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The Technology You’ll Need for a Microsite Church

Let me set your expectations before you read this post. Technology changes so quickly that anything I write would be outdated in months (or even weeks) if I listed exact equipment. If I told you to buy a certain steaming box, for example, that model would be replaced in no time.

Instead, I’m going to lay out general tech categories with links to companies that provide the resources you’ll need.

Second, before you consider technology needs, make sure you know the basics of where you’ll meet, how you’ll resource your microsite, and the other logistics. That will drive your technology needs.

With that said, let’s dive in.

Small Venues

A microsite church doesn’t necessarily require a huge upfront investment. That’s the beauty of the model. So, don’t think you need to resource it like you would a full campus. It can be much, much cheaper, especially with ones that meet in homes.

In fact, you can often get away with nothing more than a streaming set-top box, such as an Apple TV or Chromecast. Your church’s app may already be in those app stores, and if you offer live-streaming on your app, you’re all set. You could also simply stream your services on a computer or smart TV. 

Now the caveat: Some rural areas don’t have reliable high speed Internet. So, streaming may not be an option in those locations. (Trust me. I’ve limped along with satellite Internet in the past, and you’re not doing any streaming with that.) 

In such cases, you could have the microsite leader download the message from your website or Dropbox. Or you could send DVDs of the sermon. If you go this route, though, you’ll need think through how this will work and then test it out before going live.

For small group resources, marketing materials, worship guides (bulletins), and other similar print pieces, store them in Dropbox, iCloud, or a similar service for easier dispersal. You could also have them printed and shipped directly, but that depends on how much you want to spend. My personal recommendation here is that you try to keep as much digital as you can to cut costs at first.

Don’t be afraid to test out pop-up banners and other signage (such as yard signs), even if your microsite meets at a house. They add a level of legitimacy to your gathering, and they aren’t prohibitively expensive.

Now, as for worship, your best bet is to keep it simple. You won’t reach the level of excellence you have at your larger campuses, and that’s okay. If you go for live worship, you can usually stick with acoustic. You could also put the lyrics up on the TV with a laptop and ProPresenter (or even something like Keynote). 

You could also simply stream your worship along with the message. Or you could record a stripped down set during the week and send it to your microsites. Whatever you do, test it out before you launch anything.

Larger Venues

If your microsite is meeting in a library or other community space, things can get trickier. But ultimately, you can rely on the same sort of setup as the smaller space. You can still stream through a set-top box, but you’ll need a larger screen and likely better speakers. 

Trust me on this. The library or community center will not have good enough speakers for what you want to do. My friends at Portable Church Industries can help you find the right audio and video solutions for both worship and the sermon delivery. (I’m not an affiliate. But I trust those guys.) You may also want to consider purchasing or making some portable acoustic panels to help control the echo, depending on the space.

As you approach 75+ people, I would highly recommend you begin the transition toward a more reliable streaming solution. Expectations rise with increased attendance. In that case, you’ll need to purchase a professional live video streaming encoder, just like you would for a regular campus. Since no one’s giving me a cut, I’m not going to tell you which company to go with, but you could try Boxcast, Epiphan Video, SlingStudio, or Stream Monkey.

Your worship music setup will definitely depend on the space and what’s allowed. Live music with a full band is preferred, but if that’s not possible, don’t sweat it. Just make the stream or recording sound the best you can. As a side note, if you are going with live music, this is a great way to mix in your interns and residents to give them a chance to lead worship.

With a larger space, you’ll also want to step up the game with welcoming and directional signage, as well as whatever you hand out to people who come. Also, don’t skimp on the t-shirts. 

If you need help thinking through what technology you’ll need, connect with me. I’d be glad to walk alongside you in this process.

Church

How to Measure the Success of a Microsite Church

How do you know if your microsite is successful? That’s a question you’ll need to grapple with before you even launch. If you don’t, you’ll have a tough time measuring the effectiveness and helping your microsite team know what to focus on.

Teams without solid goals will make up their own. They’ll focus on details that may not align with the church’s vision. And you’ll end up with a silo… or some serious animosity when you have to realign things down the road.

Head off the pain by thinking this through before you get rolling.

Define Your Wins

First, work through why you’re launching the microsite in the first place. If you want to reach people who are traveling a long distance to get to your church, that’s your baseline for success. If you’re trying to connect with people in a certain apartment complex, start there.

