This post is part four of an ever-growing series on Technology and Pastoral Care. If you are just joining us, you may want to go back to the beginning.
In my last post, I wrote about how live streaming worship services can be an important part of our life of prayer and mutual support. With the world changing around us, this technology can help our mobile people and our immobile people stay connected, even when they can’t be in church.
I also mentioned that live streaming is no magic fix. Just having a live stream option may be a good idea for your church. However, if you want to leverage the platform, it can be an important piece of a larger strategy.
Live streaming has some other excellent benefits that go beyond our current members. I believe it can be a great evangelistic tool. It can also be a means of hospitality, giving potential visitors a chance to dip their toes in the water before attending in person. However, this post is focused on how live streaming can help us stay connected.
For the part of our community that is exceptionally mobile – those who go away on vacation, travel for work, visit kids and grandkids – live streaming may work just fine as a stand alone. Many of these folks will be able to reconnect with the body of the congregation upon their return. The stream allows them to be a part of worship in their absence. It isn’t the same as being there, but it is better than completely missing out on worship.
But what about the part of our community that is more immobile? When our members are away from the physical community for an extended time, or even permanently, simply watching worship isn’t likely enough to stay connected. Our ministry of prayer and mutual support with these brothers and sisters needs to extend beyond just having them watch worship on an iPad. And what do we do about those folks who don’t have the access, equipment or ability to watch the stream?
Here are some initial ideas to leverage the technology of live streaming to make it more accessible and effective. You have the opportunity to create a true live stream ministry.
1. Do some research. Take an inventory of the homebound members of the church. Most of these people will be seniors, but don’t forget to include everyone. Your church likely has members of all ages who aren’t able to attend on Sundays for various reasons. Find out how many of them watch the live stream. Find out how many view another church on television or online. While you are communicating, ask if they have access to computers or mobile devices and broadband internet. When you finish, tally it up. You will get a picture of what you will need to move forward.
2. Get some volunteers. If you want a live stream ministry, you are going to need a team of volunteers in proportion the number of people you discovered in step one. You will need some that are comfortable with technology, and some they are just comfortable with people.
3. Consider some investment. Do you have a lot of members who would like to participate in worship via live stream but don’t have access to the equipment? Think about some ways you can help with that. What that looks like depends on what you found in step one. Ideally, for every person who wants to participate, you could pay to set up broadband and buy them a MacBook Air. That might work if your church has a ton of money or a very small number of homebound folks. (Though you might be surprised how generous people might be funding a ministry like this.) Otherwise, work with what you have. You might find volunteers willing to take their iPad and sit with somebody on Sunday morning during service.
4. Be creative. ChurchStreaming.tv offers a free Roku channel with their streaming service. What if you found a group of members who all live in the same assisted living facility? See if you could set up Roku Box in the community area or in someone’s room or apartment on Sunday morning. Gather everyone together to worship via live stream as a group.
5. Have a registration form. We ask people to sign in when they worship with us in the building. Why wouldn’t we ask them to sign in online? This is a great way to stay connected to these members. Have a form where they can share their prayer concerns. Make sure these forms get processed just like the rest of the church’s attendance forms.
6. Interact with worshippers. Some live streaming platforms, like ChurchStreaming.tv, offer live chat boxes. If your service doesn’t, there are other chat option available. Dedicate someone on Sunday morning to interact. Welcome live stream worshippers and get them chatting. Ask for prayer concerns, remind them to sign in and remind them that a human is there with them. Keep your moderator connected with your pastoral care team. If someone online is in need of pastoral care, make sure it gets passed along.
7. Considering adding additional online components. If someone can’t come to worship, it likely means they can’t attend Sunday School. What if you offered an online Bible study before or after worship? Since these people are already online, you could use Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts to have some more in-depth discussion.
There is a lot more that can be done. This is really just to get you thinking. What your church does will depend on your congregation, your budget, your available volunteers and your church’s culture.
I would love to hear what your church is doing, what you are thinking of doing, or what you have experienced. Let me know in the comments.