This year brought rapid change for churches. When physical doors closed, churches got creative as they swung open the digital doors to reach people where they were—on the phones, tablets, TVs, and computers they use daily. We’ve even heard stories like that of a teen who accepted Christ because of a church’s gospel presentation on TikTok.
Who would have thought . . .
We have more means to share the Word than ever before, and live streaming is one of them.
When you live stream church services, it can feel like you’re preaching to a camera. But what are you really doing? Reaching people, like those who
- Want to be in church but can’t
- Won’t go to church because they’ve been scarred, or they’re scared
- Are searching for a good church—or for hope
In the past, many pastors saw live streaming church services as optional—not a must-have, but something that might be nice. But it’s now become clear that live streaming is an essential part of twenty-first-century ministry.
Why? In part, because it helps your church do these three timeless ministry imperatives:
1. Reach new people
Live streaming gives even the most reluctant or introverted a way to peek inside, see what you’re about, and hear the truth. It helps everyone feel welcome in your service, including those who’ve never been to church or haven’t been in years.
And there’s another aspect: church live streaming gives your members an excellent opportunity to invite others. Sharing a service on social media or sending a link just takes a second, and friends who’ve “visited” online can be more open to visiting in person.
There’s the opposite possibility, too—friends who won’t visit in person can be more open to visiting online. One pastor has seen that possibility become reality. He says, “My friends from the gym don’t ever come to church with me, but I ran past one of them, and he said, ‘I’ve been watching all your services online’—that is amazing.”1
2. Keep mission top of mind
When you see the same faces week after week, it’s easy to start thinking that everyone in attendance knows the Lord. But opening the church’s digital doors to people everywhere helps bring evangelism to the forefront.
So when we started live streaming our services, we became very aware very quickly that people would drive by a church if they don’t go to church, they have a preconceived idea about what church is. Where I live, it was extraordinarily negative. They had this very specific caricature of the worst possible version of a Christian.
But then when all of a sudden you show them your worship service, all of a sudden people are watching it cause one of their friends shared the service or whatever, they find themselves weeping during the worship time. . . .
And I meet people all the time and they’re like, “So I started watching your services online. I really like your talk. I started crying during the music. Is that normal?” Like they have all these questions simply because we allowed them a view into our family.2
3. Encourage discipleship and interaction
When your live streaming provider allows for live chat, people can ask questions like, “What’s the difference between grumbling and grieving?” or “Will you be having vacation Bible school this summer?”
As a result:
- People who know the answer can jump into the conversation, contributing to a sense of community
- The pastor and staff can answer, avoiding an influx of Monday-morning emails
- Everyone who had the same question can see the answer
The chat provides an opportunity for viewers to minister to each other, too. As part of your live stream church service, you can ask for prayer requests or the names of people viewers are praying for. Then take a few moments to pause for prayer and allow people to pray together and offer support.
And there’s a third opportunity for interaction. Even if this is the first service of yours viewers have ever watched, they can give with the click of a button, without having to navigate a website or be there when the offering plate gets passed. (Though we don’t recommend asking first-time visitors to give, of course.)
Live streaming helps you embrace every opportunity to reach people and share the gospel—by bringing the good news to the screens people look at every day.
- June 4 2020 edition, https://www.economist.com/britain/2020/06/04/online-services-swell-the-church-of-englands-congregations, accessed 15 June 2020.
- Morgan Lee, 25 March 2020, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/march-web-only/livestream-digital-church-service-covid-19-coronavirus.html, accessed 15 June 2020.