Church uses Facebook Live to minister


By Kara Witherow, Editor

Ashburn, Ga. residents Sheila and Cliff Gibbs have been in Jacksonville since early November. Cliff Gibbs was at Mayo Clinic for nearly three and a half months before recently moving to a rehabilitation hospital.

Even though they’ve been far from home for nearly four months, they haven’t felt too far away because they’ve been connected to their Ashburn First United Methodist Church congregation each Sunday via Facebook Live. They haven’t missed a Sunday morning worship service and have never felt far from their community of faith.

“Just to be able to hear the music and see the people and hear the preaching, it was wonderful,” Sheila Gibbs said. “Sometimes down here I felt alone, but when I could see everybody … it made me feel like I was part of the body of Christ. It was extremely uplifting.”

Ashburn First UMC is one of many South Georgia United Methodist churches that have turned to technology to connect with people both in their congregation and out in the community.

Most churches have Facebook pages and websites to welcome prospective visitors, but Ashburn First UMC decided this year to also explore video marketing via Facebook Live.

With the Gibbs in Jacksonville for months and several members who are homebound and unable to attend weekly worship services, church leaders initially live-streamed revival services and weekly worship services via Facebook so they would be able to worship with the church family.

“It’s a creative way for our small-to-medium church to do ministry,” said Rev. Carrie Myers, pastor of Ashburn First UMC. Most of their congregation is active on Facebook, and many travel often, so it seemed a natural fit.

It was easy to start, and relatively inexpensive, she said.

Start with a phone; no professional video equipment needed

Facebook Live is user-friendly for novices and pros alike. Just use the Facebook app on your smartphone (WiFi is recommended) to start a video. It is recommended that a tripod be used to ensure a steady shot.

Plan and prepare

No one would preach a sermon without preparing or walk into a boardroom without a plan, so don’t post anything online without first considering the audience, the content, the title, the length, and how it will be promoted. Once a Facebook Live video is complete, it is posted to the user’s or group’s Facebook page.

Think beyond the worship service

Not only can Facebook Live be useful for streaming worship services, but there are a host of other opportunities – outside the sanctuary – that the platform can help promote or share. Was a new staff member recently hired? Introduce them via Facebook Live. Give a brief tour of your church to potential guests. Have the pastor give a 15- or 30-second inspirational message mid-week.

With one small idea – reaching out across the miles to connect with friends – something bigger blossomed for Ashburn First UMC, Rev. Myers said.

“It snowballed into thinking how we could serve the whole congregation and then the community outside the congregation,” she said. “What we can do with technology is just limitless.”