Tag Archives: Sunday

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.

The Sermon in the Oboe Solo

A modern oboe with a reed.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was one of those situations where TV just can’t capture the experience.

We try to overcome the medium’s limitations. Sometimes we succeed. Other times, we fail miserably. Mother’s Day was one of those other times.

It was a beautiful worship service. Eunice Kim’s piano prelude ushered us into the presence of the Living God. We sang and prayed. We dedicated two babies. The Church Choir and the Youth Girls Ensemble sang beautifully. Dr. Somerville preached an insightful and prophetic sermon. And 15-year-old Sarah Kyle played an oboe solo: Mendelssohn’s “On Wings of Song.”

Sarah said during rehearsal that she was having a hard time hitting one of the notes. But during the 8:30 worship service, she played it almost perfectly.

As she was standing at the side of the platform, ready to move up and play again at the 11:00 worship service, she was horrified when she looked down and saw that her reed was split. She had a spare, but not in the room. No time to change it. So she bravely took her place and started to play. Nothing came out. Just air… and an occasional squeak. The accompanist played on. And Sarah kept trying. As much as she must have been tempted to run off the stage, she stayed with it all the way to the end. She held her composure, showing maturity beyond her age.

From my vantage point in the TV control room, I could see choir members behind her silently rooting for her. Some were obviously praying for her.

When the piece ended, the congregation applauded. It was one of the few times I’ve appreciated applause during a worship service. With their applause, they were not saying, “Good job! Thank you for entertaining us.” The members of this community of faith were showing their love and support for Sarah. And perhaps they were expressing their solidarity with a fellow imperfect human being who was willing to risk embarrassment to be creative in their worship of God.

At the end of the worship service, as is his custom, our pastor, Dr. Jim Somerville, offered a charge and benediction to the congregation. He mentioned that one of our members, Millie Barnes had hit a hole-in-one at the church golf tournament the day before. And then he said, “I’m guessing there are lots of times that Millie swung her club and the ball didn’t go in the hole.  But that’s how it is with golf.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

“I was thinking about Sarah Kyle who got up to play the oboe today…  And I was thinking about how heart-breaking it must have been for her to stand there and struggle to make music when all she got was squeaks and breath.  But I also know that I was here in the 8:30 service when she played beautifully.  This is how it is with playing oboe.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  And any of you who have tried playing Mendelsohn on the oboe in front of hundreds of people know exactly what I’m talking about.

“I remember that Olympic diver Greg Louganis used to say that when he stood on the end of the diving platform, he would always say, ‘even if I blow this dive, my mother will still love me.’  It’s what made it possible for him to take risks and to try things other people were afraid to try.

“I’d love to think that this congregation would be that kind of safety net for people who are bold enough to take some risks. So that if a young woman stood up to play the oboe and she began to fall, we would catch her with our love. That she would know this is a safe place to try and fail and get up and try again.

“I’d like to think this would be the kind of congregation where everyone would feel free to take some risks. To live their life in a more open and fearless way than ever before because they knew the safety net was there. And that if they fell, somebody would be around to catch them. Maybe that could be our charge in this week. To be those kind of people, to catch the ones who fall, to pick them up, to set them on their feet again, and to tell them, ‘listen, no matter what, we will still love you.’”

I’m not sure we handled this well in the television broadcast of the worship service.

We brought Sarah into the studio after the worship service and got her to overdub the oboe part while watching the video and listening to the piano accompaniment. And that’s the version you’ll see if you watch it on TV this Sunday. We edited out Jim’s comments at the end. Someone watching the TV program wouldn’t have any idea of what really happened in the sanctuary that morning.

I’m thinking that, for the sake of a more polished TV program, we sacrificed the “teachable moment” that God had provided. Sarah’s oboe solo… the congregation’s spontaneous show of support… Jim’s using it as an illustration of what it means to be a community of faith… that was the real sermon Sunday morning.

With Sarah’s and Jim’s permission, here it is – unedited. Be sure to watch all the way to the end, to see how the congregation responds to the pastor’s comments at the end of the service.