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Video Venues: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

NOTE: This article was co-authored with Larry Weber.

Christ Church has two video-venue satellite campuses. One is located in a YMCA 12 miles north of the original Fairview Heights, Ill., campus and the other is located 10 miles south in a primary school. 

A third campus is planned for the fall of 2014 that will be located about 10 miles east. Our northern video venue has been in existence for over two years and the southern campus in operation for over a year. Our model features pretaped preaching and everything else is live.

Here is what we have discovered: 

The good.

The decision to use a video-venue model made sense for Christ Church because:

1. We felt ready to leverage our church “brand” across multiple locations.

2. Using bivocational leaders and rented facilities not only allows us to do church for pennies on a traditional dollar, it gets us into public spaces. 

3. Our mission of “connecting people to Jesus Christ” required offering additional venues for leadership development. Many of the individuals leading at the campuses would never have had the opportunity for serving in a leadership capacity in the larger, original congregation.

4. We wanted everyone in the congregation (regardless of location) to hear the same message each week and be able to talk about it on social media (generating additional depth of understanding and discipleship).

5. There is only one prep per week by the preaching pastor. This is a strategic use of compensated time. Rather than have two or three pastors holed up in their offices all week writing sermons, those not preaching that week are free to do the work of the church.

The bad.

Not all parts of video-venue are good.

1. When a campus is off-sequence for the sermon series or the campus has a live speaker, the social media buzz causes some to feel like they have missed out on something that someone else heard or was said by the pastor in the message he taped.

2. Equipment is expensive, bulky and time consuming to set up and take down.

3. Although our preaching pastors are improving at speaking to a camera, not everyone else that has to be on camera and recorded is as adept with teleprompter.

4. Video preaching, no matter how good, is still not live preaching. 

The ugly.

1. Since streaming was not economical for us, we video the weekend sermon on Thursday afternoons. Our primary preacher has had to dramatically change his sermon preparation schedule to accommodate taping. Prior to video-taping, the sermon needed to be ready for presentation by Sunday morning. Now with video-venue, the message has to be ready by Thursday afternoon.

2. On weeks that the speaker’s schedule is filled with other engagements or travel, the message may have to be ready by Tuesday or not filmed until Saturday, causing us to bring in a cameraman and editing team on a normal day off.

3. Finally, the preacher is speaking to an audience of one while filming (not God, but the camera guy). For preachers used to gaining energy from the congregation, this is really tough.

4. Some visitors may feel like the video sermon makes this a “B” worship service. 

Would we change our model because of these issues? Probably not.   

Larry Weber is the Director of Campus Development for Christ Church. Larry is married to his high school sweetheart, Nancy. They have seven adult children and seven grandchildren.