Though the church community has been slowly adopting livestreaming sermons for years, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the demand for connecting with congregants digitally. For those who’ve not yet set up a livestreaming solution, there are now a ton of questions to address. For instance, should I livestream or simply record and then stream; what cameras do we need; how much will this eat into our budget?
In this post, we’re providing the foundational elements needed to get sermon livestreaming off the ground at your church, plus discussing why this could be a good opportunity to set up a process that could benefit the church well beyond COVID-19.
6 Reasons to Livestream Your Services
Livestreaming makes your church more accessible to church members and visitors alike. It gives you convenient ways to reach new people. And ultimately, it can increase the impact of your message.
Even aside from the obvious benefits as they relate to taking precautions during COVID-19, let’s take a look at the many reasons churches around the world are choosing to livestream their services at any point in time.
1. MEMBERS CAN PARTICIPATE EVEN WHEN THEY CAN’T ATTEND
There are plenty of valid reasons why dedicated members of your church might not be able to join you on Sunday:
- Sometimes kids get sick, and that means someone else has to stay home to take care of them.
- People go on vacation, and it’s not always possible or practical to plan a big trip around a church service.
- For families with new babies, it takes a while to make church part of their routine again.
- Health problems can make attendance difficult.
With livestreaming, you don’t have to worry about people missing integral parts of a sermon series or struggling to contribute in a small group that revolves around Sunday’s message. No one has to miss out on the launch of a new outreach or announcements about upcoming events.
When you stream your service, fewer people will miss out on the things your church is doing.
Livestreaming gives members who must be away a chance to stay on the same page as everyone who attends in person.
2. POTENTIAL CHURCH VISITORS CAN DISCOVER YOU
Livestreaming turns every sermon into an opportunity for new people to encounter your church online. When someone in your community considers attending your church, your website is going to be their first stop. Livestreaming a service lets those potential visitors tune in and experience your worship and teaching. This helps them know what to expect when they show up in person next Sunday.
Plus, you and your staff can share the link on social media every weekend. This is a valuable reminder for church members who can’t show up, and it also puts your message in front of people who may never experience your church otherwise. As members like and share your post, more of their friends will see your sermon. (Pro tip: When you post the link online, include a clear sermon description.)
Livestreaming increases exposure to your church’s message—both for people who are intentionally looking for you and those who stumble on your service online.
3. MEMBERS CAN STAY CONNECTED WHEN THEY MOVE AWAY
A variety of circumstances can cause church members to move to a different town (or even country):
- Youth group members go to school in another state.
- College students study abroad for a year.
- Work takes businesspeople out of town for months at a time.
- Mission trips take members to other countries for months or years at a time.
Your church is still part of their home—and livestreaming can help them stay connected to your community. Offering recorded sermons online lets them stay rooted in your teaching, but with livestreaming, the service is unfolding in real-time, and out-of-towners get to experience that just like everyone else.
It’s the difference between watching and participating. The worship, the prayers, the unveiling of carefully-prepared teaching, and new church endeavors—live viewers get to join you for it all. If you don’t offer livestreaming, your long-distance members are missing all of it.
For members who make permanent moves, it’s not easy to find a new church, and choosing one isn’t a task they should take lightly. Offering livestreaming lets God continue to use your church while they find a new one they can physically participate in.
4. LIVESTREAMING LETS YOU SHARE IMPORTANT EVENTS
Big events deserve to be shared. When friends and family can’t fly in to see baptisms, new member ceremonies, baby dedications, or ordinations, livestreaming lets them celebrate with you. Being able to watch it in real-time is the next best thing to being there.
Your church plays a big role in the lives of your members, and this helps them share that with the people they love.
5. LIVESTREAMING AMPLIFIES YOUR OUTREACH EVENTS
Guest speakers, concerts, and other special events draw bigger-than-usual crowds, and they’re often easier to invite people to than a typical Sunday service. Livestreaming increases visibility on these public outreaches, so you can engage more people.
If your church hosts events people are talking about, it’s worth making them events people can easily share. It’s easy to get your congregation to share a link to an event, and watching a video online is a much smaller commitment than showing up in person.
As you encourage your congregation to invite people, remind them that they can share the link to your livestream on social media. You could also add the link to your event invitations to make your livestream even more accessible.
6. LIVESTREAMING HELPS MULTI-CAMPUS CHURCHES THRIVE
If you have a multi-campus church, livestreaming allows all your campuses to draw from the same service. This can be a great way to share valuable resources like preaching pastors and worship leaders with church plants, ensuring that your limited volunteers and staff are making the biggest impact possible.
If they have the staff, they might not have to stream the entire service—you might just want to share the sermon or the worship across campuses.
How to Livestream Without a Budget
The good news is, in today’s world, it has never been easier to go live to your congregation. And better yet – you do not need to have a huge budget to create a memorable and meaningful experience. If you want to quickly pivot to meeting your people online, here are a few tips to help you go live today–and some suggestions on making it a great experience too.
