Streaming the Message of the One Thing Needful

David Norris (North Mankato, Minnesota, USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

David Norris serves as the Manager of Visual Media at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota. He’s worked in the fields of design and photography for over 25 years and is a proud former Alaskan. David and his wife, Tanya, have four children, and currently reside in North Mankato, Minnesota.

"One thing is needful"
in Greek on the
Bethany seal

Live streaming worship services is a great way to engage those not able to attend in person. During this pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we broadcast the saving message of Christ to as many people as possible, reaching out to them where they are. We’ve heard from alumni and friends of Bethany Lutheran College how much they appreciate being able to view these messages and to keep them connected to both Bethany and to the Word of God.

We live stream and record chapel services at Bethany Monday through Friday when school is in session. The services begin at 10 a.m., generally run about 15-20 minutes and include hymns, a short sermon message and sometimes special music or a soloist. There are a number of ordained clergy who deliver timely messages of the One Thing Needful—the saving Gospel of Christ—to students, faculty, and staff, and to anyone watching online.

Three people rotate to handle the streaming and recording for chapel: Jon Kovaciny (Web Development Specialist), John Sehloff (Director of Information Technology), and I. Glenda Bossow is our key support person who uploads the service information to our website for those who wish to follow along (hymns, readings), and also edits audio files for upload and distribution.

Bethany streams services using three remote PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) cameras which are all connected to one touch-screen controller. This sits next to our computer and audio board so one operator can control both the video cameras and audio from one location. Having the setup inside the worship space allows us to hear the audio produced and make adjustments as necessary. It’s also nice to see who’s moving and where when it comes time to switching camera shots during a service.

We use Wirecast Studio for our interface and encoding, and stream to our website via DaCast, and also to YouTube Live. In addition to the video streams, we also record a separate audio file which is distributed via podcast platforms (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iHeart Radio, etc.) available on our website. The entire service and the sermon message are available separately to listen to. Our Chapel web page also contains an archive of past services which are sortable by preacher and searchable by keyword.

One of Bethany’s core values is a commitment to the Gospel. Through the efforts we’re putting forth, we hope more people hear the Good News proclamation that salvation is a free gift from God’s grace alone.

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Philip Wels 2020-10-19 5:53:59pm
Thanks for doing this Dave! I firmly believe that we need to be archiving sermons and devotional content in audio and video format for the future. Text, perhaps has more longevity for storage, but it's a medium which requires time and attention. In our current society having audio for daily chores, commutes, running errands, is a great way to spend time in the Word. It's much more uplifting than other (worldly) listens.
David Norris 2020-10-19 10:41:11pm
Thanks Phil! I agree, it's great to have these archived for future generations, and listening to a sermon or service on the go is so convenient!
Kelsey Boucher (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2020-10-20 8:53:02pm
Thank you David for sharing what Bethany Lutheran College is doing to cope with social distancing rules. It is nice to know that I can even watch the streaming services in Wisconsin. I think what you said at the beginning about spreading the saving message of Christ is what we as a society needs more than ever. Personally, the pandemic still feels like a horrible nightmare and I can't wake up. It has devastated so many things in my life and I am always looking for strength from Jesus to help get through. I think streaming services is one of the best things to come from the pandemic because it is so easy to just pull up a chapel service from Bethany or a church service from my hometown. My college is also doing a lot of virtual chapel and church services and it is still special to watch even if I am not physically close to my fellow church members.

We are seeing a transition to virtual learning and Gospel on every level of education. My school is even going so far as to create a video and podcast reading the campus newspaper since we stopped printing physical copies of the paper. My brother is an admissions counselor for Bethany and he tells me all the time about how well Bethany has adapted to the changing times especially through excellent chapel services. I hope Bethany's online chapel services continue to gain popularity and to go smoothly for the administrators putting in all the effort possible for the students.
David Norris 2020-10-22 4:31:18pm
Thanks for your kind words Kelsey. I think we all hope the pandemic ceases soon, but it looks like we'll be dealing with it for a while. It's comforting to know that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever to help us through this challenging time.

Something I didn't mention in the presentation, but related, is that I'm thankful Bethany had the staff and infrastructure to adapt quickly for our chapel messages during the spring when students were sent home and a regular chapel service wasn't feasible. Through the leadership of our Chaplain, we produced and shared a daily devotion message each day. Here's the playlist on our YouTube page:

I hope the rest of your time at WLC goes well for you and all the students, staff, and faculty there, and we can all return to a somewhat normal educational experience.
Judy Kuster (conference moderator) 2020-10-24 9:19:14pm
Dave, your work is personally very special to my 85 year old brother, Dick Maginnis, now living with his daughter Bethany in St. Louis. He tunes into the chapel services often and also to the sermons from Peace in North Mankato which are archived. When Dick was living in Florida, he didn't have computer access so Tom and I downloaded several of the services and made DVD's of them which my brother still enjoys. I'm wondering how far back the services are archived or maybe unlinked in a server someplace that is preserving them. Dick is asking if there are any of the old sermons that Tom (Kuster) who is now retired from BLC, delivered in chapel that have been saved somewhere. I did find a few and copied them, but he was at Bethany for many years. Are there any sermons by anyone that are not currently linked anywhere? Thank you for all you do!!
David Norris 2020-10-26 9:32:55pm
I think it's great your older brother tunes in to our chapel services! I'm glad he's taking advantage of the online opportunities that are so abundant now. Regarding your question about the archives, I think we only have recordings that go back until about 2011 or so, but I'll do some digging to see if others exist.
Mark Meyer (Immanuel Greenville) 2020-10-27 3:38:21pm
Hello Dave,
Thanks for all you do. Trying to archive video/audio is a task that takes much time. We archive our sermons and services right now on Vimeo and YouTube. What will the format be in 10 years or 20? We may have to constantly be changing all of our archives...
David Norris 2020-10-28 3:50:33pm
Hi Mark! Yes, it's tough to guess what the next archival system will be and if/when services like YouTube will continue to exist. I still hear a reference back to zip disks and jazz drives occasionally, so I hope online has a longer shelf life!
Philip W 2020-11-01 2:33:17pm
Along similar lines, if YouTube, Facebook, or Vimeo ever decided our videos were "inappropriate" or violate community guidelines, do we have anywhere where we could upload hours of content, both for archive, but also for (speedy?) viewer playback?
David Norris 2020-11-07 2:25:15pm
Great questions Phil. I suppose it would be streaming content directly from our own servers, but I sure hope it wouldn't come to that.
Makayla Kaiser (Martin Luther College) 2020-11-05 12:35:29am
David Norris,