Don’t be afraid of numbers here. Look at the population of the area where you’re launching and set some expectations about how many you should be reaching. Granted, the size of your space may temper that a bit, but if you can fit 50 or 100 people in a space, then aim there.

Ideally, your measures should be tied to your vision statement. If you’re excited about life change, then measure how many people have come to know Jesus. If you’re a church that focuses on mobilizing to missions, then set goals there. If you love seeing people get plugged in, set some expectations there. Discipleship pathway, markers for maturity, growth factors… whatever it is, make sure you’re keeping those at the forefront.

Just keep one thing in mind: Your first microsite will likely take longer to mature than you think. Moving people through your pipeline will be tougher because you’ll still be figuring out the details and making tweaks along the way. Don’t be discouraged if your numbers are lower than at other campuses for the first year or two.

Set up a Dashboard

Once you’ve targeted your key measures of success, make sure you’re set up to keep track of them. Think through what would prove you’ve met a goal. Baptism? Membership? Volunteering? Attendance?

To measure any of that, you’ll need systems in place that help you keep track of the numbers. Don’t leave this to chance. Your launch strategy needs to include how you’ll capture this data.

I highly recommend church management software for this because most of the best ones can spit out reports quickly. (Also, I’m not a spreadsheet guru… so, help is good.)

Review

Setting up your dashboard is great. But far too often, churches and ministries set them up… and then ignore them. Make sure that your microsite leaders have access to the numbers and can see where they are. Review the markers with the leaders so that they understand the why behind them. (You’ll have to do this over and over because the vision behind goals will slip over time.)

Celebrate when you move toward your goals. The microsite leaders need to know that you truly value what you claim to value. And when goals aren’t met, course correct to address where things are lagging.

In other words, accountability shows you’re truly committed to success.

Evaluate Regularly

At least once each year, meet with your team to review the stats, goals, and expectations for your microsite. Talk through the what the stats show. The truth is your friend here; so, don’t be afraid to be honest about where you are.

Here’s what I’ve consistently found as I coach churches: Low or skewed stats point to underlying issues. They are symptoms of deeper problems. Avoid the easy excuses. Take time to think through what may be causing the lagging numbers. Have someone write down the challenges you’re facing on a whiteboard and look for underlying themes.

The idea here is set expectations for your microsite like you would for any other ministry or campus in your church. People will rise to those expectations, but they have to know you mean them. Ultimately, you need to keep your microsite aligned with the bigger vision God has given the church.

After your review, determine the next steps for the microsite. Are leadership changes needed? Will you provide more funding? Should you adjust the goals? 

Stay Healthy

The point of all this isn’t to add complexity; the point is to make sure your microsite stays healthy. Taking its pulse regularly allows you to keep it on the right track.

Church

Microsite Church Launch Checklist

Before you run headlong into the microsite revolution, take some time to work through this launch checklist with your team. You’ll be glad you prepped when things get messy down the road (and they will).

Reasoning

Structure

Logistics

  • Figure out where to launch your microsite.
  • Figure out the flow of service, how the sermon will be delivered, when the site will gather, and how your worship will work.
  • Figure out where people will park, where people will sit (and how many can sit there), and how you’ll handle response times.
  • Purchase the equipment and technology you’ll need to stream video, gather information about guests (e.g., an iPad), or lead worship.
  • Check to make sure your music and other copyright licenses are up to date.
  • Check to make sure you have enough users for your software or cloud-based technology solutions (e.g., church management software).
  • Determine how (or if) you’ll advertise the microsite (website, social media, word of mouth only).
  • Ship or deliver any necessary print materials for the microsite (connect cards, worship guides, small group guides, etc.).

People

  • Connect with a solid core group of people in the area and begin to cast vision to them (look for committed people who drive in from the area).
  • Determine if the sponsoring church will be sending staff or volunteers to help and how often that will happen.
  • Just as you would with a campus, tap your key leaders for guest services, small groups, and worship. (Don’t leave this until after launch.)
  • Provide training to these key volunteers at least a month before launch.
  • Do a soft launch at least once before the “real thing.”

Timeline

Your timeline will depend on your unique situation, but the order of events will usually be set. This also assumes that you’ve already worked through the pre-timeline logistics.

One Year to Six Months Before Launch

  • Determine the microsite leader.
  • Begin training and resourcing the leader.
  • Identify key members of the team.

