Comparing Facebook Live and Altar Live

Complement your Facebook Live reach with a platform that allows people to go deeper. Use Facebook like your front door, and Altar Live like your living room.

Andrew Mahon

December 21, 2020

Most churches have a Facebook page. Facebook offers lots of benefits! It’s a public platform that you can moderate. You can broadcast live, post announcements and share videos and posts far and wide. With so many people on Facebook, people can easily join your page and live stream.

For all the great benefits of Facebook, almost every church that uses Facebook Live still has to use other platforms to actually see each other:

“After the watching the service here on Facebook Live,
join us on Zoom for fellowship and virtual coffee!” 

Facebook Live is missing an entire dimension of worship and community: face-to-face, talk-out-loud fellowship! 

Does that sound familiar to you? Are you looking for a way for people to connect with each other beyond your comment section?

If that sounds like you and your church, you’ll want to see how Altar Live can complement Facebook Live, and give your church a fuller experience. 

Many churches using Altar Live continue to use Facebook and Facebook Live as part of their outreach. Facebook is well-suited for sharing and discovery of a video livestream via newsfeeds. Altar Live can be used as a replacement to Facebook Live, but can be used as a complement to their social media outreach strategy. 


#1. See who is at church today

Part of the in-person church experience involves simply being present with fellow believers. There is a warmth, a sense of belonging when a congregation gathers, even if it does not include a direct conversation. 

For some folks, also seeing who is not there today is important. Not only do they notice someone’s presence, they also notice their absence, and take it as an sign that perhaps someone is in need of caring, direct contact. 

 

Facebook Live
Mostly invisible and anonymous

 

Altar Live
See, and be seen

  There is no way to see who else is attending church via the livestream. Only when someone speaks up in the chat do they become “visible” to everyone else.   When a participant enters your church event in Altar Live, their name and picture show up in the Contacts panel. Just like in a physical church, they are visible. They can see, and be seen.

You can scroll through the list of attendees, or search for someone by name. Hover your cursor over someone’s name, and you see their full name and photo.


#2. Sit with family and friends

Most of us sit together at church with someone -- either by habit and intention, or opportunistically when a seat in a row is available next to a friend, neighbor or acquaintance. Sitting on a sofa at home with a spouse, children, roommates approximates this experience, but still lacks a fuller sense of community. 

 

Facebook Live
Add a comment or use watch parties

 

Altar Live
Actually talk with each other

  If you want to talk or connect with other people during church on Facebook, you have three options: comments, Messenger or watch parties.

We all have a love-hate relationship with Facebook comments. They offer some social interaction by letting people “hear” from each other through hellos, shoutouts, reflective comments, and Amen’s. But we’ve all seen how they can either be completely silent or over used by the same person.

You can message someone privately or create a group chat through Messenger, but again - there’s no way of knowing who else is watching until they leave a comment or if you reach out to them first.

Facebook Live has Watch Parties, where one person can invite others to join in a private group to watch the church livestream video together, and talk over chat at the same time. But there is no video or voice communication. There is no sense of belonging with the rest of the church. 
 In Altar Live, you can actually talk with one another through video-conference watch parties and tables after the service. Sit with someone and worship together, invite specific individuals to sit with you, choose a seat next to someone you know, or find a spot with someone new.

And you all see and hear each other.

Sit and say hello, chat briefly, respond to sermon discussion questions together. Maybe even whisper something during worship, the reading, the message, and announcements.

Attendees can step away from a Watch Party and join another group.

A member of a Watch Party can also communicate via direct message to other attendees.


#3. Avoid Distractions

Sitting at home watching a church service is full of distractions: the family pet demanding attention, household clutter that needs picking up, coffee and food just a room away. The fewer distractions, the better.

 

Facebook Live
An experience busy with Notifications

 

Altar Live
An experience focused on the church

  While watching a service on Facebook Live, random notifications appear, informing the churchgoer about posts made by other friends outside of church. There is ongoing competition for attention.

And, because no one is visible to anyone else, it’s just too easy to do some busy work (e.g., wash the dishes) while worshiping. 
 Altar Live minimizes outside distractions. There are no social media notifications.

When attendees are on-camera with friends, there is less temptation to prepare breakfast or do household chores during the service. Everyone maintains more presence in the moment and the space.


#4. Passing of the Peace 

We all miss this -- turning to your seat neighbors, making eye contact, and offering a physical gesture. 

 

Facebook Live
Holy chaos

 

Altar Live
Musical chairs

  Some churches call it “Holy Chaos.” A few, or dozens, or sometimes a hundred people all of a sudden show up in chat, offering peace to everyone, or calling out someone in particular.

