For ages, people have been regularly attending worship services, such as group singing, praying, or other spiritual ceremonies. Being with others is one of the reasons people keep gathering together for these services, but modern life is changing. Life can be unpredictable, and not everyone can make it to the ceremony in person. Someone might also want to attend a service that’s on the other side of the country, or the world, without physically traveling there. Streaming live church services makes remote attendance possible, no matter where in the world you are.
Churches all over the globe actively use digital technologies and communicate with their congregations through their websites, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These channels are known as the most important communication channels for reaching people, surpassing email, events, and print. And since live video is one of the leading forms of content on social media, broadcasting is the next step to making church services more accessible.
The advantages of sermon broadcasting include:
- Engaging people who cannot attend worship personally
- Being closer to the members of your parish and providing support wherever they are
- 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 looking at the specifics of church live streaming, let’s dive into the basis of live video more generally.
🤓 Getting started with live video
With all the benefits of live streaming church services in mind, you may want to start broadcasting your first video as soon as possible. Before you start, make sure you have a good live streaming setup.
1. Choosing the right gear for a church live stream
The first piece of equipment you need is a camera that will help you make high-quality videos. Church live streaming equipment comes at different price points, so you can choose either more affordable or high-budget solutions.
To have a good-quality video of your sermon or service, you need a camera recording in HD, featuring an HDMI output. This setup is enough if you have a small live streaming budget or don’t need super-professional quality.
On the other hand, you can purchase a camera or camcorder that costs up to $1,000. If you plan to go with high-end video production, we recommend considering one of the top camcorders that capture video in UHD 4K.
These are our top church live streaming camera 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: a DSLR camera that also works well in poor lighting conditions
- IP live camera AXIS M3045-V: good for shooting from different perspectives and streaming directly to your website
- 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 four levels you should be concerned with are SD, HD, Full HD, and 4K UHD.
The video resolution you’ll choose will directly affect the image size. Higher resolution equals a larger and better-quality image in the case of higher definition. High-quality video is always recommended if you can do it, but your parishioners may encounter issues watching HD live video if they have slow internet connections. One option to avoid this problem is with multistreaming, which can allow you to broadcast an HD version on one platform and an SD video on another, simultaneously. This way, 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 also work for frame rates — the more frames per second, the higher the image quality you get.
Tip: If you plan to use multiple cameras, note 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 the camera’s 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 poor image quality if the light in your church is too faded. Installing additional lighting can come to the rescue.
If you are new to lighting design, we recommend trying the easiest three-point scheme. In this setup, the pastor stands in the center of the platform, and the camera is placed in front of them at eye level. Put two light sources at 45 degrees ahead of the pastor, one on each side of the camera. Then, put one more light source behind the pastor, which helps eliminate any dense shadows created by the first two lights.
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.
🤓 Read our guide to video lighting to get more tips
3. Other church live streaming accessories
In addition to recording and lighting gear, there are several other accessories needed for churches to go on air.
- Tripod to ensure video stabilization
- Microphone so everyone can hear the church leader clearly
- HDMI cable to get the video feed from the camera
- HDMI extender is needed only if your camera is separate from the PC or encoder
- Video switcher to switch between multiple cameras or video signals
4. Audio and video parameters
After configuring the video resolution and frame rate, it’s time to select the bitrates you will use while encoding the signal before going live. The bitrates define the data volume packed in one second of audio and video being recorded; bitrate measures how quickly your internet connection can upload live video and broadcast it to your audience. To finetune audio and video encoding bitrates, you will need an encoder, which we’ll discuss later. For now, let’s stick with common audio and video bitrates.
Audio bitrates are lower than 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. Find out in advance which encoding settings are recommended by the service you plan to stream to so you can choose the best audio bitrate.
For even better sound recording, you may also need an external microphone to connect to the camera. As an alternative to the external mic, consider investing in an HDMI audio inserter that allows for adding digital or analog audio to the video feed, or a small mixer designed specifically for live video streams. The latter will provide extra support if you add multiple audio sources by letting you monitor their tones and volumes.
Video bitrate changes depending on the video resolution. The recommended settings are:
- 13 Mbps for full HD (1080p)
- 6 Mbps for HD (720p)
- 3 Mbps for SD (480p)
Remember that a high resolution at a high frame rate, together with a high bitrate, makes for the highest-quality video.
Another tool that plays a significant role in your church live streaming setup is an encoder. Encoders transfer the information your camera and mics capture into a communicable format for broadcasting services. Depending on your purposes, you can choose either software or hardware encoders. Both have advantages, but a software encoder is usually better for those just starting out or those looking for cheaper, more accessible solutions.
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The setting you need to worry about with encoders is bandwidth. In live streaming, video bitrates are limited by the uploading and downloading bandwidth of broadcasters’ and their viewers’ networks. Higher data volume requires more bandwidth.
