For ages, people have been regularly attending church services, such as group singing or praying, to be closer to God. But modern life is changing. Sometimes it becomes so unpredictable that people can't physically attend a ceremony — but they may not want to miss it, even being in another city or country. Sometimes even people from other parts of the planet want to join a sermon, and fortunately, both situations become easily solvable nowadays through the power of the Internet, which allows for streaming live church services online and lets churches get closer to their followers, despite any distance.
Churches all over the world actively use digital technologies and communicate with their congregations through websites, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which are known as the most important communication channels, surpassing email, events, print, etc. And since live video is one of the leading forms of content on social media, broadcasting is likely to become the next step to make church services even more accessible for people.
The advantages of sermon broadcasting include:
- Possibility to engage people who cannot attend worship personally.
- Being closer to the members of your parish and providing support wherever they are and whatever they experience in their lives.
- Sharing inspiring live videos easily and encouraging more people to join your community.
- Bringing church to more people's lives.
- Soliciting donations for further live video development.
Before moving on to actual streaming, let's dive into the basics.
Getting started with live video
With all those benefits in mind, you may want to start broadcasting your first video as soon as possible. But before that, make sure you have everything set.
Below, you will find the details that will help you get familiar with camera settings and lighting design, choose the recording gear and streaming platform that would perfectly meet your goals, and more.
Choosing the right gear for a church live stream
The first step is, of course, a nice camera that will help you make videos of good quality. There is a rich assortment of church live streaming equipment from which you can choose either more affordable or high-budget solutions. It all depends on how much you are ready to spend.
To get the sermon across, you basically need a camera recording in HD and featuring an HDMI output. This is enough if you have a relatively small amount of money for planned spending or don’t strive for super-professional quality of BBC level. You can, however, purchase a camera or camcorder that costs up to 1,000 dollars. If you plan to go with high-end video production, we recommend considering one of the top camcorders that capture video in UHD 4K up to 30 fps.
These are our top picks:
- Canon Vixia HF G21: a great solution for newbies who just plan to go live with worship.
- Panasonic 4K Cinema-Like Video Camera Camcorder: effectively works in low light.
- Canon EOS REBEL T7i: belongs to DSLR cameras and also works well in poor lighting conditions.
- IP live camera AXIS M3045-V: good for shooting from different perspectives and streaming directly to your site, where parishioners can watch the worship live.
- Canon XA15: high-budget and usually attracts people who are more familiar with the technology.
- Sony PXW-Z150: captures videos in UHD 4K up to 30 fps and provides a lot of professional features that make it one of the best cameras for live streaming church services.
Regardless of the camera you choose, it should meet the basic requirements in categories such as:
- Frame rate.
- Shutter speed or motion control.
- Aperture or depth of field.
- Gain or image noise (aka ISO).
Let’s look at the two most essential parameters, the resolution and frame rate of the camera, since they directly influence the quality of the live stream and the way viewers perceive motion in the video.
When talking about video resolution, the next four commonly used parameters should be highlighted.
The video resolution you’ll choose will directly affect the image size, which leads to a larger and better quality image in the case of higher definition. If parishioners have a slow Internet connection, they may encounter issues watching HD live video. To avoid troubles, you may need multistreaming, which will help broadcast both HD and SD video simultaneously so that the viewers can choose the option that suits them best.
As for the frame rate, the most commonly used parameters include 24, 30, and 60 frames per second. The principles that apply to video resolution and the way it affects the final image can also be noticed in terms of frame rates — the more frames per second, the higher the image quality you get.
Tip: If you plan to use multiple cameras, take into account that the parameters have to be the same for all of them. To gain a more visually attractive live video, stop at the progressive scanning under camera settings, which is usually indicated as 720p or 1080p.
No matter how well the camera works in low light conditions, you can still end up with an image with low brightness and deep shadows if the light in your church is too faded. This is where installing additional lighting may come to the rescue.
If you are new to lighting design, we recommend trying the easiest three-point scheme. Let’s imagine that the pastor stands in the center of the platform and the camera is placed right in front of his eyes. Now, you should put two light sources at 45 degrees ahead of him and one more light source behind so that they can all light up the pastor without creating dense shadows, and people can clearly see him.
If there are more people you want the camera to capture, you should install more lighting sources or apply adjustable lighting that can be controlled from a single system.
Other church live streaming accessories
In addition to recording and lighting gear, there are several other accessories needed to go on air with prayers or sermons.
- Tripod to ensure video stabilization.
- Microphone for a church leader to make certain the congregation can clearly hear the worship.
- HDMI cable to get the video feed from the camera.
- HDMI extender is needed only if your camera is apart from the PC or encoder.
- Video switcher to switch between multiple cameras or video signals you leverage.
