What makes a good online church experience? It’s not a simple question, especially from one denomination or practise to the next. Each church and congregation has a unique personality. But there are simple tactics that can help improve your live stream engagement and best practices for video media.

First, we want to point out that while metrics are a helpful tool for understanding live stream engagement, you can easily get bogged down by the numbers. Especially if you are seeing congregants and viewers dropping off without finishing your video.

Don’t Get Frustrated by Numbers

Consider this statistic from Brandwatch: Over one billion hours of video are viewed on YouTube alone, every single day. That is a lot of competition for attention. People view videos online in a totally different manner than they experience in-person activities. When you focus only on the numbers, you lose the big picture.

Remember: your concern is your congregation. So put your focus on ways to improve your communication and engagement. 

Connect Intentionally with Active Engagers

Your word-of-mouth advocates are the first line in community building. You see the same members attending and actively taking part in your live streams and recorded content. You know who these people are. Reach out and see how you can get them more deeply involved in your digital church. Perhaps recruit them to a role as digital moderator or host. With activated volunteers who share excitement for your online church, the online experience begins to feel more like in-person services.

Respond to Comments

Thank users for their likes and shares. When they engage with your content they are opening the door to a conversation. For instance, every time a user likes your page, you could send a personalised message: “Hi John, we noticed you liked our page. Welcome! Let us know how we can help! – Your Name”

Encourage Responses

To convert low average watch times, take a page from some of the most engaging content can help improve your average times. For instance, in your live videos actively speak to the audience, encourage reactions or questions – either verbally in the sermon or with text cards that you can include in the lower third of your video. Or introduce polls to your live content so you can react in real-time to group responses. 

Use a Call to Action

One of the fastest ways to increase engagement during your livestreams is simply to tell viewers to engage with your content. Consider including a verbal call-to-action at the beginning or end of the service. It can be as simple as “To those watching the live stream at home or listening to our podcast, please be sure to like our page and subscribe so that you can be reminded to join us again in the future.”

Actively Welcome Online Viewers

Begin each stream by introducing yourself and welcoming everyone to church online. Just as you would greet people in a physical space, it is important to do so digitally. 

Don’t assume everyone who tunes in online is a current member of your congregation, so it helps to have a 30-second intro that introduces yourself and your church to new viewers. At the same time, use your online moderator to welcome everyone in the chat as your digital handshake.

Help Attendees Connect

Provide directions for how people can engage in the Church. Show people when, where, and how to do the things in the church you usually do. Provide directions for finding links to song lyrics, sermon notes, and online giving if they are on a website landing page for your church’s Livestream. In addition, share those links in the comment thread so people can get to them right there.

Point to Helpful Resources

Share links to videos, articles, or any other resource related to the sermon topic. Your viewers don’t need to try to write down or remember what the pastor said in their sermon. All they have to do is click a link.

Offer Care Through Prayer

During the service or at a specific prayer moment, offer to pray for people. Give the link to a prayer request form and let people know you care. Most importantly, tell people their request can be anonymous. Your members should feel confident to share their praise or suffering. Let everyone know you are there with them along with the Spirit.

Have Fun!

Online church is all about engagement. And while this season of restrictions and social distancing weighs heavily on us, creating this online space should allow for some fun! And perhaps a removal of some formalities so asking questions that get people engaged and lighten up the mood can help. Here’s a few cold openings:

  • Ask people where they are watching.
  • Ask them if they are in PJs, in bed, or together in the living room.
  • Ask everyone to share their favourite coffee mug.
  • Prompt viewers to share a photo of themselves watching church.
  • Find out what song they loved today.

Help people enjoy church online in a unique way that could never happen in traditional service.