Personal testimonies have always been powerful in the process of one person sharing their redemptive story with others. Over millennia civilizations, cultures and people of faith have perpetuated foundational truths through the tradition of oral histories infused by artistic creativity, music, dance and visual arts. One major challenge for the 21st century church is how to utilize current technology to share the most important story of all time: the story of Redemption.
Live streaming church services, sermons, social events, training, Bible study and many more elements of our faith communities is one of the more exciting, though challenging, aspects of current ministry teams. We exist in a world where it is normal for live streaming to be a common aspect of our day to day experience. Whether it’s someone capturing a conflict at the Mall, a performance or concert at school, or a poignant moment of family intimacy, life is now instantly available to be shared around the world. As a ministry leader, whether Pastor, Worship Leader, or Outreach Director, live video streaming is available to augment your ministry impact. You will need a Plan, a Process and a Product.
Ministry of any kind will be most successful when it is established through developing an effective plan. Your live streaming plan should be developed through a comprehensive review of your ministry goals with all ministry staff. Invite input from your team regarding the demographics, psychographics, and spiritual needs of your congregation and community.
During your planning sessions you should identify existing resources among your team, church members, and current technology already incorporated into your ministry effort. Identify people with current knowledge and expertise in media technology. Establish a sense of what your current financial resources are and create a budget for anticipated acquisition of additional technology, both hardware and software. Budget resources vary from ministry to ministry. However, the average church rarely has much flexibility. Currently live streaming can be accomplished without any significant investment by utilizing a smart phone and platforms like Facebook Live, YouTube and others. So even impoverished churches may be able to start live streaming their ministry activities in this basic manner.
Churches with more budgetary potential will need to provide at a minimum a camera, computer, internet connection and a streaming platform. The camera may range from a smart phone to your average commercially available camcorder or, even better, a digital SLR camera with video capability. A digital SLR camera from the price range of $500 and up would suffice nicely. Your average mid-level personal computer with the current generation processors and a good video card with ample RAM memory would also provide adequate computing power. Your internet connection should be DSL or faster with sufficient bandwidth to allow the highest definition – hopefully 1080p. Encoder software is available in both free versions, vMIX, OBS (open broadcast software), or you may purchase from companies like Wirecast.
Identifying individuals within your church community with expertise and a willingness to serve-volunteer in the capacity of managing the process of streaming is very helpful. There are a number of websites within the Christian community dedicated to helping ministries succeed in expanding to live streaming their services. These websites offer comprehensive services at a number of financial levels which may be helpful to those hoping to enter live stream capability. These websites include Streamingchurch.TV, Streamspot.com, SundayStreams.com, among many others. These websites are generally offering a live stream platform that provides the service for a cost of $50.00 up to over $200.00 per month. Again, depending on your needs and budgetary constraints.
Finally, you will need to pursue the end product of your effort to include others in your ministry services. Generally speaking, churches need to be mindful of the quality and flexibility available to the consumer in this digital age. All ages of consumers are continually afforded high quality video and audio information. We want to provide the best quality of experience we can within the budgetary and human talent limits that are available to us within our ministry teams. Ultimately our product, the story of Redemption embedded within an invitation to engage in relationship with others, will be measured against current norms of interpretation.
Motivation to add live streaming to our church ministries includes meeting the spiritual needs of our congregants if they are ill at home or travelling, also expanding our outreach to those who do not attend our church or perhaps any church. Therefore, maximizing our financial resources to employ available technology and offer video experiences that can capture the attention of the current cultural consumer remains a worthy redemptive challenge. The video quality, audio clarity, artistic impact and truth-based communication matter. Availability of our message on every platform, format and point of access to the world matters.
Our challenge remains to share biblical truth in a relevant manner utilizing current technologies for the glory of God. Even as we consider current technology and culturally relevant methodologies we must remember our purpose. We are telling a story. A love story that offers hope. A story that best embodies intimate relationship with God that has the potential to alter human destiny, eternally.
So, prepare your plan, determine your budget, implement your process, and deliver your product. Make a difference for the kingdom.
By Michael D. Griffith