quality of any platform provider and why they’re critical to your future live streaming success. We promise you’ll sound smarter when you’re ready to comparison shop.

3. 3 Important Church Attendance Statistics & What They Mean For The Modern Church

If these three statistics are any indication, modern churches need to change to keep pace with new attitudes and new ideas. What can your church do to stay connected? We have some ideas; read about them here.

4. How To Live Stream Using Your iPhone Or iPad Camera

It really is as easy as 1-2-3. Take a moment to read these instructions and tips, and you’ll be all set to live stream at a moment’s notice.

You have the equipment, but are you really prepared to go live? To pull off a live stream flawlessly, download this extensive checklist outlining what you need to do before, during, and after your event.

5. How To Set Up A Multi-Camera Live Streaming System

Fans of article #1 will also want to check out this one, which has additional, updated recommendations for small-scale, multi-camera live streaming on a limited budget. Here we offer three options: one based around a MacBook Pro, another using a hardware mixer called ATEM Television Studio, and a third for PC desktops.

6. 40 Live Streaming Tips To Make Your Broadcast Better

“Expect the unexpected” is a good way to describe live streaming, but I think it’s safe to say that we’ll take all the concrete tips we can get to help make the process go more smoothly. In this article, experienced live streamers dish out the best of their advice on everything from equipment and setup to preparation and process.

7. How To Live Stream Using A Camera You Already Own

Have camera, will live stream…. as long as you have the right setup. Even if you’ve never live streamed before, you can still make use of that camera you found hiding under the seat of your car. This article outlines how to transform it from a recording device (or a dust collector) into a live streaming machine in three easy steps.

8. 6 Fundraising Ideas For Small Churches

Live streaming church services is one way for small churches to expand their reach, but we know that fundraisers help keep the doors open. This list of six creative fundraising ideas (we’d love to have a “help squad” in our neighborhood!) hopefully includes at least one or two that your church might consider worthy of giving a go.

9. Essential Equipment: The Checklist For Church Live Streaming

This one’s for all you church leaders out there who’ve ever said (or thought) “I don’t have the staff to live stream,” or “I don’t know enough about tech to live stream,” or even “Live streaming is too expensive.” You can do it with the help of our live streaming resources. Start by reviewing this equipment checklist specifically for churches, then check out our step-by-step instruction guide on how your church can get started.

10. Live Streaming Setup For The Computer Illiterate

For everyone out there who knows nothing about technology and assumes that live streaming is beyond your reach, here’s a nontechnical guide to live stream setup (including pictures!). This basic equipment list is perfect for first-timers and includes a link to our extensive live streaming checklist with detailed instructions on how to prepare for an event.

These are our top 10 posts, but there’s plenty more where these came from! Check out our live streaming blog for something new every week, and visit our website to find out more about the Stretch live streaming platform.



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!