Audio and video parameters
With configuring the video resolution and frame rate done, it’s time to select the bitrates you will leverage while encoding the signal before going live. The bitrates define the data volume packed in one second of audio and video being recorded. To fine tune audio and video encoding bitrates, you will need the encoder, which we’ll consider later. For now, let’s find out about common audio and video bitrates.
64 kbps and 128 kbps are two of the most frequently used settings, but some real-time streaming services like YouTube support 320 kbps audio bitrates. That is why it makes sense to find out in advance which encoding settings are recommended by the service you plan to stream to.
For even better sound recording, you may also need an external microphone to connect it right to the camera. As an alternative to the external mic, consider investing in an HDMI audio inserter that allows adding digital or analog audio to the video feed, or a small mixer designed specifically for live video streams. The latter will give you added support in case you add multiple audio sources by letting you monitor their tones and volumes.
As for video bitrates, which refers to the amount of data transferred at any given time, they can be as follows:
- 5 Mbps for full HD
- 3 Mbps for HD
- 2 Mbps for SD
Remember that a high resolution and frame rate together with a high bitrate will make the video look as good as it can.
Another tool that plays a significant role in church live streaming setup is an encoder, which is needed to transfer the information to a communicable format for broadcasting services. Depending on your purposes and needs, you can choose from software or hardware encoders. They both bring much value to their users, although a software encoder is more suitable for those who are not professional broadcasters and are hunting for cheaper, more accessible, and easy-to-use solutions.
When opting for the encoding parameters for your live video, keep in mind the bandwidth. In live streaming, video bitrates are usually limited by the uploading and downloading bandwidth of broadcasters’ and their viewers’ networks. So, the higher the data volume, the more bandwidth is needed. In the case of limited capacity from the viewer side, your live video will be streamed in a lower resolution and frame rate, which will consequently worsen the viewing experience. Fortunately, there are adaptive bitrate streaming platforms that allow for automatic resolution optimization and overcoming network limits.
Tip: Calculating the approximate minimum of upload bandwidth aims to make the live stream successful. Once audio and video bitrates are added and multiplied by 1.5 or 2, consider testing the speed of your system upload bandwidth. Repeat the test on different days and at different times to get the average value. The latter will show if you need to request more bandwidth from your ISP.
What is the best live streaming platform?
Once you have a camera, lighting, and the church live streaming audio setup done, you may wonder which live streaming site is best to use.
Facebook Live is one of the social media platforms with the possibility to go on air. It is a great option not only because it's free, but because so many people actively use it. In its third quarter of 2019, Facebook reported 2.45 billion monthly active users. Basically, if you want to reach an audience, your church better have a Facebook page. Using Facebook Live is relatively user-friendly, so you don't need a degree in digital content to start live streaming your church service. With Facebook Live, you can let your audience engage with your church in a way they are already familiar with.
YouTube Live Streaming is another simple option that many churches take advantage of already. When a person thinks they want to connect with someone or something through video, they think of YouTube. Once again, YouTube Live is free, though there are paid services available. With two billion monthly active users (and even more who don't actually sign in to use their services), YouTube is a guaranteed way to reach your audience. The fact that users can access YouTube without signing in is part of why it has become so popular. It's not necessary to keep track of passwords or make sure your account is set for viewing services — literally all your viewers have to do is follow a link directly to your video.
IBM Cloud Video
Ustream, now known as IBM Cloud Video, is an easy-to-use live streaming tool that allows members to stream from the website or directly from a mobile device. Ustream is known for its ability to offer members different ways of interacting with their audience while streaming. Ustream attracts over 50 million unique monthly users and offers the option to notify members by email when you are posting new videos, so your congregation will always be in the know and in a comfortable way.
Whether it is a social media website or a real-time streaming platform, the choice sometimes becomes confusing, since both have their pros and cons and bring value to their users. But in the case that you use Restream, you can choose any of the options and succeed.
Restream is a service that allows broadcasting to multiple platforms all at once, which lets your congregation interact with your church on the platform that is most convenient for them. You can work with Restream for free and don’t need any technical knowledge to set it up.
How to create your first live video
Now that you know which platform or platforms you plan to stream to, it's time to start preparing for your first live stream! Many people think that live video is spontaneous and ad hoc. While it certainly can be, the most successful live streamers spend significant time organizing and preparing their content to get the most out of the live video experience. Here are the steps you need to take to ensure your first live videos are well-received.
If you have never watched a live video, you should. It's helpful to see how others are using the technology and start brainstorming how those techniques can be adapted to drive the message you want to share.
Live video scares people away because they think it's all improv or spontaneous. Sometimes it is, but most of the time there is significant planning and preparation to ensure success and quality. Live videos also give your audience a sense of authenticity and personability.
Decide which programs in your church are the best fit for live video. The easiest place to start is to simply live stream your church services. However, there is probably much more value to your congregation if you consider adapting a program specifically for live video. For example, the pastor may give a short, separate sermon directly to the camera and interact in real time with the congregation. These live stream sermons can be scheduled at times when the ideal audience is most active.
