More churches decide to offer online streaming options

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By Jordan Davidson | Reporter

With the rise of technology and streaming services, more churches are adapting to best serve their members and continue their ministry. One of these technologies is the implementation of online streaming of church services.

Senior Pastor Josh Vaughan of Columbus Avenue Baptist Church said that online streaming allows his church to stay in touch with members who cannot physically attend.

“It’s like a lifeline for people during a season of crisis who would not have a connection otherwise and that’s a pretty compelling reason for us to do it,” Vaughan said.

In the last 10 years, churches all around the city of Waco have implemented streaming as a part of their Sunday morning services. The hope, according to the leaders at various churches, is that these services will serve as a substitute for those who can’t make it to Sunday morning services or wouldn’t usually attend.

“There’s something very special about a gathered body of people being together,” said Highland Baptist Church’s Gathering Pastor Jared Billups. “So for us, it is really for those who just can’t be there that week that still want to stay connected,”

Whether it’s a work shift, sickness, travel, or church shyness that prevents someone from attending Sunday morning services, Owen Wible, the creative director at Antioch Community Church, said that technology such as the livestream is a useful part of church ministry.

“There’s a lot more of a need and demand to communicate from a digital platform to people,” said Wible. “People are wanting the ability to connect to one another and through the church in a digital way.”

Wible and Billups said that it is difficult to pin down exactly who is watching these services. For some churches such as Antioch Community Church, some Sundays may have up to 600 different viewing devices tuned into the online service. Despite the fact that most viewers of the stream can be tracked to local sources, Billups, Vaughan, and Wible all said that their livestreams have reached far beyond the borders of Texas and even the U.S. to some members who wish to remain with their home church.

“Part of the reason we love the ability to stream is we’ve got over 80 teams in over 40 countries around the world,” said Wible. “It allows those people to have the ability to connect to their home church in Waco.”

Despite rising numbers of online viewers, Sunday morning membership at local churches remains largely unaffected with numbers in each church actually rising. For leaders such as Wible, these statistics are comforting because it shows that the online services appears to be doing its job of connecting and bringing in people who might not have already been in the church.

“We are able to give people who are unable to attend on Sunday mornings a church community and church family with teaching and worship in way that 10 or 15 years ago may not have been possible,” said Wible.

Nashville, TN freshman Juliana Forbess, said she is skeptical of the use of streaming as a means to get connected to a church community, but sees where there are benefits.

“I don’t have anything against it, but it’s not how I was raised,” said Forbess. “But I understand where people are coming from if someone doesn’t have time to get ready or need to stay at home and get things done.”

Although Billups, Vaughan and Wible all said that the most ideal Sunday would allow for everyone to attend services in person, livestreaming has allowed each of their churches to reach a new, wider audience with livestreaming. This livestreaming, Vaughan pointed out, gives the church more traction when competing for people’s attention against other streaming networks such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

“When folks are able and looking for something to occupy their attention, then we have a place for people to find content that is good for their spirits and that can build them up,” said Pastor Vaughan.

For some churches such as Columbus Avenue Baptist, online streaming is an expansion of its television broadcasting. Pastor Vaughan believes that online streaming allows for a more mobile approach for viewers who may be on the go.

“Whether it is through television media or any of the online approaches, we want to talk about the life we find in Jesus and hope and experience that we have with that,” said Pastor Vaughan. “Online media allows us to do that on a much more expanded basis than even the television broadcast.”

Ultimately, Billups, Vaughan and Wible all said that as technology continues to improve and expand, the church will need to keep up with it in order to reach people.

“If the church doesn’t keep up with technology,” said Billups. “Then we are misinterpreting how important it is in our society.”