Today’s churches are increasingly having to run on modern online platforms as the paper-heavy traditions of the past are steadily becoming obsolete.
For many church leaders, this move has proven to be challenging - letting go of the old ways to welcome something so technologically advanced into the church seems like a big leap to make. At the same time, the churches that have made this move successfully have been reaping the benefits, from improved daily operations to pre-pandemic attendance levels.
This is ultimately because these churches have the right digital tools to support their work and expand their reach. But what are the best church platforms online today and how can they be used to grow your church?
Choosing The Right Digital Church Platforms
There are multiple online tools and digital church platforms that are in use today to make the running of a religious community more efficient and streamlined.
If your church is currently on the precipice of this decision, then know that it will be important to do your due diligence before deciding on the platforms you decide to use. This is key because of several reasons:
- Once you’ve worked to onboard onto a platform, you don’t want to have to start over on another one.
- You want your congregation to be safe when using this platform as the home of your virtual church.
- Most churches don’t have unlimited budgets for media teams, so the platform needs to be accessible and affordable.
The best thing to do when evaluating the digital church platforms that are available is to make a shortlist of what your church needs. Is your church looking to improve attendance? Does your church need a financial management system? Are you looking for something to stream your Sunday services?
With your shortlist of goals in hand, let’s take a look at the top options available to your church online today:
For an all-in-one platform that will serve all your streaming and one-on-one or small group needs, look no further than Altar Live. Built by technologists that are passionate about the faith community, Altar Live is a dedicated church streaming platform that goes much further than Zoom or Facebook Live.
Well, Altar Live has tons of features that work for churches specifically. With Altar Live, you can increase the number of returning visitors, deepen the quality of engagement, and actually know who is attending your online church services.
Altar Live provides video conferencing software, consulting, and training specifically for churches that allows for true engagement. Hosts can easily see who else is joining their online event with visualized icons on the screen and switch between mass streaming their Sunday service and running a small Bible study group all on one platform. In fact, these events can even be run simultaneously - all from one subscription.
Another great part of Altar Live is the ability to analyze data about your church. The Altar Live dashboard lets churches get analytic insight into both anonymous visitors and regular attendees so they can understand who is engaging with their services online.
The Church Online platform was built to assist churches with launching their online services. With features like chat, live prayer, and high-powered analytics this platform is aimed at streaming large services online to church congregations.
Hosts can connect pre-recorded or live videos with an embed code or stream URL but are limited to running one service at a time. For attendees, Church Online allows them to communicate with each other and with hosts via the chat option.
The biggest advantage of Church Online is that the platform is affordable, although churches will need to connect with a different streaming provider to make the service work.
One thing to note with Church Online is that churches will also need to make use of a different notification system since attendees won’t be notified by push notifications or calendar invites from the basic platform alone.
As church platforms go, Facebook Live is used commonly because it is accessible - most churches have a Facebook page already, and it’s fair to assume that their congregation has Facebook accounts too.
This move makes sense. It’s a public platform that you can moderate. You can broadcast live, post announcements, and share videos and posts far and wide.
The problem with Facebook Live however is that it is very one-sided for both the host and attendees. People can react to your stream or post comments, but it doesn’t offer the true connection that church does in person. In fact, many of the churches using Facebook Live have to use another platform to host their one-on-ones and their Bible study groups for example.
Facebook Live is missing an entire dimension of worship and community: face-to-face, talk-out-loud fellowship.
What Facebook Live does do well is work in conjunction with another platform. Many churches using Altar Live continue to use Facebook and Facebook Live as part of their outreach. Facebook is well-suited for sharing and discovering a video live stream via newsfeeds.
Zoom became a staple of remote outreach during the pandemic, and that included religious communities. This is more of a means to an end than it is a permanent platform for your church online - here’s why:
With Zoom, every person joining needs to have their own Zoom account. The host of the service has to manually create breakout rooms and is again limited to a single event at a time unless they have multiple Zoom subscriptions.
Another place where Zoom falls short is in the sharing of multimedia. If you want to up your service with a media presentation or by watching a shared video, the quality will decrease and slow the more participants join the call.
Zoom has also been controversial for its lack of security around religious services. Notorious instances of “Zoom-bombing” took place during the pandemic in which congregations were subjected to terrible imagery or verbal abuse by random event joiners making use of a security loophole in Zoom.
Churches Love Altar Live
With all the above in mind, many churches come back to Altar Live as the virtual home of their church. This is not just because it’s a secure, all-in-one platform for hosts, but also because Altar Live is a place for communities to grow.
Online ministry doesn’t have to be rocket science. We’ve helped over 1,300 churches take their online ministry to the next level and we can’t wait to help yours do the same.
Reach out to us today to receive a free trial for your church, or check out our Altar Live Academy where you get access to our library of on-demand videos, training, and resources all about online ministry. You can even book a time with an experienced online ministry consultant if you need help defining your online strategy.