An Exploration of the Use of Video in Ministry
Inspired by the Hamlet quote, “To be or not to be, that is the question,” to LIVE or not to LIVE, that is the question.
We are talking today about LIVE, not live—LIVE, as in the Facebook LIVE video feature, not whether to live or die. What exactly is Facebook LIVE and how do you best utilize its amazing qualities? This is what we will be exploring in this article, as well as comparing and contrasting with other video features you may want to use in your ministry.
First, I want to tell you a bit about my LIVE story. Just over a year ago, as the LIVEs were becoming popular, I was at a women’s business retreat brainstorming how we could be more visible, interacting and engaging with the social media audiences we were each attempting to reach.
We were in questions and exploration at the time about what brings us joy (as opposed to having one more thing on the to-do list that leads to burnout). I said, “I miss the live interaction with my congregation.” (I left pulpit ministry two years ago to do virtual ministry and reach out beyond the walls of a church setting).
One of the women said, “Why don’t you do LIVEs.” I didn’t know anything about it, but of course I said, “Yes!” And I started with that.
Each week, at the same time, I would jump on and speak as if I was speaking to my virtual congregation. I called these segments “Coffee Breaks for the Soul” and they were my foray into video. I had not had great success in recording videos, as I tended to freeze or over-think my message, but on LIVEs I’m free and I love it.
Facebook LIVEs are exactly that: they are live, running real-time and being broadcast to the entire world, or at least the friends who are following you. Facebook is currently favoring LIVEs, meaning in their internal algorithms, LIVEs get shot up to the top. They promote them so there is opportunity for more people to watch within the platform.
Being LIVE, there is no opportunity to rewind and redo. What you record is what goes into the field. While this might be a reason for some to skip, it is actually what draws me to it. I don’t need perfection or excellence even; recording live, I am more authentic and flowing.
YouTube, Vimeo and other video platforms are not internally promoted, so there is a greater likelihood of viewers seeing a LIVE than a pre-recorded video.
It’s fun; it’s real time and people get an opportunity to know you, to see you in action. Social media is a wonderful opportunity for relationship building, and it is imperative in having successful social medial presence, that your primary focus is on relationship.
LIVEs are the perfect way to introduce yourself, to introduce new programs happening within your ministry and to have outreach to a greater audience. If you offer Livestream, do a LIVE just prior to your service and invite people to join in. If you are doing an event—jump on a LIVE and invite people in. Check out some examples of how I personally use LIVEs.
If you have a message of the week or day, do that LIVE. If you have a page or group for your ministry, LIVEs are a great way to connect to only that specific audience.
I’ve seen some people do a LIVE recording of their Sunday talks. If you don’t do a livestream of your service, that might work just fine for you. However, be aware that the recording quality is not as high (both the audio and video), and there are advantages to using more professional recording methods for future use. Remember that LIVE is just that—in the moment, professional, sure; but not perfection. People expect the real deal or they won’t return to watch.
Why LIVE over livestream or podcast? I don’t think they should be mutually exclusive. Livestream gives you the opportunity to archive, to place the videos on a carousel on your website and other long-term advantages.
Speaking of long-term advantages, there are also advantages to doing an audio recording of your message and setting up a podcast. There are many ways to do that, which I won’t go into here. With regular podcasts you can set up an iTunes channel and get subscribers.
When I was ministering in Austin, Texas, back in 2007-10, I had a sound guy who was putting my talks on a podcast and then not doing very much with it as far as marketing or advertising them. One day I happened to go searching and discovered that we were having over 1200 listens each month! It was a wonderful outreach and was obviously impacting many more people than the ones sitting in the chairs on Sunday morning.
As with any recording, be conscious of copyright materials. If you are sharing any music, especially, be sure to have your licensing in place. Facebook LIVE does not like the use of music—they will often shut it down if they believe there is a copyright issue, so don’t bother.
Tips for Success
So the question remains—to LIVE or not to LIVE? I say do it! Just jump on and try it. Here are a few hints to make your efforts successful.
- Be conscious of your background and lighting. Try them inside and outside.
- Get experimental about it. It’s so simple. Get outside, literally out into the world and figurately get outside of your box.
- Get clear about your why. Why do you want to do a LIVE? Who do you want to reach? What is your message, overall and for each particular LIVE?
- Invite people to join you, follow you, Like your page and share the videos.
Using a Call to Action at the end of each video will help direct listeners to where you’d like them to be. Some easy options are to: Like your Facebook ministry page or group; invite them to your email list by posting a link to sign up; encourage an action specific to your video.
There is lots of noise in the social media platform so make your message count. Here are a few Don’ts that will support your success:
- Do not … do a LIVE just to do a LIVE—have a plan.
- Do not … ramble or repeat yourself.
- Do not … try it once and quit—keep a consistency in your presence and messaging.
- Do not … be afraid! Just do it!
In summary, there are many faces and way to utilize video in your ministry. Livestream and podcast are great to use for your Sunday services and for archiving purposes. Either way you can set up a channel and enroll subscribers. You can post links to each on your website and create a loyal audience.
Facebook LIVE is a wonderful tool for informal conversations, for becoming visible and for building relationships with the online world. Use LIVE for introductions, invitations and even to link over to your livestream on Sunday mornings or your recordings.