By Rev. Fred C. Baum
About three years ago, Vista Church began Live Streaming its worship service. The worship services are not only Live Streamed but are recorded and stored on its web site so that people can come and join us in the worship of God any time of the week.
This ministry started as a way to keep our homebound members and shut-ins more directly engaged with the church. It has also been very effective in keeping our winter visitors engaged as they return to their homes during the summer months. Many former members who have moved away keep in touch with us this way. We have regular attendees across the United States. We have a couple that joins us regularly from Switzerland and now have a missionary who joins us from Morocco in Africa. Truly it is a worldwide ministry/mission that began only with our members in mind. Often people in hospitals, care facilities, and rehab facilities have joined us.
Our local church consists of people from all across the nation and world. When someone goes home to Jesus, we offer to live stream the memorial service. The live stream has allowed those who could not be present because of flight costs, work, or health reasons to join in the service. It truly has blessed so many people.
To provide this service, we purchased a Roku channel on Boxcast. We have people joining us through all these types of devices and many different software programs. Our software at the Church tells us where people are watching us from all around the world. We get a printout of locations as well as a map pinning site locations. We have had people watch us in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico, Costa Rica, Morocco, Switzerland, etc. The program also tells us the duration of the session watched, time of day, and day of the week. It is incredible in terms of the information given.
Our system mirrors the one used at Gold Canyon UMC. It is about 50k of equipment that we purchased for under 25K (thanks to eBay). We have four cameras with capacity for more. The question many have is, does it “pay for itself?” The answer is yes. Most of the worshippers who join us are members and friends who support the church through their pledges. I estimate that Vista Church Online represents 12K to 30K of income for our church.
Now, we have a very sophisticated and expensive system that took a rocket scientist to put together (thank you Bill), but some churches do it with simply a cell phone camera and Facebook. You don’t have to be as elaborate as we do it. We have reached our level of capability to not only minister to our members and friends but to reach out to the communities north of us to set up Satellite fellowships, which we are doing now in San Manuel. (Thank you, New Faith Communities, for your grant and support.)
Our biggest challenges getting set up were:
- The recruiting and training of volunteers (though now we have a super group working together)
- Sound balance that has taken us about 18 months to get a handle on
- Our remote location has a tremendous challenge in getting a proper internet connection to make this all work.
If you are interested in setting up a similar program at your church, we have produced a binder of material that lists all the equipment we use, how it is tied together and what each device does. Just ask, and we will give you a copy.
The equipment coordinates slideshows on our screens during worship, with the four cameras, the sound both in the house and on the Live Stream (we have two separate soundboards), and the video going out Live Stream. Currently, it takes four people running the boards and cameras to make it work, but we have found we can do it in a pinch with two.
Our next adventure is going to be setting up live hosts to interact with our viewers on Sunday mornings for fellowship, attendance, prayer requests, etc. We also realize we can rebroadcast our service at different times with hosts presents to make the experience “live.”
If you would like to see how it works, you can view our previous services on our website at https://www.vistaumc.org/.