Instead of a traditional Sunday church service, City Edge church asked its 95 members to turn on their computers and, at their leisure, watch a 20-minute video broadcast. The traditional Christmas Day service became an online worship experience, explains Kevin Rush, head of City Edge. “Instead of calling everyone to get out of bed and short-change their traditional Christmas celebrations with family, we decided to meet people where they are. In this case, it happens to be their couches …” Rush wrote in an introduction to the video.
Rush founded City Edge in Lakewood, Ohio, two years ago with a mission to bring worship to people, and not the other way around. He said the Christmas online-worship experience did just that.
The story-form video, which Rush narrated and starred in, shows a man disillusioned and disoriented with the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Music in the video was written and performed by City Edge members who were also musicians. They wrote and recorded tracks for the video on their computers, while Rush mapped out filming locations and created a storyboard.
“It’s a stressed out season where life speeds up, and it’s where we need to slow down and reorient our lives,” Rush says of the video’s message.
The video also fulfills a basic tenant of City Edge: that worship should be more an ongoing story than a lecture. “We wanted this to be a narrative and not a talking-head preacher guy,” Rush says of the video.
When they were ready to start filming, the crew (made up of volunteer church members) used two Canon 60Ds to shoot Rush and live-music performances that would later be dubbed over with prerecorded songs. Then Rush, who has experience as an electrical engineer, voiced over his narration using a free and relatively simple program for Apple computers called Garage Band. Then the editing began on professional editing software called Final Cut. That, Rush said, took up the most time. In fact, the team sliced and diced through the night on Christmas Eve. “I got up at three on Christmas morning, edited it until six, and it was ready to go by seven,” Rush explains.
Another big hurdle was deciding what platform to launch the video in. Rush wanted the worship experience to engage users beyond simply staring at a screen, so he chose to use the video-streaming site livestream.com, which also embeds a chat room onto the video’s landing page. “Instead of just uploading a YouTube clip and having people watch it, we wanted people to participate and have a voice,” says Rush.
On Christmas Day, church members took shifts monitoring the chats, leading discussions on everything from favorite Christmas movies to the meaning of Christmas. Unfortunately, though, the chatting didn’t go as planned. The video consistently had about 12 streams at any given time throughout the day, but only three-quarters of those logged in joined the chat, and most of them were City Edge members. “We didn’t get many people to bite,” Rush admits.
The Power of Social Media
But the video did help in other ways to expand City Edge’s message to the rest of the world: It received more than 600 views on Christmas Day, and 600 more people have visited the video’s launch site since then. That’s about 12 times the number of people who regularly