The Ultimate Guide To Live Streaming Your Church Services

What happens when members can’t come to church, but still want to attend services?

By live streaming your church services, members are always able to attend, even if they’re sick, traveling for work or staying home with their new child.

Of course, live streaming also gives you a chance to increase your online membership as well. The good news is it’s cost effective and allows you to reach for more people.

Things To Keep In Mind

Before you start live streaming your church services, you should think about costs, how participants feel and whether live streaming is even right for your church.

The cost varies greatly and the good news is it doesn’t cost much at all to get started. We’ll cover more on costs later.

Something that many people never talk about is how church leaders, choir members, band members and just members in general feel about having themselves streamed online. Even the most confident pastor might feel insecure in front of the camera. It’s important to discuss this with everyone to ensure they’re okay with it.

Finally, is your church live streaming for the right reasons? According to Livestream, 2,778 houses of worship throughout 59 countries used Livestream to stream their services online. Despite those high numbers from just a single live streaming platform, your church shouldn’t do it just because it’s popular.

Your church should only invest in live streaming if:

  • Your members will find it beneficial
  • You want to expand your church’s reach
  • It won’t strain your church’s budget
  • It’ll help you reach specific church goals

While Livestream found that one church’s online donations increased by 70% after live streaming services, every church can’t expect the same results.

In fact, a brand new church might find it more beneficial to simply upload sermons on their website to build a following before live streaming. Most churches can benefit, though. If you’re not sure if it’s right for your church, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you want to do it? (“because others are,” isn’t a good answer
  • Can anyone successfully lead this project right now?
  • Is live streaming able to make your church better?

The key is to set goals and know how to measure them to see if live streaming is effective, and if not, how to improve it.

Setting Your Expectations And Goals

Before you even buy the first piece of equipment, set realistic expectations and goals. Why? You need a way to measure how well live streaming your church services is working for your church.

For instance, do you want to expand your reach from 100 members to an additional 1,000 online viewers each week? Maybe you want to increase online tithing by 15%. Perhaps, you’re looking to increase engagement with your current members.

Whatever your goals are, set them before you start live streaming. Church Production talks about the importance of using analytics to determine the ROI of living streaming. By setting goals, you’re able to determine how valuable live streaming actually is for your church’s needs.

How Much Should You Invest

This is the hardest question to answer for any church. The truth is you can actually start with nothing but a high-end smartphone and a free live streaming platform. Odds are, one of your church leaders probably has the latest iPhone, Samsung or something similar.

While it’s not always easy to get the setup just right, it is possible and ideal for smaller churches that don’t have a much of a budget for video production.

If you’re completely new to live streaming, you shouldn’t make a major investment. Right now, you just want to see how well received the idea is before investing thousands.

Ideally, start with a free platform and a lower cost camera. Some businesses may offer your church a free camera (it may be an older model, but still highly effective) or a discount since you’re a nonprofit. It never hurts to ask. The camera will be your biggest cost, but it’s a one-time cost, so that helps.

Starting out, you can start live streaming your church services for less than a few hundred dollars. Or, if you want to go all out on audio and video equipment, you could easily invest thousands initially for equipment. After that, all you have to do is pay for your live streaming platform.

Choosing The Right Camera

The camera is the most important piece of equipment. After all, without a camera, there’s nothing to broadcast. However, you have quite a few different types of cameras to pick from, such as:

  • Webcam
  • DSLR
  • Camcorder
  • Action camera

Of course, there are also cameras that are specifically listed as live streaming cameras, which are also a great choice.

A webcam is tricky to work with as you’ll need to have it connected to a laptop or desktop. That can get in the way of the pastor for members who are physically in the church at the time. However, they’re one of the cheapest options.

A DSLR camera is designed for high-quality photo and video. This is the type of camera that most professional photographers prefer.

Camcorders are designed specifically for shooting video, so they’re an obvious first choice. Ideally, you’ll want one with Wi-Fi and/or HDMI capabilities for best results.

Action cameras are designed for more active live streaming. For instance, if the pastor moves around often or you’ll have someone walking around with the camera during the live stream, you’ll get the most stability from an action camera.

You’re probably most concerned about pricing and features. Pricing for the above types of cameras ranges anywhere from under $100 to over $2,000. Remember, you don’t have to go with the most expensive or fanciest. Get what’s right for your church.

