How Your Church or Campus Ministry Can Use Meerkat

The latest social sharing app to blow up is Meerkat. It offers you the ability to stream video live via their app and announce/link to your broadcast through Twitter. It debuted at the end of February and has lately gained notoriety thanks to its presence at SXSW and use by celebrities like Jimmy Fallon. One of the President’s top advisors even wrote a piece about how this app will change the 2016 election, turning every print reporter into a multimedia broadcaster and every citizen into an amateur journalist.

From the start, it should be mentioned that Meerkat has its drawbacks. First, it relies on Twitter, and Twitter may not be a big tool for your church or ministry. You could grab your broadcast link from Twitter and post it to another social media outlet, but it relies upon the immediacy of a service like Twitter. Second, Twitter is already restricting what the app can and cannot access. This isn’t an “app killer,” but it will make it slightly more difficult to build out followers and announce broadcasts. Third, it is solely live streaming, which means no archives of past broadcasts. Fourth, as with all live streaming video services, users will run the risk/be faced with the temptation to encounter less-than-appropriate streams (as The Economist points out at the end of this article). I am sure there are more drawbacks, but these seem to be the most immediately identifiable. Of course, the whole app could always be a fad and disappear in a couple months…

Then there is the personal, psychological, and spiritual side of broadcasting. Whatever effects posting statuses, pictures, and videos have, it only gets amplified through live video. As with all technological tools, they can be used well, and they can be used poorly. It will likely catch on quickly with youth who may not be able to find those lines yet. It is important to note that this is not the first or only live streaming service, so this is not a new issue. However, with its Twitter integration, it is the easiest to use. This is less of an issue for an organization as long as you are respecting people’s privacy in how you use it.

I put all of these caveats and issues up front because, while I believe the church can and should better utilize technology, it needs to do so with care and reflection. As I mentioned, these are tools, and we need to be sure we are using them safely and correctly.

That being said, here’s a brainstorm of things your church or campus ministry could broadcast on Meerkat!

  • Regular Programming – You could use it like a mini live TV network. What if every Monday at 10am, or everyday at lunch time, someone broadcast Scripture readings and a short guided reflection?
  • A peek in on what’s going on at the facility – Do you have a busy and/or entertaining church campus? Let folks see what’s going on in the office, a fellowship space, a music rehearsal, youth room, tailgating, Trunk or Treat, Christmas Tree sale, chili cook off, etc. When I was in campus ministry, we would have spontaneous Mario Kart Tournaments. This would be a great thing to broadcast! Use hashtags specific to your campus, include an invitation to come play (with address), and you might get some new visitors!
  • Your presence at a community event – Are you or your organization going to be at a block party, festival, or other community event? Broadcast from there to show people how much fun you’re having and where they can find you or your booth. A 140 character sentence saying “come down to the <fill in the blank event>” is not as compelling as a live video of familiar, smiling faces having fun.
  • Mission Trip or Local Service Project – Much like the previous point, you can use it to broadcast your church or ministry in action. How cool would it be to check in and watch live video from a mission team halfway around the world? What if a group of your people are serving your community, and you were able to show it in real time? Or, how about when you end up a couple volunteers short for the trip to the local food bank? Make a live, upbeat invitation to come join in–if they’re browsing Twitter/Meerkat, they likely have time to come and serve!
  • An open meeting, training, class, service – Do you have a gathering coming up that is meant to be open? Consider broadcasting it. Be sure to do a test broadcast in the space first to make sure video and sound quality are worth watching. Mobile devices don’t always capture well from far away. Also, make extra sure that the gathering is something that you and everyone there is comfortable with being public!
  • Meet-ups or community office hours – Is the pastor, campus minister, or a staff member going to go work at a local coffee shop or on the college campus for the afternoon? Are you a large church or ministry and you want to create a small spontaneous get together? Broadcast for a couple minutes on the way to or outside the location inviting people to come out. Since the service is live with no archive, only folks who are actively on Twitter or Meerkat at the time will see the invitation.

What other ways might you see your church or ministry utilizing Meerkat? What other drawbacks do you see? Have any of you started using Meerkat yet and have any tips? Leave them in the comments below!

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