Producing a Compelling Web Stream
Why do we have video production? What’s the point of using cameras? Streaming online is expensive and less people attend in person. Why should we do it? These are the questions I received from the head of the live production team at a church that I visited. We were taking a brief tour of their building. As he talked, we stepped into the video control room. The team seemed to be just going through the motions. They had a lot of gear but were not using much of it and seemed to be doing a very basic presentation.
I asked a volunteer how they were doing and what excites them about what they do for the church. The answer was not that exciting. As a matter of fact, this particular volunteer mentioned that he would rather serve on the missions’ team or a team that gave them a better opportunity to reach the lost and witness to others. This was the problem! The team lacked vision. I knew the Senior Pastor wanted to stream the services. He had invested in it and felt like it was something they needed to do, but his approach was like a technical addition to the church.
The Senior Pastor and the head of Live Production needed to understand the vision behind web streaming. In order to be effective, they needed to set a vision. The vision for web streaming is that those cameras in your auditorium are like missionaries. What they are capturing is beaming the gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world. While many technical volunteers are very shy, the web streaming ministry gives them an opportunity to come out of their shell and belong to a group that is literally reaching the entire world for Jesus.
The great commission commands us to go into all the world and teach the gospel. Those techs are fulfilling the great commission digitally and leading people to understand, hear and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It’s not just a technical addition to your church; it’s a powerful tool to broadcast the message of Jesus Christ everywhere.
Once you have set the vision, what’s next?
First – you need to create a compelling reason for people to watch. When I say compelling, I don’t mean creating a circus or a crazy plug to get people to watch. What I mean is your broadcast needs to be done with excellence. Essentially, to the best of your ability create a broadcast that is easy to watch, flows and is professional. Don’t just setup a phone and broadcast what’s happening on the platform. If your purpose is to reach the lost or get the gospel outside the church’s walls, you will want people to want to watch. Always look at things from the consumer’s view point. What makes this easy for them?
Second – your broadcast needs to have fluidity. If you have long periods of nothing happening, experiences meant for only the room or full screen graphics that essentially hide what is happening in the room, it can cause people to tune out. This is why it’s important to be able to switch for your web stream something different than what you are switching in the room. Now you don’t have to go crazy with this and yes, I understand there is a cost, but having the ability to show the room, play an opener or closer video only for the web audience or switch to something relevant for the viewer at home can help you keep fluidity to your stream. This will not only keep viewers watching longer, but it will attract new viewers.
Third – engage with your audience. Many churches completely ignore the online audience. They will greet their campuses and the people in the room, but they don’t clearly greet the people watching online. The purpose of your service is to communicate with your audience. You need to clearly engage the online audience at least three times in a service. Statistics show that your online audience will typically not watch the entire service. They may watch 5 minutes, or they may watch 45 minutes. They also tune in at different or several times during a service. If you have the ability, use lower thirds visuals to briefly put up the name of the person talking. Pick three times during your service to welcome the online audience. This welcome may only be heard by the online audience. Meaning you may have a pre-recorded voice or a graphic that only they hear or see that welcomes them. Be creative in how you do it, but be sure that you do it.
Fourth – translate every “in building” communication to the online audience. Another mistake that churches make is they do things in the building that their online audience can’t participate in. An example would be handing out a brochure in the middle of the service. When you do this, make sure there is a website that can be talked about, where the same information can be gained. Tithes/Offerings, if you pass the plate, have a way for the online audience to participate. Try to look at everything you do through the eyes of the online audience and understand how it translates to them.
Lastly, how people look for a church is changing. They don’t visit in person anymore. They check out two or three different churches online. Yes, your “in building” experience is important but if your web stream doesn’t engage, the assumption will be that your “in building” experience is falling flat as well. You should put as much time into how your web stream will present, flow and be understood as you do for your “in building” experience. Think it through. Be strategic. Never forget that your web stream is a part of fulfilling the Digital Great Commission.