The COVID-19 pandemic was certainly a time that I believe we all would say we are glad is behind us. For me and for our church, it was a stressful and difficult season of ministry as we sought different ways to reach our people and remain engaged in the works of ministry that we are called to as the local church.
The beginnings of the pandemic brought about something that at first I hoped would be incredibly short lived, but now I am thankful is still something we use each week at our church – that being the ministry of livestreaming our corporate worship services.
When the pandemic began, livestreaming was simply a means to get our services to our people as they were forced to stay in their homes. We quickly realized that having our services available in this manner was allowing our ministry to reach far beyond the boundaries of our community where we had typically focused our ministry efforts.
Now don’t get me wrong, our efforts are still focused primarily on our community concerning our typical corporate worship gatherings, but having this resource available to us has opened doors that we did not see coming – doors that we are incredibly thankful the Lord opened for us.
As we began to gather in person once again in the fall of 2020, we were surprised by the number of guests we had over the first few weeks that indicated to us, one way or another, that they had first seen us by way of our livestream on our website or social media outlets.
As a leadership team, we decided to invest some financial resources into increasing the quality of our livestream. With donations from some gracious members of our church along with some general funds from the church budget, we have invested about $30,000 into these digital areas of our ministry and making it the absolute best it can be, both the audio and video realms involved with making this happen.
We have consistently seen folks visiting and, in turn, joining our church because of services being broadcast online in several locations.
We have come to see, after talking with numerous families that have joined our church, that the process for finding a church home is far different now than it was just three years ago. Instead of doing a general search for the churches in the area and proceeding to visit all of them or asking everyone they could about the churches around town, people are now watching anywhere from 2-6 weeks of services online and then deciding which churches they then want to visit. This process has drastically decreased the number of churches that someone might visit before seeking to join one, and it has also led to some folks joining our church quicker than some would typically after beginning to visit our church.
Livestream worship services are by no means a replacement for the in-person gathering of the local church to lift high the name of Jesus, but it is something that I believe our churches can benefit from in the world in which we live and minister.
If livestreaming your corporate worship services is something your church does, let me encourage you to evaluate every aspect of it. One of the worst things we can do is to publicize something that is not a true representation of our churches.
We have begun calling our website and social media outlets – the places where we stream our services – the “digital doorway to our church.” People will watch services online before ever deciding to visit your church in person. They walk through the proverbial “digital doorway” before they ever step foot through the physical doors of our churches.
If your livestream is not a close representation – and it will never be an exact representation – of what your services are like in person, it is necessary to evaluate and see where you might make improvements to better the quality of your stream. This will help to get more people through the physical doors of our churches while also serving as a resource for church members desiring to go back and re-watch a certain part of the pastor’s sermon or hear a certain song again.
Livestreaming services also means having a catalog of these services that can be used to evaluate our services in a similar manner as sports teams watching films of their prior performances. This catalog of services can also be used as marketing and advertising tools with the help of editing software and other tools.
This ministry is one that I wanted to come and go quickly when we began down this road three years ago at the beginning of the pandemic, but I am eternally grateful for how the Lord has used this certainly unplanned ministry in the way that He has. This is something that we will continue to use as an outreach ministry of our church as we truly believe it to be the “digital doorway of our church.”
Daniel Yates serves as minister of music at First Baptist Church, Alabaster (Shelby Association).