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
Your church may have been considering live streaming your weekly gatherings for quite some time now. We’ve certainly talked about why you should livestream plenty, so for this article’s purpose, we’ll assume you already know why it’s important. But the impact of COVID-19 on our society may be forcing your hand to make the leap. When faced with the decision to go fully online or simply close completely until the dust settles, we see most churches choosing to make the switch to digital.
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 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 login 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.
Ways to Engage when Live Streaming
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 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 pickup your message or prayer via audio. Bad audio is the quickest way to disengage viewers.
- Keep you 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.