It seems in the rapid shift that COVID-19 caused for churches; every single church in America is now live streaming. If your church wasn't live streaming before this crisis, you either scrambled to finally get it done or panicked as you've now been forced with a very steep learning curve.
If no one has told you yet, we will. Your church has permission NOT to live stream. Really. It may not even be the best way to care for your church and community during this season.
Here Are a Few Things To Consider…
First, there is a very, very strong chance your church (and most you see online) is out of compliance.
There are stringent copyright laws on broadcasting worship services, even online. This covers any lyrics displayed, any videos streamed, and any music played (performed or recorded).
And before you take the attitude of "how the heck are they going to know?", know this: Both Facebook and YouTube have advanced algorithms that seek out copyrighted content. If found, your stream will be subject to either ads you cannot control, or blackouts in your video (that you will not know about until after the stream is done).
If you're still interested in live streaming, you can get the appropriate licenses and do it legally. Here's some information about licensing and common places churches may find themselves out of compliance.
Consider Whether Livestreaming Your Service Represents Your Church Culture or Loses It
In a season where we are further disconnected, taking on a culture and process of "doing church" that feels nothing like our church actually furthers the feeling of isolation and disconnection. Consider steps your church can take to connect and reduce the sense of isolation.
This may look like small groups or Sunday School classes gathering on a Google Hangout or Zoom call during the week. This may be smaller groups of people gathering (at very appropriate social distances) in an outdoor space. Grab some camping chairs, sit in the church parking lot 10-20 feet apart, and have a cup of coffee together.
We heard about First Brethren (North Georgetown, OH) gathering in their parking lot this past Sunday. Those who arrived parked about 20 feet apart from one another, stood at the hood of their car, sang a few songs, and prayed. It's different, but we can find ways to gather and stop the spread of disease.
Can You PreRecord Content Rather Than Streaming?
Radial Church (N. Canton, OH) is currently offering "mini-sermons." These are pre-recorded, uploaded just as audio with a graphic (no live video), and shared through social media, etc. It removes the pressure to a) get a team of church folks together to stream and potentially expose each other, and b) learn how to live stream. Here's their most recent one:
Does It Involve the Whole Family, and Form (Disciple) Our People?
Reality is, we all believe that proximity = better discipleship. How can we model gatherings that effectively mold us into the likeness of Christ in this season? We love what Goshen First Brethren (Goshen, IN) is doing right now.
First, Pastor Cory Smith has prepared a "Home Worship Mailing" (that your church can use as a template as well!) for each of their church members. It's a flow of worship that you can do right in the comfort of your own home. Learning how to worship as a family unit may feel weird in this season, but it can have a profound influence on your family and their faith. Don't like the Home Worship Mailing? Consider using a resource like The Book of Common Prayer, which is a daily liturgy. It includes prayers, devotions, scripture, and singing for every day of the year. You can even do it together via video or phone calls.
Next, Cory is modeling this via live stream on Sundays rather than merely trying to reproduce their Sunday worship service via live stream. And we're here for it. We love this!
What is your church doing to disciple and care for your people in this season?
How about publishing useful information to Brethren Churches that *do* want to at least investigate 'live stream'. Most likely these would be driven by the current COVID-19 crises?
In other words, when a church wants to investigate the possibility of starting their own streaming, their technical folks want to talk with others who've already done it.
Why send them elsewhere to get the information?
Surely a list of live stream contacts for USA Brethren churches already involved, could be made up and published for the others.
Jim - we have resources available in this prior article: https://www.brethrenchurch.org/articles-stories/how-your-church-can-ada…;
Feel free to reach out any Brethren Churches you like or contact our office directly: 419-289-1708 for direct assistance on this matter.