Stop! Don’t Record Your Church Services

Too many churches feel pressured to begin recording and live streaming their services. But is that the right option for your church? Use our checkpoint system to find out.

February 25th, 2016

Would your church benefit from video-recording its services? Live streaming and the desire to record your church services are big trends right now. And everyone seems to want in.

But the fact is that many churches should never video-record their services.

If, however, you’re still interested in recording your services, this article will take you through 3 checkpoints. And if you make it through each checkpoint, you’re one of the few churches that will benefit from filmed services. And if you don’t make it through the 3 checkpoints, don’t worry, there is an equally awesome alternative for your church.

If you’ve ever considered video-recording your church services, this is for you. Ready to start with the first checkpoint? Let’s go!

1. Price

Filming your church services will be expensive. Very. You cannot do this well with just one camera. Let me emphasize this point: You just can’t. You need a complete rig.

Of course, you could just strap a webcam to a tripod and live stream through YouTube. But if you’re in the game of sacrificing quality for cost, why not just throw a teenager on stage to preach the sermon every week? That will save money too. Just an option.

And the simplest rig will cost you anywhere between five and ten thousand dollars. That’s a lot of money.

I wanted to make sure I had my numbers right, so I contacted several other media directors and their estimates exceeded even my price point. One of them said that with just a couple of  upgrades here and there, the final price could easily be closer to one hundred thousand dollars.

Oh my.

At its absolute lowest point, $5,000 is a big chunk of money to spend.

CHECKPOINT #1
Can your church afford the price?
YES: Move to Checkpoint #2
NO: Move to Solution #2

2. Your Church Size

Contrary to what people think, there are very few large churches in North America. Let’s look at some numbers:

  • 95% of churches in The United States and Canada consist of 350 people or less1
  • The average American Congregation consists of 75 people2
  • 50% of all American churches consist of 75 people or less3
  • There are only 35 churches consisting of 10,000 people or more in America4

This data proves one thing – most churches are small. And if your church consists of less than 350 people (95% of all churches), this writer is of the opinion that you won’t have a large enough audience watching your services to justify the price – even if you do have the money to spend. And beyond the financial cost, the cost of operating the equipment each week is high too.

You’ll need at least three or four people operating the cameras and the controls, as well as someone to edit and upload the final video each week.

That means that three to five of your media volunteers will be used each week on this single task (because it’s that demanding). Keep in mind that the average person doesn’t have the skills necessary to manage the camera and editing work. Then consider this:  Do you need to train your people? Do you need to pay them?

Finally, do you have a computer powerful enough to process and edit all of this footage? Do you have enough storage space to keep the hundreds of GBs worth of video footage? Not only is the price very high, but the amount of resources needed is high as well.

And even if you have a talented team and all the right resources, it’s likely that  you don’t have an audience large enough to watch your live stream every week. Because you can’t do this for just a dozen people. You need an viable audience that makes it all worthwhile.

CHECKPOINT #2
Is your church large enough to make this happen?
YES: Move to Checkpoint #3
NO: Move to Solution #2

3. Purpose & Motivation

Why do you want to film your services?

This is the most important question you need to answer before you dive into this mammoth undertaking. If your church is large enough and you have enough money, the final question you must ask yourself is this: why do we want to do this? Is it because you want to reach people that aren’t physically able to come to church each week? Is the best way to reach those people showing them a video of what church was like? In my mind, that’s not what the church is about at all.

The Internet gives you access to your entire city and community at the press of a button. Yet thousands of churches are dedicating exuberant amounts of time & money to simply re-broadcast what’s going on inside their building to the world. Stop re-broadcasting and actually be the church online!

Here’s a thought…if you really want to broadcast your pastor’s message to the world, have him or her jump on Facebook Live or Periscope each week and preach live for 20 minutes. By doing this, your pastor can preach directly to the online audience (instead of simply rebroadcasting a message) and it will only take 20-30 minutes of the church’s overall time.

The most important question you need to answer is: why are we doing this? What’s our motivation?

CHECKPOINT #3
Does your church have the right motivation?
YES: Move to Solution #1
NO: Move to Solution #2

Solution 1. Film Other Things

If you’ve made it here to solution #1, you’ve successfully made it through each of the 3 checkpoints. You are one of the few churches that would benefit from video-recording your services. Less than 1% of churches will ever make it this far.

And that’s essentially the point of this article – 90% of churches shouldn’t film their services. But if you are in the 10%, let me say this – you have an opportunity that most of us never will! You have the resources and the audience that most churches will never have, so don’t focus them entirely on filming your services.

Instead, concentrate those resources on sharing the story of Christ through video. Instead of recording your services, create baptism videos, testimony videos, narratives, welcome videos, etc. If you do this, your resources will go much further and your efforts will have a much larger impact.

We don’t need another church filming its services, what we do need are more churches sharing the greatest story of all time through film.

Solution 2. Audio Record Instead

If you made it to solution #2 you’re almost every church on the planet. Let’s face it, most of our churches don’t have the audience or the resources to pull this off, so let’s try something else.

The Solution: Podcasting (audio recordings of your services).

Podcasting will cost you nothing because you already have the necessary resources. And podcasting only requires a single volunteer. If people miss a church service, they can listen to the podcast. If you want to share your pastor’s messages with a larger audience, you can use a podcast.

You don’t need to be a big church to podcast, because it demands very few resources. Podcasting is the perfect alternative solution for a church that wants to record its services. Here’s how to get started with audio podcasting at your church.

Conclusion

The live streaming/service recording discussion is very complex. There are many considerations to take into account (more than was covered in this short article). The problem I see is too many churches automatically assuming the live streaming and recording their services is the best course of action – it’s not. It needs to be carefully considered. Before jumping into recording and/or live streaming your services, consider the following:

  • Cost ($5,000 at least to do well)
  • Time (multiple volunteers and camera operators)
  • Small audience (unless your church is bigger than average your online viewership will be small)
  • Alternatives (try having your pastor preach through Facebook live for free; or try audio podcasting)
  • Purpose (is live streaming really the best way to reach people online?)

Just remember this: many churches won’t benefit from filming their services. And if your church won’t benefit from it, it’s not worth the mammoth undertaking and resources.

And that’s okay.

What do you think of filming your church services? Do you think it’s something your church will ever try? Let’s talk about it in the comments.