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Why a Video-Venue Campus Didn't Work for Us (and What We Learned From It)

10 lessons for churches that plan to use video on multiple sites.

In fall 2007, our church was at a crossroads. Our facility limited our growth. Consequently, we ran four services, one on Saturday and three on Sunday morning. We had no room for expansion, our parking was a nightmare, and our services were shortened to allow us to add more.

Needless to say, it was a busy and exciting time. At this point, we realized we needed to do something, so we jumped into the world of the off-campus video venue. I say jump because that is exactly what we did. Not knowing exactly what to do, but encouraged by the success of other venues, we jumped head first into the deep end with a 'sink-or-swim' attitude. This may have turned out to be a shaky idea at best; and we needed a life ring thrown to us. Thankfully God sustained us and we've made it through to the other side.

Here are 10 things we learned from our experiences:

  • Find someone who knows the ins and outs of video production. This person should know the equipment and how it works. This person then should be able to make smart decisions about the purchases you need to produce the level of quality you want. We blew it here! Decisions were made about equipment that led to poor-quality video feeds, which hampered our efforts.

  • Use video only if your preacher is conversational in his/her delivery. A pastor who teaches in this way does far better with simultaneously engaging both those in the live setting and those viewing via video. The experience is far better for both audiences. A pastor who sticks to notes, or who grounds themselves behind a pulpit, may be more challenged with making the connection via video.

  • Live video feeds are best. We tried pre-recording the sermon, but it didn't allow for audience responses, spontaneity, or even a chance for the audiences in both venues to have a sense of common ground. If you pre-record, don't be tempted, as we were, to run the video site's sermon series a couple of weeks behind the main campus' series. That creates even greater disconnect between the people who attend one site vs. the other. It also suggests the video site is an after-thought.

  • Make certain your congregation is receptive and attentive to video. If you intend to attract younger generations, or busy people who are accustomed to visual mediums for information and entertainment, then you can do this. But if you intend to reach other demographics or types of people, you need to think through this further.

  • During the services, engage both campuses. Use live worship and live announcements at the campuses, and then, during the message, make certain to engage and acknowledge the other campus by making eye contact and mentioning their activities, achievements, and special prayer requests. You want both campuses to create a buzz, not just about themselves, but also about each other.

  • Rotate which site gets the live preaching and which site gets the video feed. It helps both campuses feel special. If you truly desire to keep one site as the "main" campus, then at least occasionally rotate the live preaching to the other site. This creates a greater feeling of inclusion. Once you set a rotation schedule, don't reveal it to the people who attend—just make it an ongoing understanding and expectation that sometimes the "other" campus gets the live preaching (or, that even the "main" campus will experience video preaching from time to time).

  • Plan so that everything is in order ahead of the launch. We launched feeling there were still unresolved issues to address. Things felt clunky out of the gate, and it never felt like we fully recovered.

  • Launch your video venue with a minimum of 100 people if possible, and get firm commitments that they'll stay for a set amount of time. We made the mistake of launching with about 30 people. More than half of them are now gone. This hurt us tremendously because we were well below critical mass in our building. When visitors came, they had to wonder if we were on the verge of collapsing. We lacked energy, excitement, and momentum, which was extremely hard to overcome. We're still battling it today.

  • If you try this, and it doesn't work, don't be afraid to pull the plug. The video approach just wasn't clicking for the 45 people attending our campus. When we hired our new teaching pastor, we elected to end the video feeds, and instead bring him over to the campus to preach live. In 9 months, we grew to about 85 people.

  • Don't be afraid to try video again, too. We may do this again at some point in the future, now that we understand the complexities and the things required to do it right. If we do, we'll know what to address, and we'll know how to best position our teaching pastor to succeed.

Obviously our jump into the world of an off-campus video venue included some missteps, but it wasn't all for loss. We learned a number of important lessons and we are now better prepared to venture out into similar ministry opportunities in the future. Through it all, God's grace has been upon us and He has led us to a great launching-off point for whatever we continue to do with the Remedy campus.

Jason Staudinger is the "Remedy" campus pastor for Westminster Church of the Nazarene in Westminster, Colorado. He has a bachelor's degree in Music Business, a Master's Degree in Church Leadership and was ordained in the Nazarene church in 2009. He has served in ministry at Maranatha! Music and Promise Keepers prior to coming to WCON in June 2005.


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