Covid-19 has turned the world upside within a matter of weeks, including the church. A lot of churches weren’t ready to start streaming their services online, but in the wake of the hour by hour updates, this Sunday most churches won’t be able to meet due to restrictions of gatherings over 50.
I thought it would be beneficial to put together a quick guide to help churches stream their Sunday services because I know the thought of live streaming a Sunday service can be an overwhelming idea, especially if you are a small church that doesn’t have the equipment, budget and manpower to execute a production.
This is a simple and practical guide for those streaming for the first time.
If you are like me, you have seen hundreds of churches stream their services, and they are very well done. In all reality, especially in light of how fast we have to adapt to streaming online, this will not be us. Think about what you can legitimately handle in regards to live streaming. In this case, I strongly believe simple is better. This will be especially helpful if you can’t get your hands on any equipment before Sunday.
Streaming on social media is very easy and a great way to get in front of your congregants and community.
Facebook is a nice and easy choice because it’s incredibly user friendly. Most churches have invested in their Facebook page already, and have even gone live before.
I love that people who are using Facebook will get a notification that your church is live. Also, the fact that it’s easy for your congregation to share your sermon is another factor to consider.
Set up another phone and go Live on Instagram or YouTube as well! The more exposure on multiple platforms, the better.
If you want to get more complicated, there is Livestreaming software available. Check out:
- Church Online Platform – Craig Groeschel just announced he is offering this as a free service at this time.
When you decide to live stream, consider doing a practice run. Set up a private Facebook group, or a new page to make sure everything is running smoothly. Once you know it works, put notifications on social so people know when and where to tune in.
The great thing about live-streaming to Facebook is that your video stays on your page, so if people missed the live stream, they can still check out the video.
If you are not interested in live streaming, you can pre-record your entire service and set it up to run as a premier on Youtube, or set it up on Facebook as a premiere or watch party. This gives a bit of control over what happens, and there is less of a chance for technical difficulties.
Consider having another person with a device watching the stream as a regular viewer so that you can make sure everything is working properly, the audio level is appropriate and the video looks good.
The great news is that equipment for the simple set up is relatively inexpensive. Remember, you have a powerful camera in your pocket in the form of a smart phone.
Camera: Use your phone or tablet as a camera. The new phones are incredible pieces of equipment that have decent microphones and video quality. Make sure it’s fully charged and connected to strong Wi-Fi before you begin.
Tripod: You need a tripod for great framing and for a steady recording. If the camera angle is weird, the video is hard to watch. The tripod will also help you frame your stage set up. You can find tripods on Amazon for less than $30.
Lighting: Lighting is imperative! If your church doesn’t have good natural light in their sanctuary, consider filming in another setting. With the quarantine, I believe it’s okay to film in a home setting. You can purchase an inexpensive lighting kid on Amazon, but this is not necessary (and may not come in time for Sunday!)
Ask around your church for any video equipment. It’s very likely the younger people in your church have some of this equipment.
Licensing can be an issue. Most churches I know use CCLI for their in person worship music. CCLI does have a live streaming add-on license that you need if you want to stream your services.
If you were not prepared to start streaming your service, then keep to an easy setup. An acoustic guitar and a singer is perfect. This is the most simple set up I can think of.
If you don’t have the appropriate license for songs, you can perform original songs or songs that are not under copyright (think hymns).
There are various options for your sermon set up using social platforms. You can stream monologue preaching or attempt to do something different.
Monologue is similar to what you would do on a regular Sunday – get up and preach. This is more simple because you won’t have to worry about reading comments. Also, your people might feel more comfortable retaining the traditional preaching model.
If you want to change things up a bit, there are ways to do this. You can sit with another pastor or leader in your church, and have a conversational approach to things, talking about matters relevant to where you are. Instead of just teaching, you can engage in your audience as they comment. Consider preparing a smaller devotion, and encourage people to ask questions and get involved in the conversation.
Children are a huge part of our churches. Consider streaming (or recording) an online Sunday school class for them – and release it anytime during the week! It’s a great way for the younger generations to connect with your church.
Put together a colouring page, worksheet or any craft on your website that parents can download for their children. Start a comment thread and ask parents to upload a picture of their kids working on it, or upload a picture of the craft.
Online Giving Platforms:
Your church still needs to run, salaries need to still be paid and ministries supported during the time of Coronavirus. Let’s be real, our churches depend on tithing.
There are online giving platforms that your church could consider using if they are not online already.
Get your website ready for your new videos! Set up a page that is just for online sermons.
Pro-Tip: First upload to Youtube, and then imbed the link into your site. Do not upload your video right to your webpage, or it will be too slow to load.
Slow and Grow:
My suggestion is to start simple. Do not complicate everything by having a bigger worship team, multiple people around to lead prayer, make announcements etc. Streamline the service, keep it easy. By following these easy steps, you can have a successful livestream that is simple and cost effective.
If your first week goes well, that’s amazing! When you feel comfortable add elements to your service. Consider how you will serve communion, or add text to screens.
Always allow time for a debrief. Look at what went well, and what could be improved. Start planning for the next week. Check out Switcher Studio, a software that allows you to add elements such as graphics, lyrics, and videos.
Most people understand the reality of Covid-19 and how fast our churches had to adapt to not being able to gather. Therefore, I really do think that if your streaming isn’t perfect, people will understand. So that grace you preach to everyone? Make sure you preach some to yourself 😉