Thank you for sharing what Bethany is doing to deal with all of the restrictions because of COVID. Being at Martin Luther College, they are doing very similar things. They have separated chapel for different dorms, and they are also live streaming it. They also have an on-campus church at different times you can go. With everything that is happening with COVID, I appreciate how much work everyone is going through to make hearing God’s Word on campus easier.

I’ve seen how much time it takes to learn how to operate all the live stream equipment and how complicated it is. At my church, I know they taught a student how to operate their live stream so that an adult didn’t always have to do it. Is Bethany teaching students how to do the live stream, or are they planning on keeping it for just adults?

Thank you for sharing how Bethany is dealing with chapel during COVID. I think that can help other schools get an idea of how they can do the same thing.
David Norris 2020-11-07 2:36:15pm
Hi Makayla - Currently we only have staff members operating the equipment for services, but I have thought very recently about getting some students involved. We do have a few students who know how to operate the same equipment for recording fine arts events in our chapel, but those events aren't being recorded the same way this year due to the pandemic. I hope you continue to enjoy and take advantage of whatever worship opportunities are available to you. Blessings on your education at MLC.
Makayla Kaiser (Martin Luther College) 2020-11-09 8:54:25pm
Thank you!
Mara Klatt (Martin Luther College) 2020-11-05 12:47:42am
Mr. Norris,
Thank you for being willing to run this operation at Bethany. The streaming services that have come out of this quick switch over to a highly virtual world due to the pandemic that we’ve faced this year has been a true show of the skills that members of our church possess. I am thankful for people like you who are willing to put the time and effort into making these services available and as close to being in person as possible.
As this switch to virtual worship has been in effect for quite a few months now I do wonder about what it will continue to look like. Do you think that the viewing of these services will continue to be high, even as we go back to our normal lives?
Thank you for the amount of effort that you have put into these services to provide people with an opportunity to continue their worship even during these trying times.
David Norris 2020-11-07 2:48:11pm
Hi Mara - Thanks for your comments and question. I think the numbers will remain higher than normal for a few reasons: 1) I think there will be more people for whom this becomes their daily routine; 2) Hopefully the message is spreading more and more about the services being online so more people watch, and; 3) There may be those who take longer to get back to a 'normal' comfort level when (God willing) we return to our normal chapel services with chairs right next to each other instead of socially distanced, so they might continue to watch online. Blessings on your education at MLC.
Jiajun Ji (Martin Luther College) 2020-11-06 2:39:41am
Dear Norris,

First of all, on behalf of my friends in Bethany, thank you for your willingness to do this in Bethany. Due to the COVID we are facing this year, we need to switch from this fast to a highly virtual world. The streaming service has truly reflected the skills of our church members. I admire people like you for your own efforts to enable all students to take classes through electronic products and to avoid large-scale student infections with COVID.

This method of online classes has been going on for me for two weeks, and I don’t know what it will continue to do next. Do you think that if we return to normal life, the viewing rate for these services will still be high? Or do you think this will continue for a long time? As far as I am concerned, if everything returns to normal, I may give up this virtual learning method and slowly change back to the previous learning method.

Thank you again for your contribution to virtual learning and hope that this learning method can be gradually improved in the future.
David Norris 2020-11-07 3:06:42pm
Hi Jiajun - Thank you for your comments and question. My hope and prayer is to get back to normal life as soon as possible, but I'm sure it will still be different from what it was prior to the pandemic. I certainly hope that people will continue to watch the services online and our viewing numbers increase, but I also hope our in-person services are well attended. I realize it's not always an option to attend in person, so I do appreciate those who attend our services virtually and worship along with us. Blessings on your education at MLC.
Joshua Pahmeier (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2020-11-10 12:43:02am
Hi David, thanks for this article and your work in sharing God’s Word especially in these unusual circumstances. While the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are certainly less than ideal, for me personally, in reading your article and seeing the work you have done to continue to share God’s Word demonstrates a clear silver lining. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, very few churches engaged in online outreach. Now, churches’ and schools’ increasing online efforts allows for connection with individuals that previously would have been impossible. Personally, I have even been watching online church services from my sister’s church in Minnesota. Prior to the pandemic, this would have never been possible. Looking at your work and the work of other churches, it is clear to me that God’s Kingdom is continuing to grow, though in different ways that what we are used to (that being connecting with individuals online and attending church online). I give a lot of credit to schools/churches that are altering their approach in doing this and you as well. Thank you to you for your hard work and making the Word of God so easily accessible for all.