Livestreaming Services Give Churches Huge Opportunities, Experts Tell Pastors

Phil Cooke at NRB 17ORLANDO, Fla. (NRB) – Livestreaming is the natural progression of media use beyond radio and television, industry experts said Tuesday as they advised churches on livestreaming their services at Proclaim 17, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Orlando.

Phil Cooke, President of Cooke Pictures, said each year Hollywood publishes Q Scores, an algorithm of the influence of celebrities.

“In 2016, when they came out, for the first time the top six most influential celebrities in Hollywood were YouTube stars,” Cooke said during the “Streaming is Broadcasting” session of the NRB Church Media Summit.

“Out of the top 20 positions, 11 were YouTube stars, which means people that are producing programs in their parents’ basement or in the spare bedroom are now the most influential people in Hollywood,” Cooke said.

That’s a clue for what churches should be doing, Cooke said, adding that he spoke at a pastors’ conference in Oklahoma City a few months ago and met a man who preaches to 700 people live in his church but 10,000 people watch him on livestream each week.

“To not investigate and look at the possibilities of livestreaming, I think, is just a huge, huge mistake no matter what size church you happen to be,” Cooke said.

Philip Gauthier, Director of Account Management at Haivision, said traditional broadcast over television is one-way communication.

“You’re sending out a broadcast over airwaves and you have to post in the lower third either a website address or an email or phone for them to call, and then that’s the way you hope you communicate with them,” Gauthier said. “The beauty of the internet is it provides a two-way dialogue instantaneously.”

For example, chat rooms can open after the sermon and allow people a space to communicate about what they just heard. Or if the pastor asks how many people in the audience are married, online viewers can click immediately to answer.

When he partners with a church to discuss technology, Gauthier said he advises them to view the launch of a livestream as they would the launch of another brick and mortar campus. The livestream must have devoted resources, and some larger churches are hiring online campus pastors, he said.

“You do things in a multisite campus atmosphere,” Cooke said, “that you wouldn’t do if you were just throwing your signal out there for everybody in the world. We’ll do things [on livestream] like during praise and worship have the pastor walk off to the side, look at a camera and say, ‘Hey, I’m Pastor Phil Cooke. I’m thrilled you’re here this morning. In a few minutes, I’m going to be preaching on your hope in Jesus, and we’re thrilled you’re a part of the congregation.’ Make them feel like they’re a part of that service.”

Nothing is more boring, Cooke said, than watching a church take up an offering on livestream. He advises rolling a video telling the livestream audience how they can give online, maybe by tapping a button on the screen at that time.

Gauthier emphasized that the online service “grows the brick and mortar church every single time.” The two fastest-growing churches in the country right now started with a heavy digital presence and attracted people through an online experience, he said.

“It’s beautiful to see people get engaged in a brick and mortar church through the online experience,” Gauthier said. “You get a church in a densely populated urban city. They’re not allowed to go knock on condo doors in a 40-story high-rise. They can’t get past security. But you can reach them through the Internet.”

Cooke advised churches against just throwing up a livestream of their service without the proper launch.

“I have people who will go live with their livestream and say, ‘Well, only 17 people watched.’ That’s because you’re not promoting it. If you were launching a multisite campus, you would promote it. You would create a launch team. You would put in a marketing plan. You would help get the word out,” Cooke said.

Among additional pointers Cooke and Gauthier offered:

  • Choose an online campus pastor who is a digital native and part marketing strategist, not someone who has to figure out how the medium works.
  • Don’t forget to “mic the congregation” when livestreaming so that the online audience can hear how those in the building worship and how they react to the pastor.
  • Make sure the church has appropriate internet service to export streaming files so that viewers don’t grow frustrated waiting for the content to load.
  • Encourage the congregation to participate in social media so that the experience in the church building makes its way to Facebook and other platforms where it can attract participants online.

By Erin Roach

Published: March 2, 2017

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