Tips, strategies to help churches stream online, remain connected
Many churches across Tennessee are streaming services for the first time. What have they learned in their first two weeks of streaming? Here are the top 10 lessons they shared.
- Give eye-contact and close-ups. You’re speaking to your congregation through the camera. “Just as you’d make eye contact with your congregation during a sermon,” Josh Simmons suggests, “try your best to look at the camera.” Also remember that close camera angles translate better on computers, cell phones, and tablets. “Bring the camera closer or zoom in,” said Simmons. “Don’t show an empty sanctuary and stage. Keep the camera at a ‘close up’ shot.”
- Interact. Mike Waddey said “the best thing” he did for his livestream was assign a member of his ministry team to interact with the folks attending online. John Gardner offered some great suggestions in this regard: “Ask your people to comment where they are watching, and with how many. Not only does that allow you to track how you are engaging your flock, but it also makes your stream more visible to others … (and) helps create a sense of community.”
- Provide lyrics. If you want your folks to participate from home, provide lyrics. Tech savvy folks can offer lyrics directly on the stream. Others can provide a PDF for their congregations via e-mail or social media.
- Condense. Most won’t tune in to a 70-minute online service. Be succinct and impactful. “People are not sitting in our quiet sanctuaries,” Waddey reminded. “They are at home with kids running around, dinner on the stove, and with other distractions.”
- Mix sound for online listening. Your congregation is online, so mix your audio for them, not the sanctuary. The, “best case scenario” according to Kaleb Bales, “is mixing on studio monitors completely isolated from live sounds (in a different room).” Using headphones is another good option and likely more practical for most of our churches.
- Have a “Plan B.” What if your internet fails? What if Facebook Live freezes? Have a back-up plan (perhaps pre-recorded) just in case.
- Practice! Streaming is new to many of us. To become good at it, we must practice, practice, practice. John Gardner “had four rehearsals and still had things creep up.” “Because I knew I would be preaching and giving eye contact to a camera,” Scott Shepherd admitted, “I practiced preaching to a spot on the wall. Was it awkward? Absolutely! But, on Sunday morning, I was more comfortable preaching to the camera.”
- Turn up the lights! Ensure leaders are well lit. Here’s a simple rule: if the light behind you is brighter than the light in front of you, you have a problem. Plus, the darker your lighting, the more the camera has to work to capture your image, thus making the image grainier.
- Pre-record. Churches that pre-recorded their services mentioned increased quality, dependability, and flexibility over livestreaming.
- Livestream. Those who livestreamed described increased interaction and a heightened sense of community — as well as some internet problems, Facebook crashes, and other disruptions. Chris Headley (First Baptist Church, Dandridge) recommended using a dedicated, high quality streaming service, such as www.livestream.com.