If the viewer has limited bandwidth, your live video will be streamed in a lower resolution and frame rate, which worsens the viewing experience. Fortunately, there are adaptive bitrate streaming platforms that allow for automatic resolution optimization and overcoming network limits.
Tip: Make your live stream more successful by calculating the approximate minimum upload bandwidth. Get the total video bitrate and total audio bitrate and multiply by 1.5 or two to get the required upload bandwidth. Run speed tests 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 lets you broadcast directly to a Facebook profile, page, or group. It’s a great option because it's free and so many people actively use it — Facebook has 2.89 billion monthly active users.
To use Facebook Live and reach an audience, your church needs a Facebook page. Facebook’s live streaming platform is user-friendly, so you don't need a degree in digital content to start live streaming your church service. You can let your audience engage with your church on a social network they are already familiar with by streaming to Facebook Live.
YouTube live streaming is another simple option that many churches take advantage of already. 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 — all your viewers have to do is follow a link directly to your video.
IBM Cloud Video
IBM Cloud Video, formerly known as Ustream, is an easy-to-use live streaming tool that allows members to stream from a web browser or directly from a mobile device. IBM Cloud Video is popular because it offers members different ways of interacting with their audiences while streaming.
The platform has the option to notify members by email when you are posting new videos, so your congregation will always be in the know.
The choice between a social media website or a real-time streaming platform can be challenging since both have their pros and cons. But if you use Restream, you don’t have to choose; you can multistream to more than 30 platforms at once.
Restream lets you broadcast your church service to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other preferred streaming platform simultaneously. Your congregation can interact with your church on the platform that is most convenient for them. Creating an account with Restream is free and you don’t need any technical knowledge to link your Facebook or YouTube channels to your Restream account.
🎥 How to create your first live video
Once you know which platform or platforms you plan to stream to, you can start preparing for your first live stream! Many people think that live video is spontaneous. While it can be ad hoc, 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 ways to adapt those techniques to your message. If you know of other church services available live online, check those broadcasts out specifically.
Live video intimidates many people who are afraid that things could go wrong when they’re live. Something can always go wrong, but there are usually steps you can take to mitigate these risks. 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. You can probably get more value from adapting a program specifically for going live, rather than just running it as normal and sticking a camera in front of it. 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, make an outline. Consider 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. Then write it all down! Keep in mind that you will see your viewers’ comments in real time, so part of your live video should incorporate these interactions.
Before you hit "Go Live," do some rehearsals — 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 that your live video will take place so you'll know how noise and light work for your video. Ask yourself: Does the focus of your video shift at all? Will you need to change the camera angles or adjust the lighting?
Let your congregation know that you will be launching a live stream. In the weeks beforehand, share information on the platform where people can watch the live stream and how they can engage. If you plan to live stream your church services regularly, these live video announcements should become a regular part of both your social content and your printed church schedules.
6. Finally, go live!
Hit that “Go live” button! 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 to connect with your church’s 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 should 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
Don’t try to do too much your first few times streaming. Keep these tips in mind:
- Do a test run.
- Try individual videos with church leaders speaking for ten 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 multistreaming
Multistreaming, or simulcasting, takes your live video stream and redistributes it to multiple channels simultaneously. Restream is a leader in multistreaming and integrates with over 30 major live streaming platforms to help you get the most out of your live video.
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.
If you need more information, you can find all the necessary setup details in one convenient article in our support section.
Restream also offers a live studio, letting you go live directly from your web browser. You won’t need an encoder if you use Restream Studio, and you can control several features of your live broadcast easily, including:
- Inviting guest speakers who aren’t physically present at church that day
- Adding your church logo
- Uploading a custom background or custom lower-third graphics
- Sharing an image or presentation from a computer screen
4. Boost on social media
Use your 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 which 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 big 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.
If you use a social networking platform such as Facebook to broadcast your church services, you can use Restream Events to schedule an event with a custom link you can share on your church’s Facebook page. You can also 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 those who are 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. Use the chat and commenting functions to help online viewers feel included. If you choose to multistream on several platforms with Restream, you can use Restream Chat to keep track of chat conversations from each platform, all in one central hub.
6. Try scheduling your live video
You can save yourself time and stress by uploading and scheduling pre-recorded videos to play as live videos. This benefit isn't available on most platforms, but it is offered in a few third-party tools, including Restream Events. Create an edited, polished video, then upload it to Restream and set a date and time for it to broadcast on your favorite platforms.
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.
Let’s wrap up
Live video streaming comes in very handy when you want to spread the word about your church online and encourage more people to join your community. Many churches have already tried broadcasting and have seen fewer people leave the church as a result. 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, along with a tripod, microphone, and HDMI cable, works 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.