What would happen on a Sunday morning, if your pastor didn’t show up? What would you do for service?
Many people are already skeptical of an online experience, and all it can take is a single failure for them to write it off entirely.
I’ll bet you haven’t spent a whole lot of time thinking about that question. That’s probably, because to many, it seems ridiculous.
To just have your pastor no-show on a Sunday morning? Extremely unlikely, right?
I know plenty of churches that do have some sort of plan, if that were to happen, but the fact is that it’s seldom really on anyone’s mind.
Things are different online.
The fact is that the world of live video streaming has a much higher failure rate.
Sometimes, things fail that aren’t even under your control. No matter what the problem or who’s failure it is, though, the end result is the same: no video online. It would be like the pastor not showing up for that particular day.
Many people are already skeptical of an online experience, and all it can take is a single failure for them to write it off entirely. From there, it can take some significant time for you to build that trust back.
I would love to say that I haven’t learned this the hard way. That, though, wouldn’t be the truth. The truth is that for one Christmas service, probably our biggest service of the year, with thousands online, our video failed.
We had backups for that Christmas service, but they were all running from the same machine, and that machine was part of the problem. Without going into a lot of detail about that one instance, let me share what we do now at Manchester Christian Church, to avert a repeat of that situation.
1. Multiple Feeds
Our main service provider provides us a high-quality video, which carries all our primary feeds. The proprietary encoder allows us to push a primary stream, a backup stream, and a second backup stream, running on a completely different streaming protocol (HLS versus RTMP, for anyone who’s curious).
If a single feed has problems, it will automatically fail over to the first backup. If that first backup fails, we can manually begin using the second layer backup.
But what if the encoder fails?
2. Multiple Encoders
At MCC, we use multiple encoders from two different streaming service providers. If our main feed fails, we have a lower-quality encoder serving as a backup. It’s a different machine, running a different pathway, to a different streaming provider. We’ve found it to be well worth the investment.
What if the encoders or streaming providers aren’t the problem? What if it’s your ISP which has problems, or if your network in the building experiences congestion or fails?
3. Cloud Backup
If possible, look to have a prerecorded service uploaded to the cloud, playing in sync, ready to go, if your primary stream fails or one runs into unforeseen bandwidth issues, as we do at MCC.
All we need to do on our end is switch embed codes on Facebook, YouTube, etc.
At MCC, we begin our week of services on Thursday evenings, so this is generally the video that goes online, and plays for our backup.
This is obviously a worst-case scenario. It’s a different service where the timing won’t line up exactly, but it’s better than everyone online getting a black screen when wanting to watch the service online.
I understand that in your own streaming configuration, you may not be able to do all these things. We didn’t arrive at this solution overnight, as we’ve tweaked and added to our setup over the years.
I would encourage you, though, to think seriously about your backup plans. If your livestream works consistently week after week, confidence in your online experience will grow right along with your online attendance.