Trial and Error lessons with Facebook live and watch parties

Since the lockdown I have been, like everyone else, experimenting with Facebook and its live options.

Each week I do a live said Eucharist on Thursday evenings (with an act of spiritual communion in place of receiving bread and wine).

On Sundays I prerecord our services (which enables me to involve church members in doing readings and leading prayers). The Sunday service is uploaded to YouTube and Facebook and embedded in our church website (tip: I’ve created a category in our wordpress site of ‘sunday service online’ and then created a menu item to show all posts in that category on one page – so on the home page you click on Sunday Service Online and can see all Sunday services in one place listed in the order they were published).

Sunday mornings at 10am I do a Facebook live video of ‘notices’. This includes holding up work children have been doing, sharing local news and giving people the opportunity to gather at the same time as if they were coming to church. After my notices I host a ‘watch party’ in our Facebook group for us to watch the service together. This is not quite the same as a service through Zoom or a live broadcast but you can watch the prerecorded service live simultaneously with people and you can see who else is watching and add comments (at the moment attendees are saying hello to each other as the service starts for example). With Facebook watch parties you can only watch videos that are actually on Facebook and publicly viewable (if you have a Facebook group make sure it is set to public rather than closed – I had to change mine at the start of lockdown). My Palm Sunday video actually was removed by Facebook because of ‘nudity’ (there was a film of Jesus on the cross in it!) but it was up for long enough for us to watch it together and is still on YouTube (although because of this I now have a warning on my account, if I ‘violate the community standards’ again they will prevent me from using Facebook for 24 hours). So be careful what you include in your prerecorded services – especially any copyrighted music. I’ve been using the videos of hymns available for free here: http://www.thenba.org.uk/the-big-sing.

I learnt today that you can schedule a Facebook live video – this is helpful as it puts up a post saying ‘Bryony Taylor will be live at 10.00am’ with a button for people to press for a reminder. One issue I’ve had with Facebook live is church members not being able to find the videos.

With watch parties I’ve found it helps to put up a video before the main one that you want to watch all together because as soon as you start a watch party the video begins playing immediately. I created a Taizé O Lord Hear My Prayer video (3 minutes long – feel free to use) as a preparation for worship video to play before the main event. This gives people time to join the watch party and they haven’t missed anything.

Fb liveI’ve still not quite got the hang of Facebook live – the main thing being unsure whether it’s recording or not and looking a bit strange while I wait! I also need to remember to look into the camera rather than at my picture on screen – this is really hard to remember to do!

So here are some quick tips I’ve learnt on the way (and am still learning – I haven’t ‘perfected’ this by any means):

Facebook Live

  • schedule your live video (when you go to create a live video you have the option either to ‘go live now’ or ‘schedule a live video’. This creates a helpful post on Facebook letting people know you’ll be going live.
  • Look into the camera not at your picture on the screen (I am really struggling with this!)
  • If you sit to do the live video with the computer right in front of you, you can interact with comments. If you have the camera at a bit of a distance you can’t interact with comments live. (So I can do this on a Sunday morning for my notices but not on a Thursday when I do a Eucharist).
  • If you use your smartphone you can do fun filters and silly hats etc. If you’re using your computer you can’t use these (probably a blessing!)
  • You can embed a live Facebook video in your website – follow instructions here.

Watch Parties

  • Decide where to host a watch party. Because I have two churches I’ve been using our joint Facebook group rather than the individual church pages.
  • Ensure your video is uploaded to Facebook (you can only do a watch party with videos on Facebook).
  • Add a video before the main video you want to watch with everyone so that people can join the watch party without missing the beginning.
  • Hosting a watch party for a prerecorded video is the closest thing you can get to worshipping together if you’ve prerecorded your worship.

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