Welcome to Altar Live! Our platform designed to make online ministry engaging. We are excited about what Altar Live can do to help your church gather, connect meaningfully, deepen relationships, and welcome newcomers.
Whether you've found our platform for the first time, or have been looking into it for awhile, we know that introducing any new technology platform to your community is a change, and change needs to be managed. Here are steps that we have seen churches take to successfully introduce Altar Live to ministry leaders, decision makers, and their general church population.
How long does it take to learn how to use Altar Live?
Altar Live is simple and intuitive. Designed with your volunteer staff in mind, you can create an account, learn the basics of the system, and set up an event in under an hour.
How soon could I host my first service or event on the platform?
If you are already live streaming your service, you can host your first service or event almost immediately after creating an account! All you have to do is:
- Create a free account (then upgrade in your account to unlock more engagement features)
- Create your first event
- Connect your live stream feed with a stream URL
- Publish the event
- Share the link with friends
While creating events is not hard, transitioning your community and team to the platform can take more time.
How can I help people make a successful transition to the new platform?
Altar Live requires no more technical expertise than having watched a Facebook Live video or participated in a Zoom call. The learning curve is short and intuitive. Even so, communication is rarely 100% efficient, and some people in your church will not make the shift as quickly. It's important that no one is left behind.
- Constant communication about the transition is key to making sure people can find you.
- Consider a ramp up period to transfer people from your other platforms into Altar Live. If you have been live streaming to Facebook or YouTube, you can continue to do so, but to maximize engagement among your community on Altar Live, we'd encourage you to start linking Altar Live in all the familiar places people usually go to look for your services and events (website, emails, Facebook page, etc). Remember to have someone available in the chat on those platforms to inform the much smaller audience that your church has migrated to Altar Live, and share the link. If you have been using Zoom, continue to launch that Zoom meeting with someone present in the meeting to instruct attendees to use the new link. These measures may be necessary for a week or two to make sure the full congregation can receive the news and instructions on what to do.
- Consider appointing “Tech Deacons” ahead of time to help individuals who may need assistance, particularly those for whom computing and connectivity are not easy everyday activities. They may have mastered Facebook or Zoom, but another change could feel disruptive and intimidating.
Testing out Altar Live
After you have created an account, here's how to start testing out the platform. You can create as many test events as you'd like you!
Step 1: Select and invite a group to experience an event
To experience an event in Altar Live, you will want to include yourself and 3 willing participants who will all be able to join at the same day and time for the event.
Who are some ideal people to invite?
- Tech-able. You don’t have to be a tech genius to use Altar. Even so, make sure your initial invites go to people who know their way around a laptop or phone, and around the web.
- Engaged. You want to include people who will see if this experience is a good fit for your church. They should be regular participants in the life of the church, and have meaningful relationships within the congregation.
- Available. You might have the perfect group of people in mind, but finding the a time and date when everyone can attend can be a challenge. When weighing which factors that matter, it is probably better to lean in favor of quick availability. You will learn all sorts of things from just trying it, so it is better to start sooner rather than later. And, once people have used it, they will likely recommend some other church members to you, or even invite them during your event itself.
Step 2: Conduct a test event
- Add the people who are testing with you as members in your community.
- Create an event
- Connect your live stream feed. Choose a recorded video from your church’s library of videos on YouTube or Facebook or your website to simulate a live experience.
- Send out the event link to the people who are testing with you.
Once everyone joins the event, start trying out the features!
During the livestream:
- Choose a seat to start a watch party with others
- Interact with people in a watch party as the video plays
- Get up and leave that seat and join a new row
- Invite someone to sit down with you
At any point, anyone who was made a Greeter or Host can move everyone to the lobby.
- Join a table together for a group discussion
- Try locking the table and unlocking the table
- Leave the table to mingle at another table on screen.
The event only needs to last 10-15 minutes to get a sense of the level of engagement in Altar Live.
Step 3: Prepare a summary and invite your leadership to a demo
Now that you have tried Altar Live for yourself, it is time to introduce it to your church’s leadership! To make it easy, here are some items to include as craft your message.
- The Altar Live video, which covers why engagement matters, and how the product works.
- Watch party -- select a row where you can sit in a videoconference with people while you listen to the sermon and worship service.
