Church streaming has become a huge topic in the last three years, as providers, technology and bandwidth have advanced.
Some churches have been quick to adopt this technology, while others have decided to take a slower approach or simply not stream at all.
In this piece, we won’t focus as much on the how you can stream (for more information on that, check this page), but rather on the best approaches you can take to get the most out of your stream, if you should continue, and if you haven’t already, if you should start.
Before you start streaming, it is important to have a discussion with your head pastor or leadership board, on what is important to them. There are excellent reasons for streaming, and there are valid arguments to be made for not streaming at all.
If you are interested in learning more about streaming for houses of worship, check out the following session, "The Sunday Service Livestream Conundrum," slated for the WFX Conference & Expo this November in Orlando.
Answering who you are trying to reach, and why you are trying to reach them, will help determine if you should continue to stream or why you should start.
Are you trying to reach new people?
Livestreaming is about taking the message of your church outside the walls of your building. Oftentimes, people will look online to see what your church is like before they even consider stepping into your building. A livestream is a great way to introduce people to your church and the message.
If your goal is to reach new people, it is important that your stream, and how it is presented, is an accurate representation of your church. If you’re cutting out elements of your service as part of your stream, when people arrive in person, they may be surprised how different things are in person versus online.
Another reason to stream may be simply providing another option for your current population, to stay connected to your message. People miss services for a variety of reasons, whether it be work, sickness, or travel, being a few of them. Having an option for your congregation to watch, while away, will help bring them back into your building, when they can attend in person. Perhaps your church has a nursing home or hospital outreach.
Providing a livestream can be a conversation starter for those visiting people that are physically unable to attend service. “What did you think of the pastor’s message on forgiveness this past week?” It shows a compassion for people on different level. Providing this can allow for people to continue to grow deeper in both their faith and relationships with other believers.
Some churches have long-term missionaries in other countries and providing a livestream allows them to continue to be a part of the church that is supporting them. Conversely, with these situations, flip the scenario when possible to either FaceTime or Skype your missionaries back to your congregation during service. This allows for the congregation to be able to see and hear what is going on, more regularly on the mission field.
Lastly, another option for your streaming is providing a closed caption feed for a deaf audience. Services such as WebCaptioner can be easily integrated into your feed, to allow for an outreach into a largely unchurched population. It is another way for your church to show caring and concern for all people, regardless of their physical health.
To get the most out of your livestream, you need to make sure your overall quality is good. With so many churches streaming messages, people will quickly switch to a feed that loads faster, or one they can hear better, or looks more polished.
While it is possible to stream with a smartphone or tablet, recognize that the quality will suffer, and the number of people watching may not be worth the time or effort.
The first thing to consider with quality is lighting. Cameras are light sensitive and need good lighting, to be able to properly color balance and focus. While you don’t necessarily need full theatrical stage lighting, lights that are consistent in both the output and color temperature are important. Make sure that as you pan the camera across the stage, that you have good lighting for the places people will be videoed.
The audio quality of your message is critical for a livestream. If it’s too loud or too quiet, people will simply turn it off.
Keep in mind that more than half of your audience is probably going to be watching on some type of mobile device, either phone or tablet. So you don’t need a 5.1 surround sound quality to your stream, you simply need to make sure it can be easily heard, and that there is no background noise or feedback.
For more information on how to mix your audio for livestreaming, visit this page.
Consistency in your livestream is important. Simply missing a week or two can have disastrous results on the number of people that regularly watch the stream. With that being said, at some point either yourself or one of your volunteers will not be at your church one week. Be sure to have a clear plan for when people are out, so that your stream can continue on without issue. It should be simple enough or have clear enough step-by-step instructions so that anyone on your team can get it going.
Having a consistent start time is also important with your stream. Many services allow for streams to start automatically at a given time. This is a great feature but be sure that everyone involved with your service is aware of this, and things start on time all the time.
Consider where you are going to livestream your service. Different platforms have different restrictions with Facebook having some of the most stringent requirements. One of these being that when you stream to Facebook, they want that to be the only platform you are streaming that content to. Platforms do fail and have issues, though, so having multiple places for viewers to watch your stream is always ideal.
Streaming does have some of its headaches, and if you’re not equipped with the people or technology to take it on, consider budgeting out equipment slowly over time. Familiarize yourself with a camera, switcher, and your lighting, before going forward with putting your stream live on air. One great idea is to simply record your services for a month or two, but to where you don’t actually publish them or broadcast them live. This will give you a way to polish your stream, before going live.
Technology allows us to be brought closer together virtually while being separated physically. Your livestream should be viewed as a ministry and a representation of your church.
If people see little effort in your stream, they will perceive your church as caring very little about them. Take the time to examine the motives and goals of your stream. Do it well and share the love of Christ across the globe.