In light of the government's recommendations against holding gatherings of more than 50 people, many churches are turning to and even investing in livestream options. Though livestreaming is certainly a convenient and creative opportunity, I feel that it is worthwhile to consider the implications from every angle. Furthermore, I recognize that there are countless smaller churches currently without this capability, and they may appreciate a little more information about the topic.
Below, I wanted to outline some of my thoughts on this issue, beginning first with a few words of caution before providing a few resources should a church they wish to pursue new livestreaming capabilities.
Don't do livestreaming just because that seems to be what everybody else is doing. There’s an argument to be made that livestreaming really isn’t as effective as it’s cracked up to be, especially when it comes to ministry to the broken and lost. Whenever we livestream, we have to consider whether we are communicating the idea that church can be reduced to a video on a screen.
Don’t hastily invest into hundreds or even thousands of dollars of equipment. First, consider whether the equipment is a temporary fix or if it is something that will be used repeatedly for years to come. Another factor is this: whenever churches have to move fully online, the trend has been significant decrease of tithes and offerings. Depending on your church's situation, you may want to factor that into your budget.
Don’t do livestreaming if you think it’s your only option. Nik Goodner of CRTV Church poses a challenge to the Church at large:
"Consider your role in your community and ask yourself the question: 'How can I invest in these problems before investing in new tech?' Over the next few weeks, single and working parents will be forced to find a daycare or stay at home with their children due to school closures... People who are already struggling to get by could be forced out of work for a few days or weeks."
He then proposes an idea: To the smaller churches, consider calling a church in your community with livestream capabilities to see if they might be willing to help you broadcast from their facility. To the larger churches, consider calling a church in your community without livestream capabilities to see if they'd like to utilize your space.
Other reasons why livestreaming might be overrated.
If after careful consideration you wish to pursue livestreaming capability, you will need the proper equipment. Below, we've provided a simple list of resources and options:
(1) If you’re on a really tight budget and you’re only looking to do this temporarily, then a smartphone might just do the trick. Just set them up on tripods, connect to a streaming platform like Facebook or Youtube, and you’ll be all set.
Livestreaming Setup with Smartphones
(2) If you're looking to invest into a quality camera setup, then you'll want to purchase a camera with HD capabilities and HDMI output. But other than a camera, you'll also need to consider items like tripods, switchers, lighting, cables, software, and encoders. The resources below by no means represent an exhaustive list.
7 Camera Options Selected by Experts
Affordable Livestreaming Cameras
A Conclusive Livestreaming Package
(3) If you're not ready to go full boar, that's okay. The items listed above can really add up, and it's likely that many churches won't have that kind of budget. Keep in mind that there are always going to be cheaper options. For an even more budget friendly breakdown, you might want to search Google and YouTube. Especially in light of Coronavirus, there are countless tutorials and resources available to the public. A quick YouTube search might yield more videos like the one included below:
The Basics of Livestreaming
In the end, my hope here is simply to start a conversation. As with anything, livestreaming has its pros and cons, and I just encourage you to think through the implications before assuming that it is the answer. Again, it can certainly be helpful, and many churches have excelled in their online communities, but our call as the Body of Christ is to proclaim the Gospel. So do so in a way that best reaches your community. Be creative. Think outside the box.
God has a cool way of overcoming obstacles. As scary and unprecedented as Coronavirus might be, I'm confident that he'll turn it around for His good. Christianity has a mysterious way of attracting unbelievers through times of challenge and even tragedy. In fact, God's people have always multiplied despite threats against their existence. (One might think as ancient as Israel's bondage in Egypt or as modern as Communist China). God has done it before. He'll do it again.