A common question I often answer when working so closely with the video production teams at many churches in my profession and as a volunteer in my local church community is, "Why would I want to stream my service? Won't providing the ability to watch it online keep people from coming in person?"
It's an acceptable concern and reflects many hesitations with new media and the convenience with which it is delivered. If we look deeper into the matter, we can see that not embracing new media such as streaming could hinder leaders from not only providing new ways to integrate and communicate to their flock, but possibly holding back a way to reach new members with the word and the great commission to “go and make disciples."
As streaming continues to grow at a rapid pace, no truly comprehensive study currently provides (or could keep up with) statistics relating to attendance upon a church’s move to live streaming, but as an expert constantly working with new churches as they begin streaming, it's been reported back to me time and time again that with the adoption of live streaming, attendance holds steady to keep current members involved, and in some occasions, even increases attendance at churches. Why is this?
Streaming provides engagement.
In churches, there's generally a trend of three types of attendees: involved, dedicated members who attend each week and are the foundation of the congregation. A second group would include members who are occasionally active, but still truly valuable members of the congregation. The last group, considered the “Christmas and Easter Onlys," attend a few services each year. The great news is that live streaming equally engages all of these groups like no other medium from the church can, so even if congregants are not physically able to attend, they have an avenue to stay integrated into the church. The more integrated all members are, the more they grow into the first group of dedicated and involved members of the congregation. Live streaming can provide avenues for all members to eventually move into that foundational member of the church, which should always be the goal.
Live streaming is another way in which the church can serve its members better and provide them a valuable resource to better engage them with the body of Christ. It is always interesting when the church bumps up against new technology, whether it be electric guitars in worship, email and newsletters replacing paper bulletins, or printing scripture in multiple languages. A little hesitation, followed then by research and deciding what's best for each individual congregation, typically follows. Embracing technology to better serve our congregations should be a primary goal, and if done right, will fortify church communities, including those attendance numbers.