Once you decide the tone and structure of your first live video, outline! Write out how you want the live video to go, the topics you plan to discuss, and the questions you want to use to prompt your audience to comment and engage. Keep in mind that you will see their comments in real time, so part of your live video should incorporate these interactions.
Before you hit "Go Live," practice — especially if you are just getting your feet wet with video. Try to test your content in the same location and at about the same time of day as your live video so that you'll know how noise and light work for your video. Questions you need to keep in mind include: Does the focus of your video shift at all? Will you need to change camera angles or adjust lighting?
Let your congregation know that you will be launching a live stream. In the weeks preceding the live video launch, be sure to share information on the location where people can watch the live stream and how they can engage. Naturally, live video announcements should become a regular part of your social content and your printed church schedules.
6. Finally, go live!
Just try it! Whether you decide to do a special kind of service specifically for your live video or simply live stream your regular service, the experience will give you a new and dynamic way of connecting with your church community.
Helpful tips to give your live stream a boost
1. Choose the right equipment
For smaller congregations, or even if you're just starting out, a decent smartphone or tablet will do just fine — and they are super easy to connect to live streaming services. If you're a larger congregation, you're going to want to invest in some higher-quality equipment, which is still just as easy to use with social media these days — many automatically connect to social platforms.
2. Start small
- Do a test run.
- Try individual videos with church leaders speaking for 10 to 20 minutes on a specific topic to work out the kinks.
- If you offer several different service times, always stream the most popular one. Try streaming services with lower attendance rates, too. You may get more traffic online.
3. Reach a bigger audience with multicasting
Multicasting, or simulcasting, takes your live video stream and redistributes it to multiple channels simultaneously. Restream is a leader in multicasting and integrates with over 30 major live streaming platforms to help you get the most out of your live video. Publish your live video via Restream and that video is redistributed to all your preferred channels with no loss in quality or performance.
How to connect with Restream.
Restream is a simple and free-to-use multistreaming service! Here's how to get started.
- Create an account at Restream.io.
- Set up your broadcast software so it is compatible with Restream. RTMP and Stream Key are accepted configurations. (Skip this step if you want to stream from your webcam.)
- Add your preferred channels to your Restream account. You can do this by choosing the "Add Channel" button and following our guides on how to set up your channel.
- After you have chosen your services, everything is ready to go live. Just connect your encoder, and we will take care of the rest. On the other hand, you can go live directly from your browser via the Restream Go Live feature.
If you need more details, you can find all the necessary setup details in one convenient article in our support section.
4. Boost on social media
Use your already existing personal accounts as well as your church profiles to reach out to your audience. Let them know when you will be live streaming and what events they can look forward to in your posts.
Also, you will get more traffic if people are referred to your videos by their friends. Events that are solely promoted by their event creators tend to not attract as much of an audience. Consider including church members in your live stream to help motivate sharing. For example, you can invite your youth group to prepare a contribution or regularly host "guests" from your congregation. Members of your church who are included in the streaming process will do a lot of promotion for you.
Another benefit to keep in mind if you decide to try Restream.io is that you can enable alerts that will send your followers notifications when your live video is about to start.
5. Remember your audience
With live video your audience can grow significantly and is almost always larger than just who is in the pews. It's extremely important now that you've successfully set up your live streams (and let your users know when and where to find them) to include your entire audience in your videos. Make sure to engage with your online audience as much as your live audience. Make sure they feel included! Use chat and commenting functions for this. With Restream it is easy to maintain chat conversations and get a feed of the comments coming in from online viewers.
6. Try scheduling your live video
This may sound like a joke, but it's not. You can save yourself time and stress by uploading and scheduling pre-recorded video to play as live video. This benefit isn't available on most platforms, but it is offered in a few third-party tools, including Restream's Scheduler.
No matter what you decide to try, don't be afraid to take the first step. Even a little bit of authenticity through live video can go a long way toward building a vibrant online community around your church.
Live video streaming comes in very handy when it comes to spreading the word about your church online and encouraging more people to join your community. Many churches have already tried broadcasting and in turn have decreased the number of leaving members. Not only do they engage the parishioners who cannot physically attend the sermons, but they also bring the church straight to people's hearts and inspire them to join.
To go live with church services, it is not mandatory to invest in high-budget equipment with feature-rich functionality. A volunteer-friendly camera that is not very much inferior to high-end, professional gear, along with a tripod, microphone, and HDMI cable, may work just fine. With a little work to set up the camera, audio, and lighting, as well as scheduling the video stream, you can end up gathering hundreds of people around your church service broadcasting, no matter what gear you use.
If you don’t want to limit yourself to one streaming platform, try Restream to expand the number of viewers you’ll reach and their ease in enjoying your services.