Case Study: The Riverside Church

How Livestreaming Church Services Can Grow Your Congregation

Riverside Church began livestreaming church services two years ago with a mission to spread its message beyond its glass stained chambers.

“We realized that what we’re doing here just can’t stay in our four walls,” says Jim Keat, associate minister of digital strategy and online engagement at Riverside Church. “We had to find whatever means possible to amplify these experiences. Livestream was the perfect solution.”

Opened in 1930, the interdenominational Gothic church – located in Morningside Heights, Manhattan – serves over 40 ethnic groups and is known for its rich history of social justice advocacy. Past speakers include world leaders such as the Clintons, World leaders like Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr. have all spoken from Riverside’s pulpit.

Prior to using Livestream, the church had been experimenting with on-demand video recordings of its services for about six years. Beyond livestreaming Sunday morning services, Riverside also broadcasts other major events at the church. On social media, it boasts over 12,500 followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram combined.

Keat says livestreaming church services has served as a way for Riverside Church to not only reach a wider community, but also communicate with its congregation in a more invigorating way. In 2017, the church saw over 70,800 total views on its Livestream page alone.

Spread the Word on Social Media

Before the start of every Sunday morning service, Keat posts various messages and images across Riverside’s three social media platforms, inviting people to join their worship service in person or online. He shares a link to their website as well as embedding the video in different channels, allowing viewers to simply click to join the service online.

Livestreaming Church Services on Multiple Platforms

To reach a wider audience, Keat simultaneously broadcasts Sunday morning services on the church’s Livestream and Facebook page. He has found Livestream’s Simulcast feature which enables content to be streamed across multiple RTMP-enabled destinations to be particularly impactful.

“I love that Livestream allows us to simulcast to multiple destinations. We are always sending our Sunday morning livestreams to our church and Senior Minister’s Facebook pages,” says Keat.

The ability to view analytics “at a click of a button” lets him evaluate the church’s audience growth and investment in online platforms with ease.

“We are an old church doing a new thing,” says Keat. “It’s such a wonderful experience to know that these moments are being shared by thousands of people.”

This year Riverside Church aims to expand its live programing by livestreaming Wednesday evening worship services as well as other midweek interview shows hosted by Keat.

Amy Butler, the church’s senior pastor, believes broadcasting live has the power to persuade and move. “I love the power of livestream because I know that the relational part of what I’m trying to project from the pulpit is reaching people’s homes, even if I can’t be there myself,” she says.

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