Most churches I encounter don’t think much about video conferencing. Some younger pastors are frequent users of Skype, Google Hangouts, and Facetime. Pastors of all generations are using these more and more. Many church members use these platforms frequently either for work or to keep in touch with kids and grandkids. But rarely do churches think about video conferencing in terms of ministry.
On the surface, it may not seem that video conferencing would be an essential part of a church communications strategy. When most of us think of video conferencing, we think of corporate boardrooms. But here are three reasons video conferencing should matter to your church.
Video Conferencing Can Save Money and Travel Time
There is nothing quite like the power of meeting together face to face. However, getting together can be expensive both in the time and money it takes to travel. It is not unusual for a church member to travel an hour or more to church. This is true in rural churches where the membership is spread out over hundreds of miles. It is true in urban churches where the majority of the church no longer lives nearby. It is true in suburban churches where traffic and suburban sprawl increase travel times.
When a committee, planning team, or even Bible study meets any other time but Sunday, it can mean hundreds of miles driven and many hours spent in cars. Sometimes teams need to get together for a quick meeting, and members spend more time in the car then they do in the meeting. Occasionally opting for a video conference can save hundreds of miles, hours of time, and the significant costs of gasoline and mileage.
Video Conferencing Can Bring More People to the Table
With the situations mentioned above, there are many people who just opt out of anything that requires another trip to the church. An hour commute may mean that some of the most gifted members of the church decide not to participate in the life of the church beyond Sunday. Or, their attendance at important meetings and events is limited. If they were able to attend remotely, they might be willing to serve or participate.
How about people who travel for work during the week? They might have the time in the evening but find themselves a thousand miles away.
Financial and family implications may come into play here as well. Can a single mom afford to hire a sitter to drive to a meeting? Or, if you provide childcare, is it really practical to haul her kids to the church, especially on a school night? What about the cost of the commute itself? For some, keeping a car running and full of gas is a struggle. Might someone opt out of a commitment due to finances? What if they could join a meeting from home?
Video Conferencing Can Include Those Usually Left Out
The church strives to be inclusive, but we often miss the boat when it comes to those with mobility issues. These mobility issues are not always obvious. I have spoken to people who have trouble driving at night or can’t drive at all. Others might be able to easily navigate into the sanctuary but find more trouble with meeting rooms. And what about people who have no problem getting a ride on Sunday morning but have fewer options for a Tuesday evening meeting?
It no longer costs a fortune to get started with video conferencing. I have seen churches bring someone into a meeting by using an iPad and Facetime.
If you are looking for a more permanent or flexible system, check out my post “Video Conferencing on the Cheap.”