Are you interested in bringing your church services to a larger audience? Wondering if you have the right setup to stream your church service online? If so, you’re not alone! In recent years, many congregations and other houses of worship have begun streaming their services online through live streaming solutions.
If you are interested in leveraging cutting-edge technology at an affordable price, read on to learn how to stream your church service online. From the basics of streaming technology to necessary equipment and tech support, we’ve got your covered.
Now, let’s start with a look at the basics of live streaming.
How Live Streaming Works
In general, live streaming involves a camera, an internet-connected computer, an online video platform, and a few other pieces of equipment. It’s similar to how television works. So, instead of watching your broadcast on a TV, viewers with internet access anywhere around the world can watch your broadcast on a computer, tablet, smartphone, or other internet-connected device.
In the past, broadcast technology was highly expensive and technical. In fact, it required a huge budget and a large staff to handle.
However, those days are behind us now. Thanks to ubiquitous high-speed internet connections and the rapid advance of computer technology, the power of (live) broadcasting is now available to much broader and more global audiences.
With that in mind, we’ll cover more details about what’s needed to live stream your church service online. Let’s turn now to discuss some of the benefits of broadcasting church services live.
Why stream your church service online?
Churches around the world are leveraging live streaming solutions to reach congregants across the globe. Whether potential viewers are traveling for family or work, or living in a remote region of a foreign country, you can stream your church service online to reach them all.
In particular, live streaming is a good option for any church that doesn’t deal with a strictly local community. For example, you may have a widely dispersed congregation or do missionary work in other countries. Perhaps you’d like to reach soldiers on deployment, business-people who are traveling, people who are elderly or ill, or even just the snowed-in family outside of town. In all of these cases, live streaming offers an ideal, customizable solution.
Simply put, the prime benefit of live streaming is that–with the proper equipment and technical setup–you don’t have to change a thing about your service. In fact, you can simply go ahead with your normal programming and stream your church service online. When you broadcast live, churches can feel secure in the knowledge that you’re reaching a much larger audience than would otherwise be possible.
Furthermore, live streaming also has the benefit of providing recordings of all your services. As a result, you can rebroadcast those on-demand files in the future. For example, you can put the service on DVD or make it available online at no cost to your congregants.
Other Benefits of Live Streaming Church Services
If your church needs more income to stay active, live streaming your services is a great way to generate revenue. The three common monetization approaches include pay per view, subscriptions, and ad-based. For churches and houses of worship, the subscription model is likely the best fit.
After you stream your church service online, you can make your content available to “subscribers” who pay a set fee to access your video content. Alternatively, you can simply request online donations on the same page that hosts your video. Services like Paypal make the latter option easy and accessible. The Paypal online payment service even has a guide for how to do this.
Finally, live streaming also allows churches to reach young people who use the internet much more often and fluently than older viewers. Today, a wide variety congregations use this approach to reach younger audiences around the world.
How to live stream your church service online
Next up, let’s review a few basic pieces of equipment that you’ll need to broadcast live.
First, a camera is most important. This can be as simple as a “webcam” built into a laptop computer. However, these cameras aren’t very high-quality; they also vastly restrict movement. For example, it’s hard to picture someone at a pulpit with an open laptop in front of them. Consequently, you’ll probably want something a bit more functional than a webcam. Unless you’re operating on a very tight budget, it’s best to look at dedicated video cameras. These can provide good quality video recordings for as low as $200-$300. You’ll also need a tripod to hold your camera steady, along with other accessories like batteries. Please note that professional cameras likely need a capture card as well.
If your church is on a tight, fixed budget, an external webcam might be your best bet. A webcam negates the need for a capture card, as the camera connects right into a laptop. With some creativity, you can even hide the open laptop in the pulpit and run a wire with the camera outside. Webcams are notably small, so it’s unlikely to detract from those in physical attendance. However, keep in mind that is something goes awry–like a laptop crash–it may be difficult to access the laptop while speaking live in front of a congregation.
The next piece of gear you need to stream live video is an internet connection. Note that not just any internet connection will do–you need one that’s fast enough. You can test your internet speed at testmy.net. That website will give you two numbers, one for your upload speed (how fast you can send data) and another for your download speed (how fast you can receive it).
To stream your church service online, you want an upload speed of at least 1 Mbps (Megabits per second. If possible, speeds of 2-5 Mbps or more are ideal and more reliable for live broadcasts.
In more specific terms, your video quality dictates the upload speed you need. Remember, aim for roughly double your upload speed versus your quality. More concretely, if you stream at a video quality of 1 Mbps, you want an upload speed of at least 2 Mbps. Other factors come into play here–a wired connection is better than a wireless one, for example–but the double method is a good rule of thumb.
For simple productions and low budget operations, the microphone built into your video camera may be sufficient. That said, if the church is large and the camera doesn’t pick up voices very well, you may need to look into a microphone that can improve your audio quality. For medium-sized spaces, you could consider a “shotgun” mic. These mount on top of your camera and record great audio quality. If your space is large, you may even need individual handheld microphones or clip-on lapel microphones.
Once you have your equipment in place, connect it together and hook it up to your computer with encoding software. Alternatively, you can use an external hardware encoder, if you have the budget, space, and technical capacity.
With these steps in place, you’re very close to streaming live! Let’s review a few other technical needs to help make sure your first live streaming endeavor is a success.
Other Considerations: Encoders and Online Video Platforms
Beyond the basic recording equipment, you’ll need a few pieces of gear that are specific to broadcasting live video. For example, as mentioned above, you’ll need some sort of encoder — either a special software program that runs on your computer, or a dedicated hardware device. This technology converts your video into a format suitable for live streaming over the internet.
Though encoders can be confusing to streaming newcomers, they’re fairly easy to set up with the right information. The type of encoder you use depends on your specific needs and your budget. Hardware encoders often cost more but send the highest-quality video. Software encoders are less expensive, and there are even a few free options available online (e.g. OBS Studio). However, they aren’t quite as fast or smooth in operation, generally speaking. For more information on encoders, you can check out our detailed post on the best encoding software settings.
Whichever encoding method you choose, you need to connect your encoder to your video streaming host (e.g. DaCast). A video streaming host, or online video platform (OVP), is a professional service that makes your video stream accessible to your audience, wherever they are. Essentially, you send the OVP the video, you decide where and how you want your audience to access it, and the streaming platform does the rest. For more on how streaming solutions like DaCast work, you can check out this post on live streaming CDNs (content delivery networks).
Interesting in live streaming but want more information about equipment needs and church-specific broadcasts? The DaCast streaming platform is here to help! We are happy to offer a free consultation with our technical support experts. DaCast offers full-service and customizable video stream hosting services, and we work with a wide range of churches already! Also, we highly recommend testing out your chosen OVP to make sure it fits your needs. To sign up for our 30-day free trial (no credit card required), just click the button below. We’ll have you streaming live in a matter of minutes, and you can test all our great features for yourself.
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Thanks for reading, and we hope to hear from you about how we can help you stream your church service online.
By Max Wilbert