Gearing Up for a Digital Easter
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A few weeks ago, streaming wasn’t necessarily a part of your church’s regular operations. Now we’re all video streaming and trying to find solutions before the Easter season.
The why, where, and how of video streaming
The why, where, and how of video streaming are its first principles. The “why” is pretty evident: to connect with our people. The “where” and “how” are the biggest areas leaders and churches are trying to figure out right now. We’re all asking, where is the best the best place to host our online experiences and how do we go about shaping our services? Each platform has their own unique value, and all have run into problems over the last couple of weeks. Thinking about how effective you want to be in where you’re putting your content is important.
There are a few different tiers of platform types to consider when deciding where to host your content:
- Social media platforms (Facebook, etc.) // These are often free and a good place to get the word out. The downsides are that they can often be distracting, you might run into potential copyright issues, and engagement time is marked at 5 to 10 minutes on average.
- Video specific platforms (YouTube or Vimeo) // These platforms retain the audience for an average of 20 to 30 minutes. The downside is there are other videos vying for people’s attention.
- Directly hosting or embedding players on the church website or using a streaming platform // The engagement time for these hosting areas is upwards of 30 to 40 minutes. Streaming platforms like Church Online offer a higher level of interaction and engagement.
There will inevitably be some differences in how we are approaching our services for Easter this year. When we gather in an actual space, your people are participating and experiencing in all senses so it makes sense to do a 60 to 75 minute service. When it comes to watching a service online, adjustments of time need to be made and your usual format might need to be condensed. The rules have changed and as leaders we should be doing everything we can to bring a level of intimacy across a screen into the homes of our people.
Along with a variety of streaming services comes a variety of costs. You can go as low as free when using platforms like Facebook Live, but it’s not recommended that this is your primary (and definitely not your only) source for your people to be able to participate in your services. Streaming services, on the other hand, combine the benefits of quality and reliability with interactive features and the ability to disperse content across multiple platforms. Some streaming services/platforms include:
- Church Online (free platform)
- Box Cast
- Stream Monkey
Using our available resources
If church leaders get to the point where we are restricted in our access to equipment and resources, your phone can still be a great tool for getting your video content out to your people. Consider the following tips for using this pocket resource to its greatest potential:
- Lock your phone down at a great, eye level angle with a tripod or similar device
- Remember to use lighting and angles to get the best shot
- Wire the mics up locally to your speaker and get a good close up sound (a Rode lapel speaker is great for this!)
- Think carefully about how your background and lighting will affect the video quality
One step above using a phone would be to leverage the resources you currently still have access to at your church or otherwise. If you have a good room, then use the resources that are familiar to you to make it sound good. We’re not going to become studio engineers overnight, but we should take the time to use the resources available to us to ensure a quality delivery of our video productions.
Making the environment familiar
Another thing to consider is that there is a level of ensuring comfort for your teaching pastor or music teams as they develop the content for your Easter services. We are used to speaking to or playing music to rooms full of people; now most of these usual teaching environments are empty. We’ve lost that element of familiarity in some ways, so we need to be thinking about how we can maintain a familiar environment for our pastors and teams.
We could also consider moving towards scaling down. Don’t shy away from leaning into the living room experience this year. There is something engaging about saying, “Hey, come into my living room and let’s have this experience together.” There’s something about the familiarity of seeing the people we normally see onstage come down to a personal level and enter our spaces.
Question and Answer
What should we be thinking about on the music side of out digital experiences?
There’s a wide variety on the music side of what happens for church online. Some of this is pre-recorded; sometimes it’s just a guy and a guitar. From a music production side, don’t lean towards changing everything all at once (unless you have to or you’re intentionally trying to change everything for some reason). If all of your technical gear, musicians, and instruments are in place, then use that. Think about how to make it sound natural for the eventual delivery to your church if you are pre-recording worship sets. Think about your delivery systems. The balance between music and speech in the room can be very different to how it will translate downstream when it comes to the video delivery. Make that user experience more balanced. We don’t want people to have to constantly ride the volume up or down to adjust between different segments of your service.
Alternatively, unplugged services can be great! That kind of change, when it’s responding to the contextual changes that are around us, can be a great way to connect with our people. Making our content resemble an expanded living room feels appropriate and can draw the viewer in. Some churches are even putting the guitar chord charts in a corner of the screen so people can play along at home.
What is the reason that you would not see Facebook Live as a primary platform?
Sometimes there are copyright issues with music or having lyrics on the screen. If you’re unlucky, Facebook will pull you content down and they have the right to pull it down based on copyright laws. The engagement length is also dampened by all the other distractions on Facebook or social media platforms. It’s also important to think about the motivation of the platform you’re using; Facebook’s primary interest is keeping people on the site but not necessarily keeping them focused on you.
Is the best practice to offer a multiplicity of streams on a variety of platforms rather than using just one platform?
You’ll get a different viewer based on the platform. If you’re just trying to market, then social media might good idea for the shares, etc. On other platforms, that is not the case. The Church Online platform is great because of its interactive nature. Attendees aren’t just going to watch; they’re actually participating. On the Church Online platform, you can have chatrooms, you can have hosts having conversations with people as if it’s a virtual campus, you can have separate side rooms for prayer. The platform is robustly built for interaction and engagement.
Easter is often a time for unique services. Besides making our digital services look and sound great, do you have any other ideas about how to engage our people during our Easter services and drive engagement?
Use words to drive the sense of community in this time of being separate. Drive activity, get your people up out of their chairs, add in an at-home communion experience. If your church is on the larger side, instead of pushing towards large services, maybe have your people register for smaller services in a Zoom experience. Have your people send a picture of their families taking part in the services, and then be fast in posting those on your websites or social media accounts. We know everyone’s in the chat box so ask your people to respond in the chat. Consider doing free digital giveaways to add some interactive elements, such as providing coloring sheets for kids, sharing chapters of the pastor’s book as a PDF, or launching a special video series. Just drive the sense of community.
Resources and Links
Church Communications Facebook group
Loopback // Cable-free audio routing for Mac
Katsura Shareware ProLevel 2.0 // Digital audio software tool
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