If you are using video to deliver messages in your multisite strategy as our church does, you have three options. We’ve used all three over the last four and a half years of our multisite journey. Let me tell you our story and the advantages and disadvantages of each of these three methods.
Of course there are different ways to do multisite. Some churches don’t use video at all, but have the same message outlines used by live speakers at their various campuses. Our church uses video technology most Sundays to deliver the messages, but once a month the campus pastors give the message themselves, working from a common outline that they personalize to themselves and their campus.
We started our multisite journey using the one-week delay method. We would record the sermon at all three weekend services of our original campus and then pick the best one, edit it, burn it to DVD, and use it the following Sunday at the services of our new campuses. This worked well for us and we did things this way for three years.
- The new campuses got the best of the three weekend messages.
- There was ample time for the video to be edited well.
- The campus pastors had more peace of mind. They could view the message ahead of time and prepare the other elements of the service to flow with it.
- It was hard to eliminate all time references. If a speaker said something like, “This Tuesday is Valentine’s Day.” Or made a reference to a timely tragedy or big sporting event in the news, it didn’t sound at all appropriate a week later.
- We had to juggle things around holidays. (You can’t give the Christmas or Easter message a week late!)
- It complicated things like programs and small group helps for our communication team and support staff.
- If someone happened to go to the original campus one week and a new campus the next week, they would hear the same message. This didn’t happen a lot because our four new campuses are all at least 30 miles (50 kilometers) from our original campus. But particularly for our closest new campus this was problematic.
After using “One-Week Delay” for quite some time, we switched to “One-Day Delay.” What I mean by that is that we started using the Saturday message at the original campus as the Sunday morning messages at the new campuses. This meant that the Saturday evening message had to be edited quickly. We then would upload it to Google Drive and the new campuses would download it for use in their Sunday morning messages. We used this method for about one year.
- This brought all campuses into sync in terms of message coordination, simplifying programs and other communication pieces.
- Time reference problems were largely eliminated.
- Our Saturday evening messages were often not the best of our three weekend messages. They were the practice sermon, that often got improved between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. So people were hearing good messages but not our optimal ones. (But, hey, this is what the Saturday night crowd got every week!)
- Editing of the messages could not be done as well or thoughtfully because of time constraints.
- As much as they tried, speakers seemed to often say “this evening” at one or several points in the message, and this just doesn’t sound right on Sunday morning.
- Uploading and downloading huge files from Google Drive takes a long time, especially if you are recording in high def, and required late nights from the tech team or campus pastor at each new campus.
One month ago we switched to what might be called “One-Minute Delay.” Basically, we are simulcasting. But you cannot easily start the message at precisely the same time everywhere. That would require incredible synchronization. So we are basically doing something like a Tivo or DVR system where the new campuses begin their messages a minute or so after the original campus.
In this system, the “practice” message no longer takes place at our Saturday evening service. It is preached Tuesday morning by the speaker to our preaching team and campus pastors. They then give suggestions and the message is improved, often significantly, before the weekend services.
Using some pretty expensive technology the weekend messages are then streamed to our newer campuses and we have also started an online campus, which will be launched in a bigger way soon. (Feel free to tune in at 11am Central Time on Sundays at live.thevineyardchurch.us, if you aren’t busy then. 😀 )
- Though using recorded messages has worked well for us, there seems to be more engagement by both the speaker and audience when things are simulcast.
- There are no time reference problems!
- There is no editing needed.
- The technology to do this is not cheap and it requires adequate bandwidth at every point in the deliver system.
- If the technology fails, the campus pastor is going to have to step in.
- There are other possible problems. For example, I was preaching a few weeks ago and the fire alarm went off at our original campus during my message introduction. We had to evacuate the building. When something like this happens it sounds like the fire alarm is going off at every campus and everyone’s service is interrupted! This is a rare problem, of course, and God seemed to work anyway, but I share it just to let you know that simulcast isn’t problem free. You won’t get the message with the fire alarm in the middle in a message that is prerecorded and edited. (I later learned that our fire alarm was triggered by our youth ministry that was using a smoke machine in another part of the building!)
It’s a Journey
So that’s been our journey to date. Every method has served us well. Each one has its upside and downside. Perhaps the key principles are to learn from others, consider your own circumstances and needs, and stay flexible. The bottom line is to keep asking: How can we structure things to reach as many people as possible as effectively as possible with the Good News of Jesus?
What have you tried in terms of video technology? What questions or suggestions do you have related to doing one-week, one-day, or one-minute message delays?