Current Livestreaming Protocols at St Hilary’s
Some church members have made enquiries about livestreaming, supposing that we no longer livestream our Sunday services. This is not the case. We have changed platforms for our English services and these can always be located via the same link which can be provided to current Church members by the Church Office. This link is also included in the Weekly News each week. A sample of recent services can also be viewed at our YouTube page which can be accessed here: youtube.com/sthils. Our Mandarin services are all livestreamed via our YouTube page.
Why the Change?
In the past year, we observed a shift in the dynamics surrounding livestreaming. Throughout the lockdowns in 2020-21, we experienced a substantial number of individuals livestreaming, with additional viewers accessing the services at a later time. However, as we transitioned back to in-person services and introduced a hybrid format, livestreaming numbers dwindled to an average below 20 viewers each week. Again, some individuals still chose to watch the service later at their convenience.
Another consideration is the 'audience.' When delivering a sermon, preachers typically contemplate and pray for the people physically present – understanding their identities and needs. At St. Hilary’s, certain preachers opt to share personal stories and anecdotes. However, these same preachers often exercise increased caution or restraint when aware of being broadcasted. Similarly, ministry activities with children on Sundays were approached more conservatively. In essence, the presence of this 'unseen audience' unintentionally curtailed creativity, innovation, and expressive freedom.
A further consideration was on the personnel required each week. While the needs were slightly different at each campus. Typically at Kew we had had a vision-mixing person an audio mixing person and a third person to monitor the chat. These roles are in addition to a sound technician and ProPresenter operator. Filling these rosters were a regular challenge.
In response to these considerations, one of our team members participated in professional development to delve into relevant issues. This prompted extensive discussions among the staff, a parish-wide survey, and an examination of practices in Churches worldwide. The gathered data revealed that, post-pandemic, Churches aspiring to establish a purposeful online ministry needed to undergo a significant expansion. Successful examples involved appointing a 'Digital Pastor' who regarded the online community as a distinct congregation, providing pastoral leadership and care similar to an 'in-person Pastor' with their local congregation.
Upon prayerful reflection and considering the expressed needs alongside the practical limitations of effectively managing various responsibilities, we concluded that pursuing this direction was not the suitable course for the pastoral ministry of St. Hilary’s.
The alternative approach was to ‘scale down,’ to determine what the specific needs were and are and to determine how we can best address them within our current context and skill-base. The survey yielded three distinct groups for which we devised three respective solutions:
Group 1: Prospective Churchgoers
People visit your church before they visit the Church. We will ensure that at least once a quarter we update the pinned livestream recording on our YouTube page so that visitors can get a feel for what a typical Sunday service looks like. On these occasions we engage all our most experienced tech people to obtain the best result possible.
Group 2: Current Church members who ae absent due to infirmity or distance
A weekly English service is offered on the Church Online platform. The link is available to regular members of St Hilary’s only and members are encouraged to identify themselves by setting up a username for the platform. A team of volunteer online pastors are available for commentary, prayer support and engagement. The link is accessible via the Weekly News or by request of the Church admin team: firstname.lastname@example.org. These services can only be watched live and are not available for watching at a later time. Those online experience the service ‘as if they were present in person’ if they cannot make the scheduled time, then they can engage in another way.
Group 3: Sermon Only Listeners
A number of survey respondents indicated that they enjoyed returning to the livestream to re-hear the sermon (as opposed to the whole service) in preparation for their Connect Group or times of personal devotion. A high proportion of these respondents said that they would be happy or even prefer being able to access the sermon via podcast. We have since revamped and reinitiated the St Hilary’s weekly podcast which is available via our Website, as well as Spotify and Apple Podcast. Additionally, we feature video content via socials each week which can be found @sthils. Typically we have three teaching series available to podcast at any one time.