Six to Three Months Before Launch

  • Gather your key leaders together for worship, prayer, and vision casting at least once.
  • The leader should meet with the key leaders one on one at least once during this window.
  • Finalize logistical plans for your microsite.
  • Make sure all technology is in place and working.
  • Cast vision in your small groups that meet in the area.

Three Months Before and up to Launch

  • Perform training with all volunteers.
  • Gather again for worship, prayer, and vision casting.
  • Do at least one soft launch before you launch for real. (The goal is to make sure you clean up any problem areas. I highly recommend you do this at least once each month.)

Post Launch

  • Evaluate your first service and make adjustments.
  • Continue training your microsite leader and key volunteers.
  • Celebrate in videos and social media!
  • Continually monitor the effectiveness and health of the microsite.
  • Include microsite leaders in your strategic planning.
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Choosing the Right Location? Go Where God’s Already Working

I love studying those circles.

When we review the stats for our livestream broadcast, areas where people are watching show up as circles in a range of sizes. As you might expect, we have small, rural communities with a few streamers represented by small circles and larger circles near our campuses.

But then there are the exceptions. Some rural communities and small towns in our state show much larger circles than you’d expect — lots of people streaming Sunday after Sunday.

When people ask about the “right location” for a microsite, I always come back to those circles. Sure, we could strategize about what town makes the most sense or where we’d like to test out a model. And there’s room for that. But the most successful microsite starts with one simple (Blackaby) maxim: Go where God’s already at work and join Him in it.

The benefit here is that you aren’t generating interest. You’re very likely walking into life change that’s already happening. And people who watch your sermons and have been transformed or who are passionate about your mission — that’s a pretty powerful core group. They’re much more likely to help you launch something new and to stick with it.

Finding Where God’s at Work

Data is your friend here. (I geek out on data… so, sorry in advance.) Tap into Google Analytics to see where people are coming from, especially on your livestream and sermon archive pages. If you notice patterns, you’re likely onto something good. Test this over a longer period of time (six months to a year) to make sure there’s consistency. Also, factor in the size of communities to get an accurate picture of reach. (Wikipedia can give you a snapshot here.) Consider the areas with a greater percentage of those connected to the church.

Second, dive into the church database. Use the search by address or zip code feature to examine how many people have submitted information from that community. This depends on the accuracy and depth of your database. Cross check that with the analytics to see if you have solid leads on who watches from those areas. (If you don’t have anyone in your database from those areas, see the ideas below.)

Also, sift through any small group info you have to see where they’re meeting. If you have thriving groups that meet farther than thirty minutes from a campus, it’s a pretty good bet that those groups are reaching at least some people who don’t come to your church.

If you need some better info or don’t have a church database, use the chat on your livestream to ask people to fill out a “digital visitor card.” What’s great is that you can use a number of sites to create free or cheap forms. You may have to ask for this several times before you gather any meaningful results, and you’ll only get a small percentage of people who respond. But the better your relationships are with those who livestream, the better your mileage.

No data? You may have more than you think — if you ask. Send out a survey on social media or via email. Ask for stories from those who livestream. Talk to your staff about people they know who drive from far away. Walk the parking lot on a Sunday and look for patterns in counties on the license plate. Talk to connections you have in the target communities.

Step into the Momentum

Bottom line? It’s so much easier and fruitful to step into what God’s doing. Let the data help you figure that out… and then run with it.

Church

Before You Launch Your First Microsite…

Ready to launch your first microsite church? Great. We’ve already talked about the reasons to do so and what makes them successful. Hopefully, you see how effective they can be.

But don’t hit go just yet. Before you begin the trek, take some time to make sure you’re ready for the long haul. Microsites are the perfect place for experimenting and trying new ministry models and ideas, but you still need to answer some questions to make sure you’ve got everything in place to support them well.

Ask yourself these questions:

Church Structure

  • Are microsites centrally driven in your church or locally driven at a campus?
  • Who on staff will be responsible for resourcing and leading your microsites? Who is checking in on them?
  • Who will vet potential microsite leaders? How do you know they meet your standards? Who determines how much training they need?
  • To whom does a microsite leader report? What type of quarterly/yearly review will he or she have?
  • How often will you meet with a microsite leader?
  • How do you determine the health of a microsite? What steps will you take if a one is failing?

