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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 Technology changes so quickly that anything I write would be outdated in months (or even weeks) if I listed exact equipment.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

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 (that is, the community or town).
  • Determine the location for hosting the 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.
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

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

Elevation Church has some solid training and resourcing for their Watch Parties (an alternate name for microsites) to get their leaders up and running. 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.”

Church

3 Keys to Microsite Church Success

Before you launch your first microsite, you need to have in mind the outcome you’re looking for. Are you testing the waters? Are you strategically expanding to a community where God is already at work? Something else?

Then you need to work toward that goal. A successful microsite rarely happens without intentionality on the part of the sponsoring church. Sure, these networked locations may be a trendy thing to do, but that doesn’t mean you can just sit back and expect them to flourish without help.

Success depends upon knowing why you’re moving forward, and it depends on the effort you put into the experience. And, really, you don’t even have to spend much money to make that happen. Instead, focus on these three keys.

Finding the Right Leader

The number one indicator of success for a microsite is leadership. That shouldn’t be surprising. The same can be said for church plants, campuses, and nonprofits. Without a key leader driving home the vision, you’re very rarely going to see growth—numerically or spiritually.

In other words, don’t skimp on this one. You should not launch or incorporate a microsite until you have prayed and waited on God to raise up the right person. Resist the temptation to jump in and hope a leader shows up. I’m not saying that won’t happen, but it’s rare.

Your best leaders for a microsite are very likely already a part of your church—or have been in the past. Look for proven volunteers or ministry leaders who have bought into your mission and have a vision for a new campus. Scan through comments you get from your live-stream. Is there someone who keeps showing up week after week? When you know a key leader will be moving to another city or community, gauge their interest in starting a microsite.

And once you’ve found the right leader, spend time training them. We’ll look at this more in the weeks ahead, but treat a microsite leader the same way you would a new staff member. Invest time in helping them understand where God is leading your church and how the microsite plays a part in that vision.

Setting High Expectations

There’s a reason you should use the term microsite, partner, or network location instead of campus. Many microsite churches meet in homes, and you don’t want to set a level of expectation that you can’t fulfill in a living room, rearranged basement, shared community space, or converted garage.

But don’t let that be an excuse. Your job is to exceed what guests expect.

Set the stage for a worship experience, even if that means moving furniture around or putting up pipe and drape to control the lighting in a garage. Train someone to direct parking in the cul-de-sac. Prepare greeters at the front door and near the parking area. Brew some coffee, or set out some water bottles. Prepare a welcome message based on this week’s sermon (see the next point for more about this). You may even want to set aside a room as a nursery.

The setting of the microsite doesn’t limit your ability to kick it up a notch. Get creative in making people feel welcome and allowing them to worship.

Making Them Part of the Family

When I worked remotely for a nonprofit years ago, I often felt disconnected. Don’t get me wrong. I loved being able to work in my gym shorts, but the company didn’t do a great job involving people who were outside the office. Some weeks, I heard nothing from the office. And, really, I had no idea where the company was going.

I’ve also had some great remote experiences. In those cases, the companies took time to bring remote employees together for training, there were daily or weekly video calls, and they made sure everyone knew where the organization was heading.

In a similar way, microsites work best when the sponsoring church stays connected. Keep your microsite leaders updated on the sermon series with notes and outlines. Send a weekly email to the leader to give them the weekend’s talking points and upcoming events. Include microsite leaders in on weekly production calls. Provide them with the same discipleship and group materials you give to your campuses (you can even just send PDFs if need be). Include microsites in your kid camp plans. Invite key leaders to vision events. Find ways to keep them in the loop.

The more connected microsite attendees feel, the more they are a part of your church, and the more they will carry the mission of the church into the community.