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Many churches started live streaming their worship services when they were forced to stop meeting in person during the COVID pandemic. Fortunately, the vast majority of churches are once again gathering together in person. But now, one of the questions being discussed in many churches these days is…

Should we stop live streaming our worship services?

Recently, I was having a conversation with a church leader who told me (and I’m paraphrasing here): "We’re trying to figure out when to stop live streaming. We still have people staying home and watching from their couch. We want to stop live streaming soon so those people come back to church."

This is the perspective of a lot of pastors and church leaders. I believe it is based on several assumptions:

  1. It’s better for people to gather for worship in person than online.
  2. Some people are choosing to stay home and watch services instead of gather in person because it’s so convenient.
  3. If we eliminate the online option, people will come back and worship in person.

Generally speaking, I agree...

It is better for people to gather for worship in person than online, but people continue participate in online worship services for more reasons than just laziness or convenience. Some of these reasons include:

  • Illness
  • Quarantine due to a recent exposure to COVID
  • Shut-in or disabled
  • Out of town
  • Non-members interested in visiting the church

Before live streaming, these people were often neglected. Now, we have the opportunity to continue to help these people connect with God and the church.  That seems like a good thing to me.

There’s a fourth assumption I think some people are making that I didn’t mention earlier.

  1. We have to force people to come back to church, because if we don’t they will choose the easy, convenient online option.

I believe this is a false assumption based on two problems…

First, if we think we have to force people to come to church, we are likely overlooking the power of the Holy Spirit draw people into a close community of believers.

Second, there are certain aspects of gathering for worship that really can’t be experienced online including the handshakes, the hugs, the personal conversations with close friends, and communion.  Some churches also incorporate bible study or discussion. Others give people the opportunity to share prayer requests or testimonies of what God is doing.

I’m a part of a small church that emphasizes community and participation in gatherings. When people watch a gathering online, they inherently know they are missing out on many of the richest, most meaningful aspects of the gathering.

We frequently get comments on our Facebook Live stream from people saying, “I miss you guys so much!”  “Can’t wait to get back and worship with you in person!”

This is why we have no plans to stop live streaming.

It’s kind of like when you Zoom or FaceTime a close friend or family member. You never hear people say, “Well, now that we can Zoom, I really don’t care if we get together over the holidays.” No! Those video calls just whet our appetite and make us long to see the people we love in person even more.

So, if you’re thinking about ending your live streaming, I challenge you to think and pray about this:

How can we enhance our church gatherings in ways that emphasize community and participation so when people view a service online, they long to be there in person?

About the Author

Paul Steinbrueck (along with his brother Mark) founded OurChurch.Com in 1996. As CEO, he leads strategic planning, manages projects, blogs, and directs OCC’s communications. As CTO, Paul oversees software development and technical operations. Paul is married and has three young children. He serves in his church as an elder and small group Bible study leader. He also enjoys playing soccer, hiking, geocaching, and rooting on the Tampa Bay Bucs, Rays, and Lightning. You can connect with Paul on TwitterLinkedIn, and his blog, LiveIntentionally.org.