How does a very small rural Church in Northwest Missouri have a reach that stretches across our nation and even to India and China? I am the part-time Pastor of First Christian Church of Maysville, MO. We are a very small county seat congregation, averaging around 15-20 people each Sunday in attendance; however, this week, we have had about 120 people joining with our worship so far, and that number is still growing. How do we do that? Facebook Live.
Over the last year or so, I’ve come to realize that many people, especially younger people, simply are not going to come visit our Church on their own. We live in the age of the internet, and it has become the go-to source of information and first contact for a large percentage of people – especially younger generations. I was skeptical, at best, of the idea of “Doing Church” online. After all, one major part of Church is fellowship, which admittedly lacks in online Church; however, it opens a door to fellowship in the future that otherwise may never open. And, besides, live streaming our service? Certainly beyond our budget, right?
Wrong! As a techie, (I have spent most of my 37 years in the ministry as a music/technology minister) I was totally in the dark when it came to live streaming. The last time I looked into it was several years ago, and the cost was huge. Now, though, hardly a day passes that I don’t see a friend on Facebook, “Live.” So I reached out to a few and found out just how easy it is. And so, one Sunday, we just did it, to try. All I needed was my iPhone (Android phones are OK too), an internet plan with enough data (about 8 GB per month), and a way to hold the phone.
For the first Sunday, the “trying it out”, I grabbed a fast food large drink plastic cup, turned it upside down, cut a notch about 1½ “deep, put my phone in it, and set it on our DVD player in the second row. Then I launched my Facebook, started a post, clicked on video, then “Live Video”, switched to the rear camera, and had my projection person hit the “start” after our contemporary music (due to copyright issues). Up front cost - $0. We had a board meeting right after that service and we decided to continue it and purchase a tripod. That week, I bought an inexpensive tripod and another small tripod with a smartphone mount, put the mount on the larger tripod, and we’re set up. The total cost of that was about $70.
The next step is to get the membership on board and get them to “share” the video each week, which dramatically increases your “views”. We have family members of mine and others in our Church who live in other states, from Minnesota to Texas, joining us live every Sunday morning - going to Church “with us” even though they are hundreds of miles away. I have friends on the east coast and Indiana who join us either live or later during the week. And, because I run a computer and cell phone repair business, I am Facebook friends with sales people and owners of parts suppliers and distributors in places like India, China, and Saudi Arabia. I have received messages from some in India and China that they have viewed our video and enjoyed it! Our next step is that we just started a Tithe.ly account, where viewers can participate in the offering as well.
If your congregation is thinking about doing this and you need to talk about it or ask technical questions, reach out to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Pastor Paul Cockram for this story and photos.