I have been creating videos of my sermons for several years. Until recently that entailed setting-up a camcorder in a discrete location, downloading the file from an SD card, using some editing software, publishing it on YouTube, and posting the finished product on this blog which reposts on Twitter and Facebook. It has been a great way to stay connected when people cannot get to church. It has also helped to widen our reach to new people.
Video has been a positive addition to ministry, but its drawback has been the editing time required each week. On average these sermon videos took 3-5 five hours to produce after the worship service was over. No more. Facebook Live eliminates most of that work, and makes an immediate connection to the wider world. I believe every ministry should go live on Facebook now.
Here is why:
- Facebook “Live” can help share your story
Social media is the public square of the 21st century. There are lots of ways to utilize social media to engage people. Going live on Facebook is one of them. It is a non-awkward, non-marketing, non-confrontational way for people to check out what you do, see who you are, hear your message, and potentially start a relationship. Going live is easy evangelism. It is outsider focused, opening access to people who might otherwise never go to church in person. It is also an easy way for people looking for a church to participate before going to church in person, potentially helping them feel more comfortable if and when they do arrive. It has made my preaching better, helping me shed insider language and assumptions about what we are trying to communicate.
- Facebook “Live” is…Live!
Imagine being able to connect with the outside world in real-time. Imagine being able to do this without the need for a lot of equipment, technological know-how, or effort. Imagine getting feedback immediately. Going live on Facebook gives your organization the ability to do all these things.
Since I started going live, people have commented, “It was like I was there with you.” Video in general is great, but nothing beats going live.
- Facebook “Live” is not resource dependent
Chances are you already have the technology in your pocket. If you have access to a smart phone or a tablet with the Facebook app, you can go live. Any size ministry can do it. I use an iPhone, so I can only reflect on how that works – it is a much smoother process than using a camcorder.
- Facebook “Live” is easy to use.
Here are 10 steps to go live on Facebook:
Step 1: Consider how your live video will be staged.
What content will be included? What will be included in the frame of the shot? Will there be a tripod or will someone shoot the video freehand? How will it start / end? Who pushes the button to record and finish?
I suggest spending a little time practicing going live to answer some of these questions.
This is how I do it: I bought a cheap (less than $20) selfie-stick tripod from Amazon.com that holds my phone in a stationary place. I set the tripod up in the front row with my phone facing the spot where I am going to preach, and simply hit the “Go live” button before I go up front to speak. Some of my colleagues who use Facebook Live recruit a person to shoot the video for them.
Step 2: Close all the apps on your device.
I did not do this one week, and my phone turned off. Fortunately, I still record the whole service using my camcorder as a back-up. (The only other time I have ever had an issue was when it was raining, so considering a back-up is also a worthy idea.)
Step 4: On your profile, click on “post.”
When Facebook introduced the “go live” function it restricted it to individuals over group pages. That has now changed. I still use my profile, so I can access the content later easier if I fail to save it – more on this below.*
Step 5: Get ready to go live.
I like to “check-in” so people know I am.
Step 6: Click on “live video” (the icon of a person with a circle or halo around them).
Your device will check the internet connection. (Our WiFi connection is not very good in the sanctuary, so I turn my WiFi off and run Facebook Live off my data.)
Step 8: Press “GO LIVE.”
It will then count down 3, 2, 1, and…you are “LIVE.”
Give a great message.
Step 9: Press “Finish”
Step 10: Save?
Once you are ready to post the video, you have the option of saving it from Facebook Live to your camera roll. (To do this slide the switch over to green where it says “save video to your camera roll,” below the video then push the “done” button at the top right of the screen. The video can still be saved later; it is just a little cumbersome.*)
Facebook takes a minute to add the video as a post that others will see on your feed even after it is over. You’ve done it. Congratulations!
- Facebook “Live” is a risk worth taking.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
“Doesn’t using video just encourage people to stay home?”
In my experience video has not interfered with the ministry of the gathered congregation, but has only served to open it to a wider network of people we may not have been able to connect with as effectively without this medium.
When I was recording the sermons on my camcorder, downloading the file, editing them, producing and posting them, I was amazed at the immediate results. Besides Christmas and Easter (which always scored large numbers of views), on a week to week basis I was consistently getting anywhere from a quarter to a half more people engaging what I had prepared than were at church in person. It was an immediate hit with church people who were away on business, shut-ins (once they were shown how to access it), as well as family members and friends scattered across the country. In time the video sermons also started to connect with a new audience of people who were not connected to our area, or to the church in a consistent or meaningful way.
“Isn’t going live / using video a little self-serving?”
The focus of your video should be to communicate the message. Remember: any form of leadership has the potential to become self-serving if you let it. That is the nature of our sinful and broken humanity. We are called to share what God is doing among us. Using available tools to accomplish that task is important to communicating effectively. It will take some humility to keep this in-check, but it would be foolish to miss the opportunity.
Be an evangelist. Use the tools.
I have several pastor colleagues that do video and/or audio recordings each week. A growing number of them are going live on Facebook too. It is easy to tell if someone is using a medium for self-promotion or to carry their cause forward.
A side-benefit of this technology is that preachers can hear other preachers. Pastors also have a longing for God’s Word and one of the gifts of video is easier access to fresh content. (On a personal note I can attest to what great encouragement it has meant to me to be able to catch sermons of friends online – so thank you!)
“Does it work? Do people watch it?”
If one new person is engaged by your message, I say, “Yes, it is worth it.”
Ministry should not be solely about numbers, but numbers do tell particular stories. Some numbers (both positive and negative) are too important to ignore. While video in general was a good way to expand our connections with people, Facebook “Live” takes it to a whole new level.
Since going live each week on Facebook, we initially came close to matching in-house attendance. In the last few weeks almost twice as many people engage our message live through Facebook as they do in person. When we go live and feature our young people leading parts of the service, those videos can get five to ten times the number of views than the people who were in church that morning. In the meantime, our average worship attendance is stable and guests consistently participate in person (which is the traditional path to receive eventual new members). Connecting with people through live video is pure growth. Be sure to follow-up with the people who leave comments.
You can do this. You should. Please do. I can’t wait to watch!
* OK, let’s say you didn’t save your video to your camera roll or had a problem saving it when it posted. No problem.
This is how you can recover the video and save it later:
- Open a new tab in your browser.
- Go to https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=(This will give you an error, it is ok leave window open)
- Go into your profile and find the video in your feed.
- Click on the video.
- When it plays, right click on the video.
- Choose “show video url.”
- Right Click on the url and choose “copy.”
- Paste the url in the browser, and then copy the string of numbers at the end
- Go back to open error window from Step 2 above and paste the string after the = sign and hit enter.
- Once the video loads, scroll down, and find the menu below the video on the right panel.
- Click on “Download SD.”
- Open the file folder to save folder and press “enter” – wait for the file to download. You did it!