Technological advancements have made preaching the Gospel through new media easier than ever, and the limitations in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic have turned embracing these new technologies a necessity. A majority of the fastest-growing churches in the U.S. had already begun live-streaming their services as a way to grow, connecting with an audience that was not be able to physically attend due to distance, age, or disability. Now, it’s a scramble for everyone to get onboard with a solution, and that includes including captioning along with audio and video.
But this new burden to adapt is a positive development. We are hearing a positive response from ministries that the newly implemented video streams services have not only provided an adequate solution for their congregation but has also gained exposure to more members of their community. This leads us to see a common trend among the churches that make Outreach’s 100 Fastest-Growing Churches in America list every year: the skillful use of online services.
The New Normal
Like nearly every institution in American life, places of worship have been hit hard by the novel coronavirus and subsequent social distancing measures. They’ve been no longer able to physically gather as one; to collectively nod their heads when a verse speaks to them or sway together during songs of worship.
State-to-state the laws vary, but here in California places of worship have been asked to “discontinue indoor singing and chanting activities and limit indoor attendance to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower.” And it’s also encouraged to “consider practicing these activities through alternative methods (such as internet streaming).”
So amidst the uncertainty of how and when the regulations will change, religious leaders have turned to online platforms to practice their faith with community members. Since March of this year, BoxCast, the complete live video streaming solution popular among churches, experienced an 85% increase in active accounts and a 500% increase in viewing minutes compared to the same period last year. Even the modestly-sized church streaming platform streamingchurch.tv saw an immediate increase in their subscriber base of 20% and their total viewership triple to 60,000 weekly viewers.
Rick Warren from Saddleback Church reports that since the church moved to online-only services (26 weeks ago) they have more than doubled their 45,000-weekly attendance. This is their greatest growth in the shortest amount of time in their 40-year history.
The silver lining here is that being forced to find an online solution has allowed the message to be more accessible than ever. And once the setup is in place to live-stream your services, keeping it as an option for your audience unable to attend in person even after all restrictions are lifted will be an invaluable resource for continued growth.
The Benefits of Captioning
As audiences grow, it is important to point out that approximately 20% of American adults (48 million!) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing. Some of the audience may be sitting in silence, literally.
Captions are words displayed on a television, computer, or mobile device, providing the speech or sound portion of a program or video via text. Captions allow viewers to follow the dialogue and the action of a program simultaneously. Captions can also provide information about who is speaking or about sound effects that might be important to understanding the message.
Captions help comprehension and clarification of the dialogue – and it’s not just with those with hearing loss. Reading along with captions can help other members of the congregation with concentration and engagement.
After surveying a small sample of churches using captioning, we’ve seen similar responses where they’ve started by adding captioning to one service a week to gauge the response. Most find encouraging numbers with engagement on that service and move to add captions to the remaining services and even start captioning their archived videos of past sermons.
So as your audience grows, consider being further accessible with captioning and ensure you’re reaching that additional 20%.
About Aberdeen Broadcast Services
Aberdeen Broadcast Services’ foundation was built upon the desire to serve Christian ministries by helping their message reach a broader audience. For nearly 20 years, they have maintained a team of transcribers, caption editors, and real-time captioners who are specially trained to deliver Christian captions at their best. Aberdeen can confidently say that they are the leading captioning service provider for Christian programming, captioning over 20,000 hours of content a year.