Tag Archives: Bible

How to do a live webcast

A portion of FBC's Vimeo channel.
A portion of FBC’s Vimeo channel.

Video on the web is the hottest thing in media today. According to YouTube’s own accounting,

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 4 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube
  • 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Live video streaming is becoming more accessible with the introduction of new technologies, devices and hosts.

At Richmond’s First Baptist Church, we’ve been doing a live stream of our Sunday morning worship services for years. In October 2011 we started a live, interactive Sunday school webcast. We call it the WebClass Bible Study.feature-webclass3

Since we appear to be on the “bleeding edge” with this concept, I’ve been getting a lot of calls about why and how we do it.

Why do we do it?

Three of the reasons people show up at a church building on Sunday morning are to worship God, study the Bible, and connect with other people. For those who can’t show up in person, the webcast of the worship service gives them a way to participate from another location. The WebClass provides a way for them to participate in a Bible study. And, in a limited way, it provides a way to interact with the teacher and other class members.

It is a way to push out the walls of the physical building and make these church activities accessible to more people… some of whom will never set foot in any church building.

How do we do it?

If you want technical details, go here.

webworship-banner-bigWe have a page on our website with a video window and related materials for each week’s worship service and Bible study. When the webcast is “live” a big banner appears on our website home page, directing users to the webcast page.

We try to make the webcast easily accessible. There’s no registration required. Users just go to the page and click on the play button.

Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 2.16.47 PMOn the web page, there are two tabs: one for the worship service and another for the Bible study.

On the worship tab, there’s a copy of the Sunday bulletin, a place for comments, and, of course, a link for anyone who wants to make an online offering or contribution.

Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 2.17.06 PMOn the WebClass tab, there are resources for the current week’s study, a bio of the current teacher, and a link to previous classes.

We archive all of the sessions and resource material so if you miss a week, you can go back and catch up. And let’s say you have a small group in your home and you’re looking for a unit of study on, say, 1 Thessalonians. You could go to our archives and find an excellent unit of six sessions led by Bible scholar Dr. Mike Harton.Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 2.21.36 PM

The WebClass is a coordinated effort by the Ministry of Christian Formation, led by Steve Booth, and the Ministry of Communication, led by me. Steve takes care of the content. I take care of the technology.

The two curriculum resources we use are found at FaithElement.com and NurturingFaith.net. Contact Steve for more details about the curriculum.

Early each week, the teacher publishes the study material. We post that material on the website for anyone who wants to do some advance preparation.

Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 2.32.44 PMWhen the WebClass is live, there’s a place on the web page to enter a comment or question. The comments go to an email inbox, which one of our crew members monitors during the class. She displays the message on a monitor and one of the onsite class members reads it aloud. That usually prompts responses from the teacher and other onsite and online participants.

The teacher uses an iPad for visual support. Sometimes it is a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation with a class outline. Other times it is a photograph, illustration or map. Using the iPad, the teacher may draw on the map or make notes as participants make comments. Everything on the iPad displays on a big TV monitor in the classroom.

Often, the teacher will use video clips to illustrate a point. Those clips are displayed on the video monitor, too.

feature-webclass1There are two cameras in the classroom. One focuses primarily on the teacher and the monitor. The other captures the onsite participants.

The director selects the appropriate camera, the video clip, or the iPad using a video switcher.

The audio technician controls the lapel microphone for the teacher and the overhead shotgun microphones, which pick up the comments from onsite participants.

Who participates?

A core group of 8-10 folks make up the onsite class.

There are several members of our congregation who travel several months a year. On Sundays, they are able to connect via the webcast and get a little taste of home from the road.

On a recent Sunday, one of the regular online participants who lives near Richmond asked about another regular participant who lives in southwest Virginia. She hadn’t heard any comments from him in recent weeks. She wondered if he was OK. Think about it. They’ve never met, and neither of them has ever set foot in the church building. The only connection they have is by hearing each other’s comments and questions during the WebClass. But a sense of community has developed over the months. So the handful of people in the classroom and the couple of dozen online participants feel connected to each other.

