Faith may be timeless, but religious ideas and symbols are communicated using technology that changes. One of the fastest-growing uses of live streaming video is found in churches and other religious institutions. Choosing to broadcast live video lets people attend services virtually who can’t make it in the flesh.
This blog covers the benefits of live streaming church services. It examines the type of audience you might attract as well. It then covers ways to increase that viewership on a recurring basis for your broadcasts.
- Benefits for Live Streaming Church Services
- Who Is Likely To Watch?
- Increasing Awareness
- Content and Production Quality
- Social Media Promotion
Benefits for Live Streaming Church Services
Before diving into how to increase viewership, let’s first touch on the benefits of broadcasting church services in the first place. The most immediate benefit is that live streaming your service allows you to reach a much larger congregation (potentially) than if your audience is confined to those physically in the building.
Live streaming can be used to broadcast regular services or special events such as weddings, holiday pageants, confirmations, and baptisms.
Live streaming video of religious events faces the same challenge as other streaming video: how to build an audience. Religious live streaming, however, is somewhat different from other video in the makeup of the likely audience, and the best approach to building an audience may be somewhat different for that reason.
Who Is Likely To Watch?
With many videos, the audience is mostly one of strangers discovering the producer for the first time. With church videos, that’s less true. The viewers are likely to already be church members or their families, or members of churches in the same denomination. (The same is true for non-Christian religious video, of course.)
For that reason, the best way to increase the size of your audience is to increase viewership from your church audience itself. The best way to do that is to make sure that all members of the congregation are aware of the existence of streaming video services and where and when they can be viewed.
People of faith benefiting from streaming video can include:
- Older people who have trouble making it to services every week.
- Those recovering from illness or injury.
- People with contagious diseases who shouldn’t attend services even if they can.
- People who are out of town for business or vacation and want to stay connected.
- Young people away from home for college.
- Missionaries, social workers, and others who are away from the home town for reasons of work or faith.
- Anyone else who, for whatever reason, can’t attend services in person.
At the same time, you don’t want to neglect ways to increase your audience from outside the church. That’s mostly accomplished by attention to the quality of the video content itself. I’ll come back to that momentarily.
The more easily your congregation can tune in to your live streaming video, the more of them will do so. Every barrier placed in the way of viewing results in loss of audience, so you want to remove those barriers. Here are some tips for making sure your congregation can find your video easily at the right time.
- Move the live video player embedding code to the front page of the church web site when it’s time to begin the broadcast. It may not make sense to keep it there (announcements or lessons of the day may be a better fit most of the time), but having it prominently displayed and easy to find when broadcasting can make it easier for your congregation to find it.
- Display a countdown timer. If the service is to be conducted and streamed live at 5 pm on Sunday, a countdown timer tells people when to tune in.
- Keep an email list and update it with frequent announcements. Include links to the church website and the streaming video page.
- Make sure the page is friendly to multiple devices, so that your congregation can watch the video on computers, tablets, or smart phones.
Content and Production Quality
It may seem strange to some that a religious service needs to be treated like a television show. That’s always been true in essence, though, even before television existed. The messenger is often as important as the message. A preacher who is visually appealing, with a strong voice and a charismatic manner, attracts an audience better than one who lacks these qualities.
In the age of video and the Internet, that’s even more true than ever. The production quality of your video needs to be high. Using a paid platform to broadcast your video avoids commercial ads that would be at odds with a spiritual message. Reviewing the recorded video of services can help you to improve future efforts.
At the same time, it’s important not to succumb to the lure of novelty or of sensationalism. It’s quite possible to attract an outside audience with tactics that would alienate existing members of the congregation. That would be self-defeating.
The best message is one that you sincerely believe. It should call your congregation to their best efforts and provoke self-awareness in faith. That message should be presented with the best professionalism you can bring to your video.
Social Media Promotion
As with any live streaming video event, promoting a religious video is best done as part of an ongoing social media conversation. People of faith represent a strong presence in social media. To promote your streaming video, become a part of that presence and participate in the conversation. Most of what you say online should not be promoting your videos, or for that matter your church at all.
Over time, members of the community will come to know you and recognize you as one of them. This makes them more likely to pay attention when you do mention events like your streaming video.
In more ways than one, we live in a new world. That’s at least as true of matters of faith as it is about commercial activities or other secular subjects for video.
By Elise Lagarde.