This past weekend, we live streamed our church’s Sunday morning service using Facebook Live. We didn’t announce it ahead of time, because we wanted to be sure the technology worked before putting it out there. Despite the lack of notice, we had 5 people that tuned in at points during the broadcast (they were notified during the broadcast by Facebook). Even more interesting, when I went to pick up my daughter from a sleepover after church, the mom already knew about the broadcast, because another mom had seen it online and told her about it. So not only did we generate online buzz, but offline buzz as well.
Why We Broadcasted the Sunday Service on Facebook Live
When we decided to try this, part of the reason we did was because a member who had missed a few months of church earlier in the year due to illness remarked how amazing it would have been to be able to watch the service live. We do post the recorded sermons on the website, but she said that being there live would have been a totally different experience, and one she wished she could have had.
We also have members who often travel for work on Sundays, or have kids that have sports tournaments scheduled. People go on vacation, have a family illness, or for any one of a number of reasons can’t be there Sunday mornings. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t minister to them. If we’re making our ministry conditional on Sunday morning worship attendance, we may be missing the boat. In many of the industries our digital marketing agency serves, we’ve had to help our clients come to terms with the fact that people are connecting in new ways online, and that means that our clients have to shift as well. Churches, too, have to get comfortable with moving beyond the walls, and serving their congregations digitally as well as in person. Church growth is about more than butts in the seats.
Using something like Facebook Live to enable people to get a taste of the service is one way to do this. It gives people a sense of what you’re all about, and may encourage them to attend in person another time. It puts good out into the world. And it creates an archive of your services that are accessible any time to someone who may need it. Even if people can only attend a part of the service, we are ministering to them right where they are, and that’s powerful.
How We’ll Do a Better Facebook Live Service Broadcast Next Time
At our church, we are hoping to continue broadcasting our services on Facebook. Here are some of the things we will likely do to make it an even better experience moving forward:
- Announce that we will be broadcasting ahead of time. We’ll set up an Event on Facebook, post it to the church calendar on the church website, and send out an email to those that have signed up for our email notifications list.
- Set the camera angle/tripod so that it captures the whole front of the church, so we don’t need to keep moving the camera as people move around.
- Post the bulletin (and hopefully hymns) ahead of time, so people can have access to that while they’re watching.
- Make sure the church sanctuary has strong wifi. We ran it on a member’s unlimited data plan this time, and when the signal fluctuated the video stopped.
- Acknowledge the people watching at home. The pastor can say hello to them and welcome them just as they are welcoming the people in the seats. And the person running the camera can also welcome people in the chat, invite people watching to say hello, share their prayer requests, etc.
- We have to make sure the keyboard on the mobile device is accessible so that it’s easy to type to people during the broadcast (we had jerryrigged the phone onto the tripod with a rubber band which partially covered the screen, and made it tough to type.)
Does your church broadcast your services on Facebook? What have you learned? Would love to read about your experiences in the comments below.