Not long after we started the WebClass Bible Study, we heard from a lady in Oklahoma who was hospitalized, awaiting an organ transplant. She participated in the WebClass via her iPad from her hospital bed every Sunday morning. It was the only way she could participate in worship and Bible study. I’m sad to say that she died earlier this year. And all the WebClass participants, both onsite and online, grieved with her family.

We’re finding the live webcast an effective way to remove the walls of the church and let folks participate wherever or whatever their location or situation.

Here’s an article by Steve Booth in First Things First on how the WebClass provides a “safe place for people to ask honest questions about a biblical text.”

Here’s an article about the WebClass by Robert Dilday of The Religious Herald.

Read all the technical details about the webcast.

Let us entertain and inspire

I finally got around to watching that Christian movie that’s been sitting next to my chair for the last three months. I knew I needed to watch it. Everybody at church who’s seen it says it is great.

“Have you seen it?” they’d ask

“Well, not yet,” I’d confess.

I felt guilty. But I was dreading the two hours I’d have to spend with it. I knew what was coming. The protagonist will cry when he reaches the bottom of his arc. Somebody will preach at me. And somebody will accept Jesus or make a commitment to live a better Christian life. That’s the “Christian Film Formula.”

Cover of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

To be honest, I’d rather spend time with one of my favorites: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

But I “needed” to see that movie, so I loaded it up and settled in for the tears, the sermon and the altar call. The movie did not disappoint.

It was well-made. Great lighting, camera work, editing, and music. I laughed. I cried. I was inspired.

I’m a Christian. As a member of the choir, I was effectively preached-to. And the makers of the film claim “thousands coming to Christ as a result” of their movie.

There’s a market for these films. Sony and Fox have each set up distribution divisions for Christian and Family Movies. There are more than half-dozen web sites that specialize in the distribution of Christian and Family DVDs.

But I wonder how deep the market penetration is among folks who are not part of the religious establishment.

It seems to me there’s a niche waiting to be filled: really good movies that entertain and inspire, and will appeal to people outside the Christian cocoon… movies that tell great stories with a voice that’s neither preachy nor condescending.

Let’s face it: our culture is less churchy than it was for our parents and grandparents. Much of society yawns at our well-intentioned efforts to “reach” them with the Gospel. But we really do have some good news to share. So how do we do it?

Obviously, the best way to preach the Gospel is to live an authentic Christ-like life. Do the things that Jesus did. What’s the old saying? “Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.”

Sometimes, words are helpful, too. But what words? And how to speak them?

My younger son and I were walking around Greenville, South Carolina’s downtown area on a recent Friday evening. We came upon a young man, standing on a box, preaching judgment and condemnation from a Bible he waved in our faces. Is that the way to communicate the love, joy and hope offered by God through Jesus? I don’t know. And I surely don’t want to judge the young man, who must have been doing what he believed to be God’s will. After all, there’s plenty of precedent for that approach in the Bible.

But really… must we take ourselves so seriously? Can’t we lighten up a bit? We have some great stories to tell. Let’s have some fun telling them. We can even poke a little fun at ourselves… Lord knows there’s plenty to laugh at.

Remember how Jesus started his Sermon on the Mount? It wasn’t, “Repent or you’re going to hell!” It was, “Blessed are you…”

Our little writing and production group is passionate about breaking out of the “Christian Film” mold to produce something that entertains and inspires those beyond the typical audience for such movies.

It won’t come across as the typical, sanitized, well-scrubbed Sunday school tale. In fact, it might be perceived as a little irreverent. We’re not trying to, but we’ll probably offend some of our religious friends. But who knows? Maybe a few Christians will be entertained and inspired, too.

I think that’s what happened when Jesus first told the story of the Prodigal Son.