Livestreaming worship services using Facebook Live is becoming more common among United Methodist churches — but Facebook Live doesn’t just belong in the sanctuary.
“Facebook presents an amazing opportunity for churches to reach out to the mission field. What is possible is only limited by a church’s imagination,” said Will Rice, director of communications and media support at the Rio Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. “What if churches were to share more of what the church is all about? We have an opportunity to not only stay more connected with our members but also to connect to new people in different ways.”
There are many ways to utilize Facebook Live beyond the worship service, all of which can help people learn about your church and its ministries. What stories do you need to share? What information would be helpful to your online congregation?
“When Facebook launched its live feed option, we immediately began to take advantage of it,” said Josh Bush, director of communications at Covenant United Methodist Church in Dothan, Ala. “Instead of [Facebook] being an announcement forum where we post dates and times of upcoming events, we are now able to bring church to you — wherever you are! Our world is relying on technology more with each generation, and we will continue to use and improve our [social media] strategy to reach people for the Kingdom.”
Facebook allows you to post an announcement about your upcoming livestream to help build your audience.
- Go to your church’s Facebook page
- Click Publishing Tools
- In the sidebar, click Videos
- Click +Live, then next
- Type the post as you want it displayed when you go live
- On bottom right-hand corner, click the arrow down and click Schedule Live
- Select your scheduled start time and date and read the other directions and helpful information on this screen
- Upload a custom image if you’d like - the default is your church’s profile photo
- Click schedule
Here are four ideas to consider as you expand your livestream ministry:
1. Reach out to virtual visitors
Tech savvy seekers go online to learn about a church before they visit. Facebook Live can help people get to know your church and learn what to expect if they attend a service. Think about introducing your church staff, giving a quick tour of the church building or showcasing the children’s ministry and nursery spaces so that people will feel comfortable dropping off their kids before the worship service.
When planning a mission event, think about livestreaming as an opportunity to share the story of what your church is doing in the community. Is the congregation holding a clothing drive, packing meals for hungry families or completing home repairs for people in need? Using Facebook Live to talk about these efforts helps people see and understand the missions that your church cares about so they can get to know you better. An invitation to participate in mission work is a great way to welcome a new person into your church.
2. Inspire your congregation
Busy schedules are a challenging part of mid-week ministry, but Facebook Live offers a chance to reach out to your congregation with faith-building messages and words of encouragement. Ask your pastor to offer a short message of the week relating to a sermon series, a particular Bible passage or a current event.
Messages such as these can also be helpful during times of inclement weather that may keep people at home on a Sunday morning. A staff person or pastor can offer a time of worship and prayer to reach people wherever they may be.
If a weekly message isn’t the right fit for your congregation, consider hosting a time of Bible study or peaceful Scripture reading and prayer, asking viewers to share their thoughts on the passage as well as prayer requests. Congregants can interact with each other by commenting on the video, building an online community of prayer and support.
The Rev. Laura Fine Ledford, pastor of All Saints’ United Methodist Church near Raleigh, N.C., hosts weekly morning prayers on the church’s Facebook page. She said, “One translation of John 1 says, ‘the Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.’ We believe that Jesus took up residence where the people are and the people are on social media. While this platform doesn't replace gathering in person, it is a means of grace, allowing us to extend the liturgy into the week.”
3. Promote events and fundraisers
Build some interest before your upcoming sermon series, vacation Bible school, trunk or treat, festival or Easter egg hunt through live promotions. Recruit an event organizer to talk about the event, show off giveaway items that participants will receive, discuss any information that will be helpful or offer some behind the scenes details — “Did you know it takes 3 hours to stuff 1,000 Easter eggs? Come and find them!”
The same concept applies to fundraisers. As you prepare for the event, whether it be a luncheon, auction, yard sale or chili cook-off, allow people to see the volunteers and the work they are doing to make the event a success. Also, spend some time discussing the specific ministry or fund that will benefit from the fundraiser.
Keep these promotions light-hearted and meaningful. You want people to have a desire to attend and support the event to not only enjoy themselves but to also see how their participation can make a difference in your church’s mission work. On the day of the event, ask an event organizer to join you for a livestream to discuss an overview of the effort and share key moments.
4. Encourage questions
Often, people in your pews have questions about your church but they are not sure whom they should ask. Schedule a time for your pastor or other church leader to offer a question and answer session on Facebook Live. You can encourage people to ask general questions about the church or spend the time focusing on a specific topic, such as membership, a certain ministry area or an upcoming mission event. Be sure to promote the opportunity so that you have plenty of viewers ready to ask their questions.
No matter what your subject matter, promote your livestream via social media posts, email news and in the bulletin so that your congregation will know to watch — and don’t forget to ask them to share the live video with their friends to help build a wider audience. Your viewership may start small, but persistence, regular reminders and relevant video content will help your audience remember to tune in, and grow with you, online.
“I believe smaller congregations might have the most to gain from Facebook Live. Video is an incredibly powerful medium, and it has been out of reach for smaller churches. Even small rural churches can find someone with a smartphone to help them get their message out,” said Rice.