Launching

  • Who has the final say about launching a microsite?
  • How will you identify the right area to launch?
  • What steps will you take to learn about the community?
  • How many people from your church drive from this area? How many already stream services?
  • How will you gauge interest in the community? What meetings will you have?
  • Will you develop small groups in the area first?
  • What size core group do you need? What benchmark does the core group need to meet before you launch?
  • Will you have another name for your group prior to calling it an official microsite? (For example, will it be called a core group or community group until it reaches a certain size?)
  • Will you soft launch with a test service before your official launch?
  • How will you determine the physical location that’s right for your microsite? What criteria do you have?

Funding

  • Where do microsites fall in your budget (even if you’re not providing funds just yet)?
  • How much funding will each site receive to launch and each year? Are there benchmarks to determine funding levels?
  • Do tithes and offerings stay at the microsite or do they come to a central budget to be redistributed?
  • Will the microsite leader be paid? Full-time? Part-time?
  • Will there be other staff at a microsite? At what point? Will they be paid? At what point?

Ministry Considerations

  • Will you have live worship or streamed worship? Who picks the music?
  • Who sets the order of service? Who determines announcements?
  • Will microsite leaders be part of your planning process?
  • Will you provide childcare? Children’s ministry? Student ministry? At what point? Launch? After?
  • How do you ensure volunteers and ministry leaders are being trained properly? How do you determine their effectiveness?
  • Who picks ministry leaders at the microsite level? Will they be paid? At what point?
  • Will children/student ministry stick to the same curriculum used at your other locations?

Future Development

  • What steps will you take if a microsite would like to become a church plant? What benchmarks will you have in place?
  • Can a microsite ever become a “campus” of your church? What level would it need to reach?
  • Where are people coming from to get to your microsite? Is there interest for another microsite in a nearby community?

Yes, that’s a lot of questions, and I could list many more. The point is not for you to have everything figured out; it’s for you to be thinking through the complexities of microsites before you jump in. You can always adjust as you learn and grow. But figuring all of this out after you launch is much more difficult—and often painful—than having a plan at the start.

So, take a few weeks and pray through these questions. You’ll be glad you did.

Church

What to Look for in a Microsite Leader

We’ve talked about the three keys to a successful microsite, and at the top of that list is leadership. The strength and growth of the site hinges on a leader committed to your vision and wired to develop people. There’s no one right kind of leader—several personality types can be successful—but there does need to be screening on your part to make sure this person has the right spiritual DNA.

So, how do you know? What should you look for in a potential leader? When your leadership team talks to the person, start with these basic questions.

Does This Person Have a Life-Change Story?

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to assume someone who has been in church has truly experienced life change in Christ. Don’t be embarrassed to start right here. Ask them to tell their story of how Jesus transformed them. After all, they need to be able to explain this to the people who come to the microsite as well.

Does This Person Have a Calling to Ministry?

A microsite isn’t just a place for people to watch church. It is a church. The person who leads this gathering will be guiding people on a spiritual journey. While the skillset for a smaller gathering like this may be on a different level from a pastor of a megachurch, there’s no less a need to hear them share a clear passion for reaching people with the Gospel.

Expect to hear something like this: “I love this community, and there are so many people here who don’t go to church. I can’t stand that.” “God’s already at work in our apartment building. In the last month, I’ve had people I rarely talk to ask me about my faith.” “I have this vision for a church gathering right there in the prison. I can really see it happening.”

If there’s no passion, no desire to see lives changed, proceed with caution. That’s what will sustain them over the long haul.

Does This Person Have a Record of Sticking with It?

This may be tougher to gauge if you have no history with this potential leader. But don’t be afraid to get references. Look, a microsite leader is a key face of your church in a particular community. Treat them the same you would any other hire—even if they’re a volunteer (ideally, you get references on your volunteers, too, but that’s a whole other blog).

You need to make sure this isn’t a person who jumps from one area of ministry to another because it seems more exciting. Microsite, as the new hotness, can attract early adopters, which is not a bad thing, but weigh their interest carefully.

The bottom line is you need to ensure this person will walk through the ups and downs of a microsite. Just because it’s a smaller setting, that doesn’t mean it’s easier. In fact, consistency of a quality leader can be even more important because there’s no other staff.

Does This Person Embody Your Church’s DNA?

Most likely, a microsite leader will be remote from the sponsoring church. They’re not attending your weekly meetings; they’re not stopping to talk to the leadership in the hallway; they’re not hearing and seeing the vision of the church each day.

