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HOUSE OF WORSHIP: BUSINESS

Livestreaming In Worship A suitable tool for ministry? By David Lee Jr., PhD Lee Communication Inc.

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ivestreaming is currently one of the most discussed topics among house of worship (HoW) leaders. The overarching question that drives the discussion is whether livestreaming is a suitable tool for ministr y. There are three primar y perspectives among worship leaders as it pertains to this fundamental question. The leaders whom we can call “early adopters” believe that livestreaming is a powerful tool for ministr y that must be embraced to accommodate people who, for various reasons, are unable physically to attend worship ser vices inside a HoW. We can refer to the second group as “late adopters,” because, although they are interested, they’re still evaluating whether they should adopt livestreaming as a tool for their ministr y. Those in the third categor y I respectfully refer to as the Luddites, because these leaders currently believe that livestreaming might cause congregants to stop physically attending HoW ser vices. Although these leaders’ perspectives differ, I believe we have an opportunity to create business with all of them. However, to create business with these leaders, I believe we should understand their underlying perceptions of, and the values they associate with, livestreaming. Therefore, let’s look at the topic of livestreaming from the perspective of worship leaders, so we can be better prepared to engage and ser ve these leaders as valuable assets of our industr y. Early adopters would say, yes, livestreaming is a suitable ministr y tool when it’s used effectively. However,

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there is a vital question that all worship leaders ask when evaluating livestreaming for ministerial use: “Will people stop coming to my HoW and opt to view the livestream at home, at Starbucks or on the beach?” Obviously, that is an important— even an existential—question. Why? Because most HoWs (if not all of them) depend on offerings or donations from congregants to keep the doors open and continue the ministr y. Thus, the valid concern—if not outright fear—that leaders have is possibly losing those offerings. There is no value in livestreaming if the offerings dr y up. The Good News is that, now, we have evidence that indicates thriving HoWs that livestream their worship ser vices continue to thrive, and their offerings continue to grow. More specifically, HoWs that are thriving are those that do the following four things: 1) effectively address spiritual needs; 2) create powerful worship experiences; 3) address human struggles; and 4) create community. For these reasons and others, people want to attend these thriving HoWs. In fact, attending ser vices at such a HoW can be the highlight of a busy week! Livestreaming, therefore, is primarily for congregants who must miss attending physically due to shift work, a vacation or a short-term illness, but who other wise attend church in person. It’s also important to understand that the livestream is valuable for people who are suffering from long-term illnesses, as well as for elderly folks who cannot physically attend, but who feel connected to their HoW. In addition, the livestream allows “seekers” to sample a HoW while they search for a congregation to meet their spiritual and social needs. The goal of these thriving HoWs is to create a livestreaming experience that approximates the physical experience. They do this by using a host of professional audio and video production equipment, including many video cameras, substantial audio gear and lighting equipment. The media team uses that gear to create a livestream that has high production values and that enables viewers to engage in a shared experience with congregants. Thus, they feel fully connected to the physical campus. Livestreaming in HoWs is relatively new. However, new evidence continues to emerge, helping us understand the impact that livestreaming can have as a tool for ministr y. I believe the evidence we have now is credible enough to use to motivate the late adopters and the Luddites—to help them embrace livestreaming as a tool for ministr y. There are a few clarifications I want to note, however. One might associate “a thriving HoW” with large churches and megachurches…and one would be correct. But there are also small and medium-sized HoWs that use livestreaming as an effective ministerial tool. One might also think that late adopters and Luddites are leading smaller HoWs…and one would again be correct. However, that is not a complete perspective. In fact, many late adopters and Luddites lead large HoWs and megachurches. I believe that, ver y soon, they, too, will recognize the value of livestreaming ser vices. In conclusion, I believe we have a lot of potential business to create with these good people. That is what I believe. Please tell me what you believe.

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