How Relatu Helped Launch the Event of the Year for Ascension’s Scripture Podcast Community

“I knew it was going to be okay because Alonna said it was going to be okay. You all were a collective rock in a stormy sea of live streaming.”
– Sean Boyd

The Challenge: 

Develop a debut event that would bring together 5000+ podcast subscribers of varying ages for an empowering and interactive online experience.

The Bible in a Year podcast, produced by Ascension, takes its listeners on a 365-day journey through the entire Bible. Each day features a 20-25 minute episode where Fr. Mike Schmitz reads a passage from the Bible, shares a brief reflection and guided meditation. At the beginning of 2021, it was the #1 podcast on Apple’s charts for over a week, ahead of major news shows. And in 2022, the podcast was launched a second time and again took the #1 spot.

With this incredible following, Ascension wanted to offer their audience a chance to connect with one another at the conclusion of their year-long journey together. They also wanted to provide encouragement and guidance for their community, as each subscriber journeyed onward in their pursuit to continue reading the Bible.

The Ascension team needed a creative way to combine intimate, prayerful experiences with small group discussions, high-quality keynote addresses, and exclusive access to celebrity speakers Fr. Mike Schmitz and Jeff Cavins. Additionally, they anticipated over 5,000 attendees – many of whom belonged to older demographics that struggled to use technology. So although Ascension was confident in their ability to produce exceptional content, they couldn’t quite figure out how to make it dynamic and accessible at scale. And that’s precisely why they partnered with Relatu! 

The Solution: 

A premiere 3-day retreat hosted on Hopin, featuring 4 professionally-produced, interactive mainstage presentations, 3 guided prayer meditations, live-streamed Eucharistic Adoration, and 100 breakout small groups for deeper reflection. 

By integrating all of the above elements, we helped Ascension inspire their audience to cultivate a lifelong relationship with the Word of God and a profound sense of community with each other. 

The Ascension team already had an incredible studio and all the equipment needed to produce a beautiful show on the mainstage. But Relatu was able to take it to the next level by masterminding spirited polls and facilitating audience Q&A, entirely within the Hopin platform. We diligently took care of all tech operations, speaker cues, and stage management, keeping everyone on track throughout the event. We were even able to respond to on-the-fly requests from speakers, such as spontaneously publishing bonus polls and extending a Q&A session an extra half-hour – as requested by popular demand! Because the Relatu team proactively monitored all streaming and engagement processes, the speakers were able to focus solely on their message, without EVER having to worry about tech glitches or connection issues. 

In addition to streaming high-quality content on the mainstage, Relatu sought to help Ascension accomplish their objective of giving retreatants the opportunity to joyfully encounter one another. Through Hopin’s 1:1 speed networking tool, we were able to promote dialogue amongst the attendees, who were encouraged to share their takeaways from each talk, as well as their personal prayer intentions, with one another. The celebrity speakers participated, too, delightfully surprising many attendees by jumping into video calls throughout the weekend. 

For those who wanted even more out of their retreat experience, we also offered optional small-group breakout sessions. To ensure that these sessions would be a success, the Relatu team trained 120 volunteers to lead small group discussions. And in the weeks leading up to the event, we coordinated their schedules, assigned them to groups, onboarded them with tech training, and made sure that each person felt confident – in both using the platform AND facilitating conversations! 

Of course, hosting an event with such a high volume of participants required extra care and attention to providing preemptive prep and live support. In order to make sure that everyone was able to successfully access the platform, we created extensive support articles, a platform demo video, and even “tech check” opportunities for event registrants to test their cameras and microphones – long before showtime. We had 640 individuals visit the tech check session. Many of these people were over the age of 60. Most did not experience any tech issue that prompted their visit; rather, most wanted to feel prepared because they didn’t feel like a very “tech savvy person” in general. After participating in this opportunity from our support team, each attendee felt much more at ease. This gave them the confidence to use their webcams, microphones, and computers – in addition to participating in the platform and overall event.

From the beginning, Ascension wanted to create an experience that was so much more than a live stream; they set out to host a true spiritual retreat. So prayer was at the heart of everything we did. To illustrate various ways of encountering Scripture on a deeper level, the Relatu team filmed famous theologians and Catholic speakers introducing Lectio Divina, a Scriptural Rosary, and the Liturgy of the Hours. During each segment, attendees were encouraged to share their intentions with one another. Afterward, these moments of prayer culminated in a live-streamed Holy Hour of Adoration, during which those intentions were offered up by the entire community. Attendees shared that they had never experienced such powerful moments of prayer online and that they were inspired to continue exploring these methods of encountering the Word of God in their daily lives.

All in all, the social (and supernatural!) impact of this event reached far beyond the confines of a computer screen. It allowed every participant to truly dive deep, engaging with the content, the speakers, and their fellow retreatants in ways they could have only ever imagined before. All because of Relatu’s interdisciplinary expertise, hard work, and commitment to creating authentic encounters.

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