While ongoing training is essential to make them feel like a part of the family, the DNA you send a leader with is crucial. In other words, spend time intentionally training them before they launch so that you’re not having to redirect and correct later. Plus, pre-training helps you uncover areas of concern in a potential leader.

Can This Person Develop Leaders?

Since a microsite leader won’t be preaching, they can focus much more attention on developing disciples. Granted, they’ll likely be volunteer leaders themselves, but they’ll need to have some margin available to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” The “how” will vary by situation, but they’ll need your help to make that happen.

What you need to ask yourself is if this potential leader has the knack for connecting with people and helping them grow spiritually. Easiest way to tell? Just look to see if they’re already doing so.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it should get you started as you interview a potential leader. What would you add?

Church

How to Resource a Microsite

Recently, we talked about the importance of making your microsite feel like a part of your faith family. That means more than just posting the location on your website; it means resourcing the people who worship there to give them a reason to support the mission and vision of the church. After all, they’re worshiping to the same music and sitting under the same teaching.

By resourcing, I’m not talking about the initial technology investment you’ve made to get your livestream delivered. That could be as simple and cheap as a Chromecast or an AppleTV or as complex as a multisite receiver and projector.

Instead, I’m referring to the ongoing relationship you have with your microsite leader or leaders to supply them with what they need to stay connected. That means investing time and effort into their success, and if they’re going to be successful that’s just what you need to do.

Initial Training

McClean Bible Church, which has a number of microsites, does a solid job getting their leaders up and running by covering the details that go into success. Elevation Church also has some solid training and resourcing for their Watch Parties (an alternate name for microsites). Typically, you can adapt the training you already have, such as training for a new campus pastor or even a small group leader. Granted, you may have to create something from scratch—or heavily modify other training you use—but you want your leaders to be ready.

Help them understand how to set the environment, how to connect with new faces, how to plan a meeting, how to respond to the Holy Spirit’s leading, how to pray for people, how to deal with conflict, how to lead a movement in their community. Help them grab hold of your values and understand why you do what you do. (Actually, these are the same types of things you should be teaching your own staff and volunteers.)

This may take several weeks to cover, but the more you work the soil prior to the launch, the stronger your site will be.

Ongoing Training

They say that vision leaks. And if that’s true on your campuses, there’s an even stronger risk at your sites. With video conferencing solutions available for cheap (or even free—with limitations), you have no reason to put off ongoing training for your microsite leaders. They need you to keep pouring in the vision and explaining what’s coming next.

Dedicate an hour a month (or quarter at the least) to connecting with your microsite leaders. Tell them about the wins at all your campuses, the impact of the current sermon series, the change God is working in you. Ask them to share their own stories (I recommend having them email stories to you and asking one or two to share). Then, give them an overview of what’s coming next. Finally, spend some time talking about one of your values at each meeting.

If you don’t have time for this, at least consider including microsite leaders on your production or planning meetings for Sunday (or recording them to send). You can provide some of the same training in that venue.

Ongoing Coaching

This part’s a bit harder to pull off, but ideally, a seasoned leader in your church should spend time individually with each microsite leader once every week or two. You can spread this around if need be, but the goal here is to provide some hands-on coaching or correcting as needed. Talk numbers, talk spiritual health, talk vision. Hold them accountable to these as you lead them.

The goal isn’t to overwhelm people with meetings. Rather, the goal is to do the type of one-on-one you’d do with any staff member. They need the touch.

Church Materials

Going back to McClean, each week they provide their microsites with bulletins/worship guides and other printed materials for their services. It’s a great way to make guests feel like they’re “at church.” Maybe that’s not feasible for you because of distance or time, and that’s okay. Just get creative.

For example, you can set up an email template for your microsite leader to email those who come. You can provide PDFs of the worship guide, discipleship books, spiritual gifts tests, small group study guides, posters—everything. Plus, you can give them access to a Dropbox folder with images and videos for social media. This keeps the quality higher than if you let them make their own stuff on Microsoft Paint.

Finally, make sure you include them on any “weekend talking points” type emails that you send to staff. If you don’t have one of those, get someone to take notes at your meetings and send those. You want to make sure microsite leaders walk people through the same response time and next steps as your campuses.

Times to Connect

Don’t forget the fun. Invite microsite leaders to your staff retreats, all staff gatherings, and other staff adventures. There’s no better way to keep the “us versus them” mentality at bay than making it feel like everyone is an “us.”