To help you with your comparisons, here are reviews from live streaming experts and the cameras they prefer:

Essential Lighting Tips

Even with the best camera, your video won’t look its best without the right lighting. If it’s too dark or too bright, viewers might get so distracted that they don’t even hear what your pastor has to say. That’s definitely not what you want to happen!

The hard part is figuring out the difference between what your eyes see and what the camera sees. While you might see the pastor perfectly with just natural lighting and small lamps to either side of the pulpit, the camera just sees the dim shape of a person.

Instead, try a technique called three-point lighting. This effectively lights the subject of your video without shadows. A backlight and two lights in the front at 45 degree angles drastically change what the camera sees. You’ll have to play around with the brightness a bit to get everything just right.

If you’ll be live streaming more than just your pastor, you’ll need to install adjustable lighting or multiple areas of lighting that you can control from a single computer or tablet.

Other Must-Have Tools

Depending on how elaborate live streaming your church services might be, you may also need to invest in audio equipment. If all you’re streaming is your pastor and maybe the choir behind them, you may be able to get away with just the microphone on your camera.

Otherwise, you’ll want to invest in microphones that feed back into your camera. For more complex setups, you’ll likely need multiple wireless microphones that connect back to your camera via a main audio/video controller. This can be a laptop or tablet with the necessary software installed.

Mic Reviews lists 10 great wireless microphone sets perfect for live streaming.

Encoding Your Stream

Unless you have a camera that already has a built-in video encoder (costs more, but is incredibly convenient), you’ll also need a video encoder. Encoders come in two forms – physical piece of equipment or software.

While Boxcast has obvious reasons for promoting the hardware version (they make a video encoder box), the company does provide great reasons to opt for the hardware version, such as:

  • Less bandwidth
  • Easier to configure
  • May sometimes be cheaper (one-time fee versus charges per video)

However, the software version can be just as effective. If you’re subscribing to a live streaming platform and use their software, you might be charged based on the length and number of services you stream. Others charge a flat-rate. For stand-alone encoder software, pricing varies greatly from under $100 to over $1,000 for premium features.

Tech Republic covers six live streaming software options for all budgets. Don’t worry, there’s even an option for just $60. If you go the hardware route, Streaming Media Global provides in-depth guidance on choosing the right hardware for your needs, including all types of budgets.

Using Live Streaming Platforms

Once you’ve gotten your equipment together, it’s time for the final major step – choosing your live streaming platform. You’ll need a platform in order for people to view your services online.

If your church as a website, you can design an area of your site for live streaming. You’ll likely have to pay more for your website hosting as live streaming does use much more bandwidth than a standard church website. However, this keeps all of your content on your church site.

If you don’t want to use your church’s website or you just want to use a service dedicated to live streaming, you’ll need to carefully compare services to determine what pricing structure and features work for your church.

When it comes to major live streaming options for churches, you have several platforms to choose from including:

It is worth noting that these services may have their own specialized equipment to make live streaming easier for your church. Equipment through these providers may cost less than buying it on your own. Some offer free trials to help you compare services.

Free Versus Paid Options

All of the above are premium options. However, you do have a few free options, but they’re not mainly for churches, though. While there are more free options available, the two most relevant for your needs include Facebook Live and YouTube Live.

Facebook Live allows you to set up live streaming events, including live streaming your church services. It’s free to do so and if you already have a large Facebook following, it’s a great option. You can live stream using your phone or any other type of camera.

YouTube Live works similar to YouTube, except videos are broadcast live. You have to have an account in good standing before you can get started, though.

Overall, you’ll get more dedicated support with paid services. However, if you’re just getting started and want to save money, free services work well. They’re also ideal if you have a following on Facebook or YouTube. If nothing else, free platforms are a great way to test the waters before investing in premium services.

Other Considerations

There are few others things to keep in mind when live streaming your church services. First, always mention the option to tithe online. This might include mentioning your church’s website URL, providing a text message number or having a button your live streaming profile.

You’ll also want to market your live stream. The object is to get people to actually view your services. Talk about it on your church’s website, blog and social media channels. Don’t forget to tell your members about it too!

Ready to start live streaming your church services? Before you do, make sure you have an engaging church website in place to market the stream and/or host the stream.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *