Easter 2017 marked MediaFusion’s biggest weekend ever. Five times as many viewers watched our partners’ live streamed church services this Easter over 2016.
We’re celebrating that milestone with you. We’re also asking hard questions about what accelerated digital viewing means for the church’s ministry.
Is live streaming a clear communication channel to a digital culture? Or is it a way for Christians to hide from the gritty reality of being physically present in a church?
We asked Alex Well, the Tech Director at Life House in San Antonio, for his thoughts.
“About 60-70% of our live stream viewers are active members of Life House,” Alex told us. “They’re out of town, dealing with family issues, or working over the weekend, so they choose to be part of our church family through a live stream.”
What Alex told us aligns with general trends. Christians are digitally engaged people. An estimated 74% of believers report reading the Bible electronically. That’s consistent with a global move toward receiving information through hand-held, digital communication devices. More than 72% of Americans have smart phones, and the number is edging up in countries all around the world. Thanks to digital media, the whole world is now a viable mission field for every church, regardless of size or location.
Life House reports that while 90% of its Easter live stream viewers were from Texas, some were former church members now living elsewhere. Other viewers frequently tap into the feed from Life House’s partner church in Colombia.
“Some people will live stream our first service and then show up for the second service. It’s like double church.” Alex laughed. “A lot of people who live stream regularly are current active members who need a morning to slow down, have to travel for work, or are military families.”
That’s consistent with a 2016 report in The Atlantic on church attendance trends. The biggest barrier to a believer’s church attendance? Getting there.
Logging a whopping 1,100-plus plays this Easter, Pinelake Church, a MediaFusion partner in Mississippi, made church possible for people who couldn’t get there. As they put it, “Pinelake invited Easter live stream viewers to be part of seeing our area changed one Life Change Story at a time.”
Live streaming trends are good news for churches. Today, only about 20% of Americans attend church weekly, a stunning drop from the estimated 64% who attended less than 25 years ago. In this climate, live streaming is an effective tool to keep families connected to their own local church while simultaneously engaging with formerly churched people.
“Some of our live stream viewers at Life House are new to Christianity,” Alex explained. “Some have a background in atheism, or they were burned by the church when they were younger. They want to be involved without being overwhelmed.”
Involvement is key. Could live streaming cause today’s involved families to slip from the gathered people of God into the privacy of their homes, consuming church on a computer screen?
Alex Well doesn’t think so. “Live streaming will never replace a church community. Everyone can be part of the family.”
At MediaFusion, we don’t think live streaming will replace in-house congregations, either. Instead, it will exponentially increase the ministry potential of local churches in ways we haven’t begun to imagine. Consider that a single church can easily spread the gospel to 1/3 of U.S. households through digital ministry by distributing content correctly. That’s the power of a church going digital.
Could your church use live streaming to reach digital-culture people with the gospel? Download our ebook Digital Is Biblical to learn more about how digital ministry can further your church’s mission.