The guidelines related to Coronavirus are seemingly changing by the hour, the latest being that for the next 30 days or more, non-essential businesses have been forced to close and the public strongly encouraged to stay inside. This leaves organizations, particularly churches, scrambling to figure out the art of going virtual. Ready or not, livestreaming is the reality now and as new research shows, many congregations are not prepared.
LifeWay Research, based in Nashville, recently conducted a study that indicated that among Protestant pastors, 41% don’t put any portion of their church service online. A little more than half (52%) post the sermon after the service, about 10% livestream the sermon only and about 22% live stream the entire event.
Additionally, a related survey conducted last year, indicated that half of Protestant churchgoers (50%) have watched a livestream in place of physically attending church at least once in the past year. About 47% say they have not watched a livestream service in place of in-person attendance and about two percent are unsure. Generally those who are members of smaller congregations are more likely to have not watched a livestream, probably because smaller churches are less likely to place their services online.
With the impact of Covid-19 spreading far and wide, churches that weren’t considering — or were on the fence — about livestreaming are now challenged to figure it out fast. A local church in my area, a larger church that surprisingly was not livestreaming, spent the better part of the previous week, figuring out technical requirements, overnighting equipment, and working through a minefield of unforeseen problems just to run the sermon on Facebook Live. According to their worship director, running the sermon alone was manageable, but it seems adding live worship is a whole other animal involving additional equipment, expenses and staff.
Another local church, which livestreams weekly services, ran into all kinds of technical issues during their first unattended service. They had announced ahead of time there would only be a livestream, encouraging congregants to watch online. Unfortunately, this created server issues and a host of glitches.
For many churches navigating the livestream is something new. However, once mastered, it may open up the door to many unforeseen benefits such as accommodating those who regularly have difficulty attending, allowing visitors to explore your church ahead of time, and reaching a much wider audience in the name of Jesus.
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