When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., many churches pivoted to livestreamed worship services, and many are likely to continue offering online options through 2020 and beyond.
That’s why quality audiovisual technology is an important consideration in the age of COVID-19, according to Keith Hibbs, director of the office of worship leadership and church music for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
“I’ve consulted with more than 500 churches in my time at the State Board of Missions,” Hibbs said in a recent SBOM Tech Talk. “I’ve seen the value of quality equipment used correctly. When congregations try to cut corners with audiovisual equipment, they almost always have to redo it the next year.”
Hibbs said churches have had to reconsider many common practices — and he views 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. “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.”
Hibbs said God has equipped churches with “willing helpers” in these days of livestreaming and videocasting as well.
Brian Harris of Dogwood Media Solutions, a media and marketing firm in Montgomery, agreed.
Churches are gifted with people willing to serve, Harris said, and churches, regardless of size and budget, can install good equipment “without breaking the bank.”
Harris advised churches to “dig in” for what has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Things are different when people worship at home,” he said. “There are many distractions, so our content must be engaging.”
Hibbs said some churches include a testimony or missions report as a way to engage the audience. And Harris noted that worship leaders could 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.
“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.”
Equipment costs can be scary, Wells said, but churches need to be honest about costs and not skimp on quality.
Churches must be aware of copyright compliance for livestreaming too, Hibbs said. For example, if Facebook or YouTube detects copyright violations on the use of prerecorded music during a livestream, they can stop the broadcast, a process called “striking.”
Doug Rogers, SBOM director of communications and technology services, said churches can use Christian Copyright Licensing International to legally use music and tracks, depending on the license agreement.
“We want to be people of integrity and follow the laws as written,” Rogers said.
Church worship leaders also must be aware of the real numbers of viewers on social media, Harris warned.
“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.”
Churches concerned about ads can pay for subscription services like Vimeo, he noted, which offers more control for users.
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