Uncategorized

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 Technology changes so quickly that anything I write would be outdated in months (or even weeks) if I listed exact equipment.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

Uncategorized

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.