How Your Church or Campus Ministry Can Use Periscope

Last week, I wrote a post about the new Twitter-based live video broadcasting app Meerkat. Today, Twitter opens up its own version to the public under the name Periscope. Like Meerkat, the app allows uses to broadcast live video directly from their phones and share it via Twitter (currently iPhone-only, but an Android version is coming). Twitter uses can click a broadcast link on Twitter to catch the live feed through the app or a desktop browser. The app can also send push notifications to let you know when people you follow are live.

Meerkat debuted at the end of February and gained notoriety over the last week 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 apps like this will influence the 2016 presidential campaign. While it grew exponentially last week, Twitter took steps to limit it, knowing that their competitor was on the way.

One week’s lead time is likely not enough to keep Meerkat ahead of an app that has full and complete access due to being owned by Twitter. Also, after a week, only one person that I personally know in real life had even tried Meerkat. Those that have joined are celebrities, who will go where the people are, or early adopters, who will try out both anyway.

If you have yet to jump into either, I would recommend first checking Periscope out for a couple reasons:

  • Directly Integrated with Twitter. This makes it significantly easier to find people to follow or build an audience.
  • Better design. Meerkat’s screen is cluttered with no ability to hide the various elements that are blocking what you are actually trying to watch. Periscope’s overall feel is much cleaner and friendlier. You can tell Periscope has had a much longer development time.
  • Archived Broadcasts. Meerkat allows the broadcaster to save the stream to their phone, but there is no searchable archive for viewers. Periscope flips it, making archives default and instead giving the broadcaster the option not to save it. This means your past broadcasts can be available to those who miss the live event. (UPDATE: According to this article from CNET, broadcasts are only archived for 24-hours. So, while you don’t have to catch everything live, there won’t be an extensive backlog.)
  • Private Broadcasts. With Periscope, before you begin broadcasting, you have the option to select a group of people to whom the stream is visible. With Meerkat, every broadcast is public and available to everyone.
  • Interactions with the Broadcaster. The comments on broadcasts in Periscope remain in Periscope and are not dumped out of context onto your public Twitter feed as they are with Meerkat.

Here are a couple articles on the launch of Periscope to check out for more in-depth coverage: The Verge, Engadget.

Before jumping into ideas of how your church or campus ministry could use Periscope, there are a couple important personal, psychological, and spiritual issues to be considered. 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.

Check out this video from a couple years back where I give a talk on issues of technology and faith.

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 Periscope!

  • 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? With Periscope’s archive function, you could use past videos to build interest in showing up for a live show.
  • 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/Periscope, 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! You can also use the private broadcasting feature to invite only specific people to see the stream.
  • 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 you can choose not to archive a broadcast, it can be a way to try and catch just a small group of people who might be free at the moment.

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

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