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Back at the beginning of the second quarter of 2016, Facebook launched their “live video streaming” service whereby you can now broadcast live film content immediately to your homepage and all of your Facebook friends. It was a clever manoeuvre from the social media giants to ambitiously ride the digital trend of motion picture and film to powerfully communicate their brand.

And it is a development that’s proving successful with their live video service now widely known for engaging visitors by 3 x as many “views” than previous video-hosting sites such as YouTube and Vimeo. What’s more, Instagram (owned by Facebook) now also have their own video “stories” feature at the heart of the previously photograph-only social media platform.

Film is a big deal. Live video is a big deal. It would be really great for your church to get involved with both if you can. (For more information about creating film on a budget, please see here).

Here are five simple ways to help you experiment and give this a go!

1) Begin by Coordinating

Depending on the size of your church, organise an individual (or small team) to take responsibility for your collective presence online, including scheduling new trials of Facebook Live. This would mean that the use of social media technology is consistent and thought through rather than being ad hoc, reactionary or lacking in quality. It’s true that fun-loving spontaneity is often a good characteristic to have within your social media activity but not without a competent strategic baseline. To be credible online as a church, you will need someone to take responsibility for a bit of research, planning and scheduling of your social media activity including use of Facebook’s live video service.

If you are a small to mid-sized church (less than 250 people) consider who you might already have within your church to have a chat with about volunteering in this area. If you are part of a larger church (300-750+) consider employing someone part-time. If you are part of a large church (1000+) definitely employ at least one person full-time.

2) Create Learning Environments

If you have a blog as part of your church website, extend your Facebook reach further by generating some live video sessions where you discuss the content of a specific blog post. This can be a great way of answering reader’s questions and responding to observations from your followers while reinforcing public interest in themes and subjects that are important to the current life of your church. For example, it could be that your church previously published a blog article about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and had a lot of response from people who don’t know how to move forward. Promoting a live Facebook video could very much help to communicate to a large group and share information very effectively.

3) Deepen Church Community with an Insider’s Perspective

Giving something like a mini tour or special inside glimpse of your church building will help to attract new members/likes to your Facebook page and, potentially, to become part of the actual church community itself. Also, the health of the sense of unity in your church community on Sundays, and at other events, can be greatly helped by encouraging people to interact on Facebook Live on a regular basis. For example, it might be that a member of the staff team has a birthday and you could arrange a live Facebook video of them receiving their birthday cake and blowing our their candles. This kind of strategic approach to using Facebook live will deepen the sense of connection and community that the church congregation have with leadership/staff teams and that is usually restricted because of geographical/time constraints.

4) Stream Important Public Information & Training

In the life of any busy church is the struggle to help vital volunteers to be as well looked after as much as is possible. One of the best ways you can do this is to communicate information and developments in church life with consistency, care and excellence. All churches rely on volunteers to make church happen, whether in the music or welcome or cleaning or car parking teams, but this means that individuals can’t always make it to the physical location of the church to attend meetings. Consider using Facebook live to stream your information and training to make it much more convenient for a businessman working the other side of town, or the single parent at home with no babysitter, to attend virtually instead.

5) Create an Online Life Group

People are busy and, perhaps especially in inner-city locations, the limitations of time in everyone’s week is often the biggest problem churches have in encouraging a deeper sense of devotion at groups during the week. For some people in your church, it will be an exciting initiative to organise a life group online that can run via Facebook Live in exactly the same way as a literal home group would: forming around a post-code (virtual), grabbing a coffee and a cake (very much literal!), and simply creating a safe place where people can talk, catch up, discuss last Sunday’s message and pray together. You might find that meeting virtually online is a great incubator for new relationships and other initiatives and events towards meeting more privately in different contexts off the back of this simple use of a piece of technology.

It’s really all about connecting people with people and in using Facebook Live you can definitely further the reach of your online presence as well as deepening the quality of relationships within the community of your church culture.

Nick Franks is a freelance digital leader living in resplendent Edinburgh, Scotland. Learning to love as he should, Nick is engrossed in living a contagious lifestyle of worship and prayer. He sweats under his eyes when he eats too much cheese, adores Liverpool FC and has a strong preference for Earl Grey leaf tea. Nick is married to the beautiful Mairi. Consider contacting Nick at www.nicholasfranks.com for any of your media-related projects in photography, writing and film. 

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