Reaching Out: Across Generations, in Different Styles and Technologies

Published on: December 2, 2015

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“Increased access to the Internet has transformed the way people communicate. It is nearly impossible to be in a public place for more than a few minutes without seeing someone use a smartphone to check Facebook, read an article, or send a quick text.

“Churches across the country have started to take advantage of this high-tech era by streaming their services. Observing that their community is spending more and more time on their various digital devices, savvy churches can stay relevant by meeting their members where they are: online.”

“Top 5 Reasons Your Church Should Be Live Streaming” by Box Cast, Jul 20, 2015.

 

Most ministries have considered streaming, or at least doing a video recording of, their Sunday service as a way to reach beyond their current walls. It seems like an almost free means of providing your message to the world and engaging new congregants. Beyond the technical issues involved, the bigger challenge is determining whether you should invest in a media ministry (or continue the one you have) and what to do to realize the investment you make.

A media ministry focuses on engaging people who are curious about your message and group. It seeks to make the service available to people who, because of distance or circumstance, can’t attend. When you address the needs of those groups, the ministry will engage and satisfy more than just those loyal souls who are already involved in your ministry and are willing to watch or listen to anything that is provided.

 

What a Media Ministry Can Do

  •  A media ministry—integrating livestreaming Sunday services, classes and major ministry events, website, social media—reflects a mission-focused ministry aligned with the UWM vision of “a world powerfully transformed through the growing movement of shared spiritual awakening.”
  • Your ministry truly becomes a ministry without walls, serving and engaging people far beyond your immediate community.
  • You build a relationship with a new online community as you interact with them, chat, pray with and for them.
  • Through vibrant media ministry you are in essence creating another campus for your ministry—a worldwide web campus.
  • Your media ministry, and livestreaming in particular, becomes an integral part of your ministry’s growth, as you reach people who may never, or seldom, visit your physical ministry.
  • Small Unity ministries that livestream can collaborate with other livestreaming Unity ministries to share their Sunday service, classes, website links, etc.
  • Attending Sunday and midweek celebration services, classes and ministry events online is an easy way for new people to experience your spiritual community.
  • You create another possible income stream.

 

Would You Choose to Watch Regularly?

Most people in the US and Canada have always had television programming as a part of their lives. They have ingrained expectations about how a broadcast should look and sound. No matter how good the message is, it is rejected when there is a substantial gap between what they are watching and those expectations.

Turning on a single camera, pointing it at the speaker and leaving it there for an hour does not work in a world where camera views in talk presentations change no more than every 15 to 25 seconds. Video from a single camera with an unchanging view matches the expectation for a security camera.

Viewers understand that your stream will not have the production team of Joel Osteen. To provide a video that does not get in the way of your message, it must be in alignment with the deeply-seated viewer visual expectations such as providing a clear picture with orderly view changes, and good sound. Multiple cameras, and a way to switch between them, is fundamental. Ask yourself, “If someone asked you to watch the service every week, would you?”

If you already have streaming, watch a past Sunday service and ask yourself, “Would I willingly choose to watch this every week?” and “What could I do or add to the experience to make this something I’d want to watch?”

 

Providing a Comfortable and Welcoming Online Viewing Experience

In the same way that you provide a comfortable and welcoming experience for those who come to the service, you need to provide a connection for the home attendee that achieves those ends—recognizing that the service that they are a part of comes through a computer screen and speakers.

  • Multiple views: The home attendee can’t look around the room. They depend on what is presented on the screen to do this for them. Do better than a security camera presentation by having multiple cameras and a means to switch among them. This alone will make for a much more engaging experience.
  • Sound mix: Sound that is mixed for people in the live service varies from what will come through computer speakers. The second web mix can generally be sent as an auxiliary (aux) feed from the sound board, although you’ll need a means for a second person to change that. Your sound person has one set of ears, and can only address one mix at a time.
  • Boring parts: Greeting your neighbor sessions, collection and announcements can be boring for the person at home. You can show recorded video (if you’ve invested in switching software) during those times, or end the home viewing of the service before those times. Because the home attendee experience is different, you stand a fair chance of losing your viewer when you don’t have something for them during those times.

Remembering that the home attendee experience is different, and making that as fulfilling as the experience for the person who can be there in person, will deliver congregants who come from beyond the limits of the walls.

Jeff Sandy
Jeff Sandy is the technology and media director for Unity of Chattanooga, Tenn. His career covers 30 years of content distribution, with the last 25 utilizing the Internet and social media. He is on his way to becoming a licensed teacher.
Steve Colladay
Rev Steve Colladay is the Ministry Expansion Coordinator for Unity Worldwide Ministries.

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  • bgandl

    One camera, up close, turned on just for the talk, meditation and offering–and archived rather than live streamed–works best, and I’ve tried out all of the methods mentioned in this article. Most conscious people are looking for something real and can be put off by too much tech. Multiple cameras require a level of skill which is not found in most centers. What results usually looks amateurish and distracting. Live streaming discourages live attendance. Archiving is much simpler and more effective. K.I.S.S. Keep it simple.