Live streaming for your church can look a lot of different ways, whether you’re doing it temporarily, or you’re doing it to maximize the reach of your weekly message.
When it comes to how you’ll stream, where you’ll stream, what software and tools you’ll use, etc. there are many options to choose from, and churches have a lot of questions.
Which platforms should I stream to?
How are you going to reach your people? It’s a great question. I would suggest go where they are. Is your audience mostly on Facebook? Or YouTube? Maybe a mixture of both, or neither?
It all depends on their age and other demographics. And right now (during the COVID19 crisis) when streaming is the only option, you want to make it available to as many people as possible.
You also have to take into account the resources you have, including who’s running the technology and how complicated are you able to make it. Sometimes you just have to go with the option that will reach the most people.
Facebook is the largest social network, and everyone young and old has an account. So this is the platform that is going to be the most accessible to everyone. It is also the easiest platform to go live on.
From the Facebook app you’ll simply click on the “Live” button under the new status prompt, whether you’re going live from a personal account or from your church Facebook page.
You can do this right from your phone, iPad, or whatever device you use. Prop your phone up on a tripod or hold it in your hand, its up to you and how you want the stream to feel to your audience.
From your page you can also schedule a Facebook Live session ahead of time. That way people know when you’ll go live, and can plan around it. This can help you build up an audience first.
You can also pre-record your message and then set it up as a Facebook Premier video or a Watch Party. Both are options when you create a new status. These options enable you to upload the video, and schedule it for a later time. This enables you to avoid many of the mistakes and technical issues that can come with going live. It also frees you up to engage in the comments more easily as it airs.
Much like Facebook, you can go live directly to YouTube and all you need is your phone.
You can setup a specific time for your broadcast, or you can go live immediately. All you need is a free YouTube channel. Once you setup the video you’ll get a link for it that you can distribute on your social networks and email.
You can also embed the video on your website, so people can watch it live there, or watch it again once it has aired. On YouTube.com you can engage with people in the comments or chat box during the broadcast.
Dave Adamson has a great walk-through on how to stream to YouTube:
You can also use the video conferencing tool Zoom to stream. This will work great if you choose to stream your pastor directly in a more intimate setting, as opposed to a produced view of your stage.
It is possible to use DSLR’s and more professional cameras with Zoom, but it’s also super easy to get going with just a webcam or whatever is built into your computer.
You can even bring in guests into the stream by giving them the link to your Zoom broadcast. For example, you can bring your staff into the stream, or your worship pastor who can perform some music. You can all be in different places and join the stream together.
People will need the link to your broadcast to watch it, unless you upgrade your Zoom account, then you can just stream straight to Facebook or YouTube.
Embed It On Your Website
If you stream to Facebook or YouTube you can easily grab the embed code from the video and embed it on your church’s website. That way people don’t have to log into a third party social network in order to see it.
This opens up the possibility for anyone to watch it, regardless of what platform you use to stream it. However, it does limit the interactivity of the stream, as you lose comments and chat features.
Church Online Platform
The Church Online Platform from Life Church is a also a great option to help open up your stream to everyone. You can set it up on your website, and it includes chat features, prayer requests, and a lot more.
Best of all, it’s free to use. It is going to be a little more complicated to setup than some of the easy social media network options, but it will be worth it for the added features if you have someone who can do it for you.
Outreach Digital has also just launched a free online church platform that lets you build a page with your Facebook or YouTube livestream. It includes cool features like chat, Bible, notes, and more.
Sign up at FreeOnlineChurch.com
Since we can’t meet in church, what should we stream?
I encourage you to take this opportunity to adapt what you normally do so that you are serving your people, and new people, in the best way possible. Right now, during the COVID19 crisis, most people are stuck at home and they are glued to their phones like never before. Social media, websites, and every platform is seeing record traffic and engagement right now because people really have nothing else to do. They are also looking for answers. Looking for hope. And looking for entertainment.
Use that to your advantage to build content that will keep them engaged, and that will meet their current needs.
That means that you don’t necessarily need to show them your normal church service stream, especially if its just you up on stage preaching to an empty room.
Switch things up and make it more personal. There’s nothing wrong with going live from your phone, while you’re sitting on your couch or at your home office. Take it outside and go live from a park or somewhere in your city.
- Why You Shouldn’t Live Stream a “Normal” Service This Weekend by Michael Tuszynski
What software should I use?
If you want a more professional and polished looking livestream, you can use different tools to connect fancy cameras and feeds to your livestream, no matter which platform you choose to stream to.
Software like Restream.io will let you easily stream to multiple places at once, so you can simultaneously go live on Facebook and YouTube, for example.
If you just want to be easy, you don’t need any additional software to go live directly to platforms like Facebook and YouTube.
What equipment do I need?
You don’t NEED any equipment. But it can certainly help to make things look and sound more professional.
You may want to invest in microphones, better cameras, and lighting. If you’re connecting multiple cameras, you’ll need switchers and possible an encoder.
Even if you’re just going live with your phone, you may want to invest in a cheap tripod to keep things steady.
When it comes to equipment, Sean Cannell with Think Media is the pro to go to:
Dave Adamson also has a list of equipment you can buy, broken out by budget:
Should we stream our worship music?
You certainly can. Music is an important part of the worship experience. When streaming it online, it creates a lot more complexities.
Not only do you have to worry about licensing (see below), but you have to worry about the sound quality, how it looks, etc.
Watching a worship set via a live streaming service is also a lot different than being there in person. It’s just something to think about. The chances of people watching it on their phone or computer and standing to sing along and raise their hands is small.
At the same time, worship music in our feeds can be a welcome thing that we all need right now. If you’re streaming a regular service, you may want to include it. If you’re doing something a little more low key and personable, then it’s probably best to skip it.
You can also stream your music set as a separate video or live stream.
How do I handle music licensing?
If you are performing songs that aren’t your original work, then you are likely performing and broadcasting copyrighted material. You‘ll need the appropriate licensing to do so legally.
If you upload a video, live or not, to Facebook or YouTube that includes copyrighted music then it will get flagged and possibly removed by these networks automatically. These days it can happen within minutes, as their automatic filters are processing it in real-time.
On Facebook it usually means they’ll mute that portion of the video. Which defeats the whole purpose of including worship in the video, so it’s not ideal. On YouTube, they can take down the video and they’ll give you a copyright strike. You only get so many strikes before they don’t allow you to upload videos at all anymore.
Both platforms allow you to upload details about the licensing that you own. It often doesn’t keep your videos from being flagged, but it does keep you out of trouble with the law, and allows for you to restore your videos much quicker.
The team at PTZOptics have a great video that explains this and what to do:
We’ve gathered a number of different resources to help you sort through it all and determine which is the best solution for your church:
Fast & Cheap Ways to Livestream Your Church Service
Blackbar has a great video walk-through.
Live Stream Quick Start Guide with Kenny Jahng
The Ultimate Live-streaming Guide from Twelve:Thirty Media
Our friends at Twelve:Thirty Media have put together a handy little guide to walk you through many of the options available.
It’s free – download it here.
How to Launch Your Church Online Quickly
Steve Fogg walks through some practical tips to quickly get your church services online.
- How To Launch Your Church Online Quickly from Steve Fogg