By Bob Pritchett
As churches transition into the holiday season, having not merely functional but seamless and inviting livestreaming of sermons and worship services is essential. Many church members who may be traveling, working or who prefer to participate from home due to health and safety concerns deserve to be accommodated so that they can continue growing with their church body from no matter where they are in the world or what their personal needs and schedules may look like.
Whether your church was newly introduced to live streaming this year due to the events of 2020 or have been streaming services since the technology was first introduced, there are many ways to take livestreaming to the next level not only from a functionality standpoint but from a community one, as well.
Especially as we continue to social distance or minimize large gatherings, it’s more vital than ever that churches seek to cultivate a sense of belonging for members and new viewers who may be watching from home.
The first and simplest way to help create that connection is by providing a live chat feature in the sidebar of the streamed sermon where viewers can respectfully chime in throughout the service. This is also an excellent means for inviting viewers to begin forming relationships with one another, as they can share their insight and even prayer requests with one another throughout the service.
It’s advisable to have someone from the church staff moderating and joining in on the discussions happening in the chat to encourage constructive conversation and participation. Live chats are an easily accessible but still unique feature of live streaming that many churches don’t think to utilize and can certainly set yours apart.
Connection and Prayer Cards
In addition to a live chat feature, including connection cards or prayer cards for viewers to fill out is a unique yet meaningful way to help users engage. These can be easily created through Google Forms in Google Drive. You could consider creating an automated message in your live chat feature that invites viewers who have just joined to use this feature so that they can share a bit about themselves with church leadership.
This not only communicates that you care to those who are watching, but it’s a great way to collect valuable data about the kinds of individuals who are coming to your church and what has made them decide to join.
As your church begins to strategize its budget for the upcoming year, having relevant data on how church membership has changed since 2020 that you can collect through the connection cards is crucial to understanding your viewer population and if they give regularly or are likely to begin doing so.
You might also consider creating virtual bulletins that automatically populate into the live chat or are posted on the site each week so that viewers can quickly access new church announcements. The church bulletin is also an excellent place to encourage members to join virtual Bible studies or small groups where they can get connected on a deeper level with other church members.
For those who are tuning in for the first time to your church or who are revisiting after a long hiatus, knowing what they can do to get more connected could make the difference between them being a one-time viewer and coming back next week.
Another feature to consider implementing into the live stream are slides for viewers at home to see. These can help those watching at home to follow along with the sermon outline and easily see any Scriptures that are being referenced from the pulpit. This also breaks up the monotony of a single camera view of the preacher that can quickly get tiring on the eyes to follow.
To make your slides engaging and helpful for those watching, take time to make sure that the slides are good quality and visually appealing. Be sure to use high-resolution images, complementary colors that will pop, and a limited variety of fonts that are easy to read, of course. These small yet significant changes can make the difference between slides being ignored by the viewer and utilized as a helpful outline with which they can thoroughly follow the sermon and continue to take notes.
Finally, it’s absolutely critical to ensure that viewers joining the service from home or wherever they may be have an option to give virtually. There are a few different ways to encourage online giving. You could provide a text-to-give feature, displaying the number on the sermon slides or in the live chat with easy instructions for people to follow.
You can also enable a “donate” button on your church’s website in the menu or on the home page that allows users to click the button and follow instructions to set up a one-time or a recurring giving option of any amount.
A third yet equally effective way to help those watching the live stream give faithfully is by creating a mobile app for your church that users can download on their mobile device that includes a giving option. This is an excellent feature, as it allows individuals to give anywhere at any time they have service instead of having to log in to your church’s site or find the text-to-give feature whenever they remember that they want to provide an offering.
Believe it or not, including virtual options is a critical means of keeping viewers at home connected with the mission of the church. Especially for those long-time church members who are used to leaving their cash or check in an offering box and are now viewing at home, knowing that they can still safely and effectively give their offerings is an important part of knowing that they are involved in the work of the church.
Increasing live streaming engagement for your church through these improvements plays a higher purpose than making the experience more enjoyable for those watching at home.
Having quality livestreaming as a church is a critical part of continuing to spread hope, encouragement and joy to a hurting world that needs the light of Jesus now more than ever.
Bob Pritchett is the co-founder and CEO of Faithlife, a church technology company helping churches grow in the light of the Bible with more than 14 products, including Logos Bible Software and Faithlife Equip, www.faithlife.com.