- Social Lobby -- see who is around, and find a table where you can have a conversation
- Welcome Table -- Assign a table where the Welcome team can welcome visitors, answer questions and suggest next steps.
- 1:1 Prayer -- Find a private space where two people can meet for prayer
- Quotes and/or screen shots of you and your group using Altar Live Engagement. This helps the leadership envision using it in your church.
Invite the leaders and decision-makers to another event, similar to how you created the first event. If possible, include some or all of the initial group, who may be able to help guide the leadership, and offer their perspectives on this second time around. Busy leaders will appreciate the effort that you and your team have put into the event.
Step 4. Set up for your first trial Sunday or a mid-week event.
After you and the leadership team have tried out the platform, the next step is to try it out with a broader community. The best way to introduce a new experience and get your team acquainted with the platform is to host a Sunday or mid-week event.
Mid-week event: Instead of launching the platform for your first week, run a mid-week event. Invite your members to join to encourage engagement.
First Sunday event: Introduce the platform on a Sunday and invite a subset of reliable members of the congregation to use Altar Live in parallel with your current livestream or Zoom implementation.
Running a trial event will give decision-makers and your team a degree of comfort in how Altar Live works. It will also give a subset of your church members a chance to experience it, and build momentum and positive word-of-mouth to help ensure successful adoption.
Running Your First Sunday on Altar Live
Depending on your church’s size, you will want at least one week to prepare the congregation for upcoming change.
- Share the Altar Live video.
- Use this email template to introduce Altar Live to your community.
- Use this email template to explain how to create an account. Send out your community sign up link ahead of time so people can create an account ahead of time.
You are all set to go now. All that is left is to gather and engage!
One last step -- we would love to hear from you about your experience and how your church is adapting to it. Share your stories at email@example.com.
FAQs & Objection Handling
There will always be questions! Here are some of the questions we often hear from leaders and churchgoers as they encounter Altar Live for the first time. Don’t feel you need to become an expert. You can share and refer to this FAQ as needed.
- Outreach vs internal focus. Some leaders in your church are looking for ways to care for the congregation in such a challenging season. Other leaders feel urgency during this season to reach the unchurched and lost. Each will look at the Altar Live experience through their respective lens. Altar Live is designed to make peer interaction an integral element of an online worship experience that is equally appealing to those looking for familiar comfortable surroundings as well as those who are looking for a safe, unthreatening, relevant space in which to hear and understand new content and perspectives.
- Facebook and YouTube presence. Even with Altar Live, your church may want to continue to post livestreams and recorded videos to Facebook and other social media. Using Altar Live is not exclusive. You can also stream or post to other platforms.
- Bad actors. Every church wants to strike a balance between accessibility for all and safety and security for those gathered. Reports of bad actors who maliciously disrupt online gatherings are relatively rare, but serious. An event in Altar Live is open to any visitor who has access to the link to the event, where they can watch the livestream. However, anonymous attendees are not able to interact with the congregation. Hospitality Team members can use text-based chat with anonymous visitors, and can invite someone to experience the event more deeply by signing in with an email address. Once they have been logged in, visitors can participate like any other logged in user, choosing a seat and joining a watch party of table. If a logged in participant is becoming disruptive or dangerous, the Hospitality Team has the ability to lock them out of the event.
- Watch Parties and Wallflowers. Some people want to sit with others during a church service. They may whisper and chat with each other, not entirely unlike an in-person event. Others prefer to concentrate on the worship and preaching without distractions from their seat neighbors. Altar Live Engagement supports both modes. If you don’t want to be seated where you will be expected to interact, you can remain alone for the service.
- Cost and budget. Altar Live allows you to build a virtual campus online. The functionality of the platform can be used for far more than just Sunday services: meetings, Bible Studies, Sunday School, and more. The cost of the software is commensurate with cost of serving coffee and providing hospitality to members and visitors, approximately less than $1/per person per month.
- Existing technology investments. Many churches just began live streaming in Spring 2020 when the pandemic forced closures. They made unexpected investments in technology, hardware, networks, and software. It is natural they will be reluctant to make any new purchases that do not leverage their existing investment. Altar Live uses all the same audio and video equipment and live streaming software and services, and adds a layer of interactivity on top of it.