To Stream or Not to Stream Your Church Service
As technology has developed over the years, the church has tried to keep pace. Churches in the 1920s streamed services and messages over radio broadcasts, attempting to reach a wider audience and draw new members into physical church buildings. When television became a prominent feature in many American homes, however, Christianity tapped this technology to reach the millions who tuned in to hear the message.
Now, in today’s digital age, more and more churches are streaming their church services online to assist in spreading the Good News and join the trend of instantaneous availability.
But should they?
According to Making Space for Millennials—a recent study by Barna Group and the Cornerstone Knowledge Network—Millennials (today’s 18- to 30-year-olds) are searching for authentic relationships, and 49 percent of that generation feel their personal electronic devices separate them from community with other humans.
So, should your church be streaming church services? Is it enabling your church to grow, or hurting the community of your church?
Here are a few pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to record or stream your services.
Pros to Streaming/Recording Your Church Services
1. Helps Multisite Churches Get Off the Ground
A recent survey done by The Leadership Network and Generis found that “the likelihood of video teaching increases with both attendance and number of campuses.” Multisite churches found it easier to simply stream or pre-record each message while the church was still in the early stages of development.
2. Allows Your Church to Reach More People
With all the work involved in preparing each week’s sermon, it can be exciting to know that streaming and recording a service could reach dozens, hundreds, or even thousands more people every weekend.
3. Encourages New Members to Become Involved in Church
Warren Bird, author of Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work, discussed his experience with streaming church services in a recent article published in Ministry Today. Bird gave an example of a woman who was attracted to a church in another state because she had the ability to join the “online service” and participate in a Google Hangouts small group after each service. Bird estimates that his church has between 800 and 1,500 participants that would not have been reached without the availability of online services.
Cons to Streaming/Recording Your Church Services
1. Does Not Foster a True Sense of Community
According to a recent article on Slate.com there is a growing trend of podcast church services, allowing anyone to “attend church” at anytime. But the question lingers: Without the support and accountability of friends and peers surrounding you every week, is there really a community in digital services?
Bird would argue that his online services offer a “digital community.” However, his streaming situation is somewhat unique in that virtual attendees are able to comment and interact during and after the service. Most podcasts, live-streams, and recorded messages do not offer the same opportunity for interactivity. By recording or streaming messages, some viewers may be isolated from the community that your church strives to create.
2. Does Not Require Real Dedication
By offering church services online, you’re giving your congregation an opportunity to stay home instead of go to church that week. While this seems obvious, dedication and routine can be essential tools in developing the church community and furthering God’s mission through your church. Without dedication to attending a weekly service, most members will likely have little dedication to supporting the church and its mission both financially and spiritually.
While there are many factors to consider in the “to stream or not to stream” debate, the core of the discussion should always revolve around who you are as a church. Which decision aligns with your DNA? Only then will you know whether or not streaming can help or hinder your ministry goals.