People who prefer not to say something in front of the entire congregation remain silent. 
 In Altar Live, you have been sitting with a handful of people the entire time, and now you can all speak your greeting of peace to each other.

If time allows, get up from your row and visit other rows, find people you know and make a visual, audible connection with them, and then return to your row afterward.


#5. Mingling during coffee hour

You go to church to worship and connect with God. You stick around at church to connect with people. 


 

Facebook Live
Move to Zoom

 

Altar Live
Stay where you are

  If your livestream ends with a message that says “join us on Zoom to get together!”, then you know something is missing.

There is often a steep drop-off rate from the full viewership on Facebook Live to the attendance on Zoom.

Changing the mode of participation, unfortunately, invites many people to head for the exit. 
 When the service ends, everyone in attendance automatically moves to a social lobby -- a digital room full of tables for four.

Invite someone to a table for direct, personal, visual, audible connection. Gather with people you know -- or are getting to know better.

Naturally move from one table to the next, meeting and greeting with members of your community.


#6. One-to-one prayer

Now that almost everyone is online, an amazing thing happens. People are much quicker to get intimate, to share real life stories and circumstances, and to be more open to intercessory prayer. 

 

Facebook Live
Text

 

Altar Live
Face-to-face

  There is no special “button” to request prayer, nor is there a space set aside for prayer on Facebook Live.

Designated greeters can offer to be available for prayer in the chat pane, and attendees can enter a private text-based chat to join in prayer.
 Text-based chat is...ok. Wouldn’t it be more natural to pray with someone face to face? For those for whom sight and sound is an important element of prayer, it is not an ideal medium for prayer.

In the social lobby in Altar Live, specific tables are designated for prayer, where two -- or more -- can gather, hear each other, and see each other.


#7. Bringing newcomers

Some people find it hard to invite others to their physical church building. And others find it hard to accept an invitation to the church building. But, an online church service lowers the threshold considerably to offering (and accepting) an invitation.

 

Facebook Live
Send invite

 

Altar Live
Host a guest

  Attending a church service is as easy as clicking on a link in a newsfeed, in an email or a text sent by a friend.

Recipients can watch the event on Facebook Live anonymously.

But, the person who invited the guest has no way of knowing if that guest accepted the invitation and is present.
 Yes, in Altar Live, there is the same one-click entry to attend a service anonymously.

Altar Live takes this to the next level. Go ahead and invite a friend or neighbor directly into your watch party at church, or to your table for the after-church social time. In this way, the guest can ask questions during the event, and you can offer explanations or help make sure your guest is comfortable all the way through. They are also less likely to leave part way through the service.

This dynamic avoids the experience of walking into a big church, visible to everyone; and it preserves the personal connection between host and guest.


#8. Welcoming newcomers

Some seekers find your church even without a direct invitation. They discover your livestream in their news feed or through search results. What happens when they arrive? 

 

Facebook Live
Guests make the first move

 

Altar Live
Greeters make the first move

  Guest-initiated welcome. When a newcomer says hello in the chat pane, a designated host can welcome them to church via text-based chat.

If necessary, a greeter can remove bad actors who are disruptive.
 Greeter-initiated welcome. When an anonymous guest joins the livestream, they are assigned a temporary name (e.g., Scarlet Shoelace, Purple Rhino), and greeters can welcome them via text-based chat.

If necessary, a greeter can remove bad actors who are disruptive.

In addition, in Altar Live, the greeter can invite a willing guest to log in, which enables the guest to join a watch party with others. Where appropriate, the greeter can suggest a watch party that will be particularly hospitable to a newcomer, and make a discrete introduction as the newcomer joins them.

In this way, real connections begin on the very first visit, not in a hoped-for return reply.


#9. Giving 

 

Facebook Live
Link to third party apps

 

Altar Live
Link to third party apps

  Facebook Live includes the ability to add a Featured Link within the chat stream. Attendees click/tap on the link to launch a web page where a third-party giving solution walks them through the process.  Altar Live includes an Announcements tab, where you can push out a link to any third-party giving application. During your offering time, greeters can push out the giving link to the congregation. (Coming January 2020)


#10. Cost

Everyone has a budget.  

 

Facebook Live
Free

 

Altar Live
Cup o’ coffee

 Free.

But, you have to use another paid video-conference platform like Zoom for face-to-face connection. 
 Altar Live brings all the tools of Church Online and video-conferencing into the same platform, and has been priced with small and medium church budgets in mind.

Altar Live is comparable to the monthly cost for coffee, cream, sugar, cups and napkins. For a church of 70, that’s about $1 per person per month. For a church of 150, even less; about 69 cents per person per month.

And, there’s no need for clean-up afterwards.

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