LEVERAGE YOUR SMARTPHONE
You or someone you know probably has a smartphone. If so, you are most of the way there! Today’s smartphones, like Apple and Samsung, contain amazing cameras and fast internet connection speeds.
All you need to complete the setup is a stand or tripod. For a truly no-budget solution, you can prop your phone up with books or anything sturdy. You can also ask your staff or community if anyone has a stand or tripod you can borrow. If you are able to purchase a solution, there are plenty of cost-effective options to choose from at online retailers like Amazon or Walmart.
Pro Tip: Keep the smartphone plugged in while you’re livestreaming. And if you can, set up a separate WiFi connection so you ensure nothing interrupts your connection.
AUDIO AND LIGHTING ESSENTIALS
You don’t need this to go live, but considering an audio and lighting solution are easy ways to quickly improve your setup. A lavalier or shotgun microphone will make a big difference in the quality of your audio. There are a variety of options you can purchase that plug into a smartphone, a camera, or a standalone audio receiver depending on your setup.
For lighting, windows with lots of natural light provide the best no-cost option. If that’s an option for you, position yourself or the subject so that the light is directed at the front of your face or to the side. If you can’t position yourself near a window, there are plenty of lighting options available online as well.
SELECTING A LIVESTREAM PLATFORM
Now that you have your equipment, you just need to pick a livestream platform. If you’re on a budget, there are a lot of great free options that will enable you to reach your congregation:
- If you have an active Facebook or Google account, you’re all set. Simply log in to Facebook or YouTube (YouTube uses your Google account) from the smartphone you are using, and follow their steps to go live (click here for Facebook and click here for YouTube).
- There are also free platforms like OBS and Church Online Platform, if you want more control and access to features to enhance your online experience.
Or, if you do have a little budget and are able to invest in a more robust solution, consider a platform like Stream Monkey. Stream Monkey is a leading online video company that takes the complexity out of streaming and connects you with your audience easily. As one of our valued partners, if you are a Pushpay customer, you can receive 30 percent off your subscription with Stream Monkey when you use the code pushpay30off –a great opportunity to give it a try!
So, set up your smartphone, add audio and lighting if you have it, connect to your preferred livestream platform, and your live! But there are few more tips to consider to really make it a positive experience.
How to Make the Most of Livestreaming
WAYS TO ENGAGE WHEN LIVESTREAMING
Treat your online audience like they are there in-person. This can be difficult to do at first, but try to avoid the tendency to just talk to the camera. Keep in mind there are real people watching and listening. If you need to, ask a couple of people to join and sit behind the camera so you remember there is an audience.
Also, consider how you involve kids in your online experience. Perhaps you have your children’s ministry pastor livestream a message at the same time, or you could pre-record a message. If families have the ability, they can have a separate phone or computer for their kids to enjoy.
No matter which platform you choose, you’ll be able to get comments from anyone who tunes in. And you should be ready to respond! Dedicate someone to monitor and respond to comments, even if they are just saying “Thanks for watching, Sandy!,” as people join.
You can also attract first-time guests by encouraging viewers to share the video. With just a couple of clicks or taps on their smartphone, any viewer can share your live video with their social networks. This is a tremendous opportunity to reach people that have not visited your church yet and may be hesitant to take that first step. This is a simple way for them to experience your church from the comfort of their own home.
TIPS FOR STREAMING MASS
- Make sure your device is angled to capture both the altar and ambo (if you are using the ambo to proclaim the Word).
- If possible send out an email to parishioners with a Spiritual Communion prayer so they can participate.
- It is likely you won’t have a sacristan or altar servers assisting you during this time. Arrive early to make sure you have everything you need for the celebration of Mass. You do not want to walk off-screen during a livestream because you forgot an item in the sacristy.
- Encourage parishioners to not just watch but place icons and religious items next to their screen at home to create a “home church.” Children can participate as well by drawing the images that make up your home parish and placing it next to their device.
- As reinforced above, remember that even though your church is empty, be sure you are speaking and praying in a volume and tone you normally would. If not, people might not be able to pick up your message or prayer via audio. Bad audio is the quickest way to disengage viewers.
- Keep your homily hopeful! There is enough doom and gloom on the internet right now. Be the light of Christ!
TIP FOR STREAMING OTHER DEVOTIONS (EX. ADORATION, ROSARY, DIVINE MERCY, ETC):
- If you are streaming a devotion that has a leader and responses. Try to have one other person present at a social distance that can respond to you leading the prayers.
- For Adoration, balance silence with reading scripture, spiritual writings, and music, if possible.
- Use icons and sacred art to fill empty background space if you can.
Taking The Next Step
Today’s technology makes staying connected digitally easier than ever. As you continue to invest in your digital strategy, consider investing in a quality livestream setup that uses good cameras, audio, lighting, live switchers, and broadcasting software.
If you want to learn more about pivoting to a digital strategy, including how to communicate with your congregation and digital giving best practices, check out our free checklist.
For more Coronavirus Resources to Help you and Your Congregation Stay Connected When it’s Critical check out: The Church Leader’s Guide to Coronavirus: How to Continue Ministry During a Pandemic