This past Sunday, the weather report for New York City was 1° with a wind chill of -19°. The mayor was urging people to stay home and church members were calling to ask if we were canceling.
But church planters don’t cancel worship gatherings.
I’ve experienced Sundays when my wife and kids outnumbered everyone else. Even if only a handful of people could come we planned on proceeding with our service. We aren’t about to let a little frostbite stop us!
The good news is more people came than we expected. And due to a last minute idea, we ended up streaming our service online for free and several members were able to jump online and watch.
All I had to do was put my mobile phone on a tripod, make sure I had a strong wifi signal, open the Facebook app and start broadcasting live. It really was that easy and within seconds we noticed that not only were our absent members online and engaging with us virtually, but their friends and people around the world began tuning in as well.
But giving church members who are stuck at home an online viewing option wasn’t the only benefit. Here are a few more benefits we noticed after our first Facebook Live video stream.
7 Reasons to Broadcast Your Church Services Online with Facebook Live
- Facebook Live connected us to hundreds of people who have never been to our church. The gospel was preached in their homes!
- There was a ton of social engagement, sharing, and commenting during AND after the service that allowed us to follow up later.
- Our church members who were watching live were able to engage in the comments and share with their friends as the service progressed.
- Facebook Live is easier to setup than ANY live streaming services out there. I was able to set it up in a couple of minutes.
- Facebook Live videos play automatically in your friend’s News Feed and then are saved on your personal Timeline. A high quality version can also be saved to your mobile device later.
- Facebook Live is FREE. Churches have been streaming their services for years, but now virtually anyone in any setting can do it now.
- And of course, Facebook Live allows members who are prevented from coming to join in online.
Of course, it should be said that church members ought to meet together in person unless providentially hindered. But the benefit of Facebook Live to your church members is that it provides the ability to connect from home in the event that weather or sickness prevents them from coming.
The greatest benefit of Facebook Live is not for your members but for their unchurched friends and family that you have the potential to reach.
At this point, I hope you are beginning to see why using Facebook Live might be an effective outreach tool for your church. So, let’s look at what you need to get started:
How To Get Started With Facebook Live
1. Make sure you have the following (you probably do).
- A mobile device (with plenty of battery life)
- A Facebook account
- Facebook’s mobile app
- A strong wifi signal at your location
- A tripod with a smartphone mount (here’s the one we used)
2. Go Live in the Facebook App.
When you are ready to go live, simply click on “Update Status” in the Facebook app on your mobile device. Check to see that your post will be public and then hit the Facebook Live button.
You will then be given the option to give your video a title. You can use hashtags and even tag friends in the title to get even more engagement.
Before you click the big blue “Go Live” button, don’t forget to flip the camera (button on the top right) so that it’s facing the action.
Once you are live you will see how many people are connecting to the feed and comments coming in as they happen.
7 Tips to Get Even More Out of Facebook Live
Our first attempt at this showed us some things we like and some things we don’t like about this platform. For starters, Facebook Live takes a lot of battery (we ran out halfway through the sermon) and I could only share a live video from my personal profile.
But, again, the possibilities are endless. Here are just a few ideas we have for the next time our church goes live:
1. Make an announcement ONLINE before you go live.
Join us in 2 minutes as we stream live at https://t.co/OKbj51jZQl in Ridgewood!!
— City Life Church NYC (@citylife_nyc) February 14, 2016
Announce this on your Facebook page, your personal Facebook profile, on Twitter, and on any other social media profiles you are active on. Make sure to provide a link.
We didn’t put a whole lot of thought to this when we posted to social media the first time (see above tweet), but perhaps next week, we will use buffer to send out a message to alert all of our major social media platforms at one time. Maybe something like this?
Notice the use of image, hashtag, and a link to where the live video can be viewed.
2. Make an announcement OFFLINE before you go live.
Create a slide that gives simple instructions on how to check in and share the live stream with friends who aren’t there in person. Add this slide to your pre-service announcement loop in your presentation software. Make sure to give them everything they need: link, hashtag, and maybe a sample post.
Their check in might end up looking something like this:
3. Recruit “community managers” to engage with viewers in real time.
You probably already have people in your church who are familiar with Facebook. Ask someone to sit in the back with a laptop, go on their own Facebook profile, and start engaging with the live viewers during the service.
These community managers can welcome new viewers, share quotes from the sermon, provide links to online giving during the offering time, and offer additional resources in the comment section as the service progresses.
4. Develop a script for your community managers.
Draft tweets and Facebook posts in advance that can be shared at certain times during the service.
[During Offering – Announcement] “There’s no obligation to give, but if you want to support our work you can give online at clc.nyc.”
[During Sermon – Heading] “Point #1 – A Minor Prophet (Jonah 1:1) https://www.bible.com/bible/72/jon.1”
[During Point #1 – Quote] “Jonah’s attitude toward the nations was more like Israel (hateful and fearful) than it was like God’s heart for the nations (missional and merciful)”
If you put 10-12 quotes and tweets into an email to your community manager, they can just copy and paste at the appropriate times. This ensures that the messaging is consistent and that there are plenty of shareable quotes for the duration of your service.
5. Create an online “guest card” for viewers to fill out for more info.
As a part of the script that you provide to your community managers, you could create a simple form online to gather email addresses. Simply share the link towards the end of the sermon and invite people to sign up for email updates.
Optionally, you can point them to the “subscribe” button on the live Facebook video stream and Facebook will alert them to future live videos from your page.
6. Edit the final video after the service is over.
7. Follow up with people who engaged in the comment section.
With very little effort, you can have dozens (if not hundreds) of “first-time visitors” to your worship gathering. I think we had more people who engaged online than we had in person this past Sunday!
You won’t have any detailed info on your virtual guests (unless they give you an email), but you can at least follow up and reply to people who commented. Encourage your members to follow up with any of their friends who watched live and use the opportunity to invite them to church the following week.
Bottom Line: Facebook Live looks like a great tool for outreach and to keep your members engaged when they are unable to be with you in person.
Two quick words of caution: Make sure existing members don’t end up just staying home because it’s more convenient. Secondly, don’t allow Facebook Live to distract you from the real, incarnational work of ministry that you have been called to. This post took about 3 hours to write so I’m going to publish it and then not think about this topic again for the rest of the week. After all, I’ve got some real face-to-face counseling and evangelism and disciple making and studying to do. (Well, maybe I’ll check back in a couple of times and engage with you in the comments below)
What are the pros and cons of streaming church services online? Would you consider using Facebook Live at your church? Share any ideas and tips you have for using Facebook Live in your church.