A couple of years ago, the people of Killearn United Methodist Church in Tallahassee, Florida, evaluated their media ministry. They were recording the sermons and making CDs, but realized that they might be able to do more than share the audio of the sermons. Even though people could catch up on the message if they were away, they missed the third-grade Bible presentations, the announcements and all the other non-sermon portions of the service.
After plans were made to produce video recordings of Killearn's services, the media ministry team didn't stop planning. The Rev. Erick Ashley, associate pastor, says, "After we made the decision to record video of the whole service, streaming was the next logical step."
He credits Clay Courson, director of technology ministries, and Stephanie Kubiak, Courson's predecessor, with implementing the plans for the streaming. Fully supporting the plans for streaming were the Rev. Mike Fordham, senior pastor, and the Rev. Dennis Lewis, Killearn's other associate pastor.
The producers had three goals for the streaming:
- It had to be good quality.
- The setup had to be simple enough for any of the media volunteers to run.
- The production had to be done on a shoestring budget.
To begin, the church purchased a streaming device and a four-channel video switcher. They repurposed a 10-year-old video camera. With that simple setup, the media team began streaming the entire services online.
The services are streamed via the Killearn Church's website, www.kumconline.org.
"We get feedback almost every week during the worship service from people watching remotely," Ashley says. That feedback tells a story of ministry that reaches far beyond the walls of their church.
One couple told them that the stream let them worship during a car breakdown while on vacation. After calling their emergency roadside service, they realized it was time for church. They pulled out their smartphone, logged onto Killearn's website and watched the entire service on the side of the road while waiting for the tow truck.
On Christmas Eve in 2015, the team received an incredibly touching response from a woman who was spending the night in the hospital with her elderly mother and was unable to attend church. However, she was able to worship via the video stream and connected to her church family even though she wasn't able to be in the sanctuary.
Because the equipment is there and so simple to use, the people at Killearn Church have taken to streaming special services like holiday services – and even funerals, when requested.
During Easter last year, they used some innovative thinking to use the stream to help with the crowding in the sanctuary during worship. "We asked congregation members to give up their Easter seat to a guest in the main service and watch the live stream in the Fellowship Hall," Ashley said.
Whether you want to help people stay connected while they are away or give yourself breathing room during heavily attended Easter or Christmas Eve services, streaming video can be a powerful ministry.
The Rev. Jeremy Steele is Next Generation minister at Christ United Methodist Church, Mobile, Alabama. He is also an author, blogger at jeremywords.com and a frequent contributor to MyCom, an e-newsletter published by United Methodist Communications. Originally published March-April 2016.
Download free GC2016 app
The redesigned 2016 General Conference app is now available. A helpful way to stay connected and to learn more about all aspects of General Conference, the app already features news, photos and social media feeds and video and audio archives. During the May 10-20 event in Portland, Oregon, it will offer petition tracking and live streaming of worship services and plenary sessions. The app is free to download. Search for "United Methodist General Conference" in the iTunes or Google Play store.