the shape of leadership

Perspectives: Video Teaching in a Multisite Model

The pros and cons of high-tech sermon delivery

Influence Magazine on July 26, 2017

A growing number of churches employ video as a means of teaching. Sixty percent of new churches last year were parent affiliated, meaning they had some connection with an established church. Many times that connection is maintained by broadcasting the established church’s weekend sermons to satellite campuses. The percentage of churches using video continues to increase as the costs of production and streaming decrease.

But just like with any technology, there are challenges and concerns. If you’re considering planting a parent affiliated church, this may be the first decision you have to make. Will you use video as a teaching method, or empower the parent affiliated church pastor as the lead communicator? Often, experience is the only way to know what is right or wrong for your congregation.

In this Perspectives, we offer two contrasting opinions on the topic. One perspective looks at the ways a video campus is actually helpful in advancing the mission and vision of the central church, while also allowing each staff member of the video campus to be used in the best possible way. While another perspective looks at some inherent flaws in the video campus system. We hope that seeing the two issues side by side will help you navigate the question in your own setting.

Multisite Video Teaching: Pro

If you are expanding your own church’s ministry footprint by launching multiple campuses, you must consider video teaching. Video teaching promotes consistency and competency across all your campuses and staff.

Employing a video teaching model means that the message is consistent week in and week out. Any members or attendees who have left the home church to plant a satellite campus are accustomed to a certain level of preaching from the lead pastor. By offering a video venue, you continue to replicate that model for them. They get exactly what they expect.

But even more than setting expectations, multisite video teaching allows you to continue to drive a consistent mission. It’s very easy for each campus to start to develop its own identity, and that’s good. But individualism should never sacrifice the overarching vision of the organization. Video teaching allows the central team to drive the single vision of the whole church week after week.

A consistent message also unifies your campuses into one church. One reason parent affiliated churches are so successful is the connection they feel with the home church. If every member of the church, no matter which venue they attend, is receiving the same message each week, it only strengthens the connection between all attenders.

Often, experience is the only way to know what is right or wrong for your congregation.

A video teaching model also promotes competency. When launching a multisite venture, you need a leader who can oversee multiple ministries and interact with people regularly. By providing video teaching, you release the campus pastor to focus on what he or she does best in their level of highest competency without the demand of communicating a compelling sermon each week.

A campus pastor who doesn’t preach is still a pastor. He or she will be overseeing staff, engaging with families, and making sure visitors are connected each week. They are also the first line of care to their campuses, performing weddings and funerals, and making hospital visitations. Without the demands of sermon prep, they are free to be as competent as they can be in their roles.

Meanwhile, video teaching allows a church’s lead pastor to be the best communicator he or she can be. They are laser-focused each week on providing the best message to as many people, confident that each campus’ core needs are being met by competent support staff. Video-driven churches have the opportunity to be some of the strongest churches because they focus on excellence, putting the right people in the right roles at the right time.

Multisite Video Teaching: Con

Recent figures show that 65 percent of young people attending church would rather hear a message in person than watch that same message on a video screen. Anyone watching a video message can just as easily stay home or connect to Wi-Fi while on vacation or out of town. While a video venue may provide a convenience for some, it creates the perception that a person doesn’t have to be in church to be part of the community.

Another great reason to choose live teaching or preaching over video messages is the technological challenges involved. In order to launch a video venue, there is generally a huge up-front cost. Thousands of dollars are dedicated to the latest video displays, high-definition monitors, receivers, and satellite and internet connections for broadcasting the sermon.

And a church that is dependent on a sermon being sent from a separate site is bound to run into technological problems from time to time. How can you guarantee the quality of the feed throughout the message? How many times will the feed lock up or go down altogether? What happens if you have a video feed but no audio? What do you do if the hardware fails or needs repair during the service? And if you lose power, a live preacher can continue preaching, but a video can’t keep playing.

But the biggest concern in the use of video teaching is the role of the senior pastor. It is customary for a churchgoer to consider the lead communicator their personal minister. Each week they glean the Word of God from him or her. The spiritual insights they get shouldn’t end on Sunday morning once the video feed ends.

Who will churchgoers contact if they have serious questions about the message or want prayer for a specific topic brought up? By relying on video teaching, you eliminate one of the main functions of the senior pastor: to care for each member of his or her flock.

Many consider video teaching the wave of the future. But does the past have more to teach us still? Before we move on from tradition into a different era, we should step back and take a hard look at the role of the shepherd. While culture promises to connect, but leaves us isolated, church should be a place where everyone feels like they belong.

This article originally appeared in the June/July 2017 edition of Influence magazine.

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