Church audiovisual technology, an important consideration in the age of COVID-19, was the focus of a recent “Tech Talk” hosted by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
Keith Hibbs, director of the office of worship leadership and church music for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said churches have had to reconsider many common practices — and he sees that as a positive.
“We’ve been forced to evaluate our worship practices, and this is good since we can get stuck in our routines,” Hibbs said. “And I think we’ve become more creative in our worship, too. We’ve learned some new techniques in media, and I think we’ve developed more gratitude for the ‘routine’ ministries we used to enjoy. The human touch is important to the church.”
Hibbs was one of three presenters in the video conference held June 30. Doug Rogers of the SBOM Office of Communications & Technology Services served as moderator.
Hibbs said God has equipped our churches with willing helpers in these days of livestreaming and videocasting.
Value of quality equipment
“I’ve consulted with more than 500 churches in my time at the State Board of Missions,” he said. “I’ve seen the value of quality equipment used correctly. When congregations try to cut corners with audiovisual equipment, they almost always have to re-do it the next year. They end up spending more money and may generate conflict, too.”
Brian Harris of Dogwood Media Solutions, a media and marketing firm in Montgomery, agreed that churches are gifted with people willing to serve, and that they can install good equipment “without breaking the bank.”
Harris advised churches to “dig in” for “the new normal,” since we’re unsure how the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis will play out. He further advised church worship leaders to remember that things are different when people worship at home — what he called “the church on the couch.”
“There are many distractions at home,” he said. “The kids need attention, or people get involved with their phones while watching and get sidelined. Our content must be engaging.”
Hibbs said some churches prerecord a message from the pastor to be inserted into the broadcast or a testimony or missions report as one way to engage the audience. Harris suggested worship leaders can ask for a response from viewers, such as a comment or even a picture of their family at worship.
Nick Wells, also of Dogwood Media Solutions, said audio is most often misunderstood in broadcasting.
Audio is critical
“The video can be a little unclear and not be too distracting, but if people can’t hear, we’ll lose them,” he said. “We recommend someone monitor Facebook if that’s the broadcast venue, to be sure the quality is good. There is a difference between ‘house’ sound and broadcast sound.”
Wells agreed that equipment costs can be scary, but churches need to be honest about costs and not skimp on quality.
Harris said church worship leaders must also be aware of the real numbers of viewers.
“Facebook counts a three-second view as a participant, so the person included in their report might not have viewed but a short time,” he said. “And we must remember we’re a user and the venue is a product, so we have no control over the ads they place.”
An audience member questioned whether Facebook or YouTube might censor religious broadcasts in the future. Panelists said this was an unknown. Venues such as Vimeo have paid subscriptions and offer more control for users who don’t want ads.
In response to another question about copyrights, Hibbs said the term now used is “striking” when Facebook or YouTube find copyright violations on the use of prerecorded music, for example, and stop the broadcast. Rogers said that many churches use CCLI for lyric projection and printing, but CVLI is another product that protects when using movies or video clips.
Know the law
“We want to be people of integrity and follow the laws as written,” he said.
Harris said the Dogwood website has a number of resources for worship leaders. The website is dogwoodmediasolutions.com. Hibbs said Southern Baptist leaders have published resourcingworship.com with additional resources as well.
Both Rogers and Hibbs can be reached at 800-264-1225.