bi-directional video streaming for the church

The Volunteer’s Guide to Video Streaming in the Church: Bringing Your Church Together with Bi-Directional Video

Editor’s note: This blog post is the fifth in our series called The Volunteer’s Guide to Video Streaming in the Church, written to help guide church volunteers as they enter the world of video streaming with their ministry. 

Often, when we think of video streaming for multi-site ministry, we  imagine a sermon being streamed from the central campus to satellite campuses. Sometimes these are live streams, other times they’re prerecorded and showed at the appropriate part of the service. However, there’s another way to leverage video streaming for your multi-site church – bi-directional streaming. 

What is Bi-Directional Streaming? 

Bi-directional streaming is a way to create an interactive experience between locations, with streams going in two directions. A live stream is sent from the central campus to the satellite campus while another stream is sent simultaneously from the satellite campus to the central campus. 

Why Ministries Use Bi-Directional Streaming

Maintaining a cohesive experience between campuses isn’t an easy task. However, when you have video streams going in both directions, you open up the door to a more interactive experience. Bi-directional streaming can help to create interaction between two or multiple locations – your main campus pastor, pastors at satellite campuses, the congregation at your main campus, and your congregation at a satellite campus. 

Not only does this give your satellite campus an experience closer to that at your main campus, but it also allows your team at your main campus to enjoy the benefits of having a larger congregation, including immediate feedback, and a sense that your community transcends distance.

Challenges to Bi-Directional Streaming

While bi-directional streaming has many advantages, there are a few challenges to consider before you decide to move forward.

  • If you have campuses in different time zones, holding simultaneous services can make scheduling a challenge. Timing can be an issue as well if any of your campuses are on a different service schedule.
  • With video streams going in multiple directions, bi-directional streaming requires more manpower and time invested to properly set up than unidirectional streams. 
  • Scalability of bi-directional streaming is limited, as the logistics becoming increasingly complex with each additional campus. 

How to Set Up Bi-Directional Streaming

If your team has looked at the potential benefits of using bi-directional video streaming in your ministry, and are ready to overcome the potential challenges, here is a brief overview of how you can get started:

Step #1: Determine Your Church’s Set Up Requirements

Before you get started, you’ll need to consider how many campuses you want to have interacting with your main campus (you may prefer all campuses or just those with service times that coincide).

Your team should also decide which aspects of the service are ideal for interaction between campuses. It might be the full service, worship only, worship and the sermon, or another combination.

Step #2: Identify the Equipment Needed

You’ll need cameras plus video encoders and video decoders at each location to transmit the live feeds back and forth. See the diagram below:

bi-directional video streaming workflow

Step #3: Determine the Personnel Needed

You’ll need staff and volunteers who understand the technology and can handle the more complicated nature of bi-directional streaming. Communication between campuses is critical for this type of streaming, so finding people who are excellent communicators is vital as well.

You can mitigate some of the challenges of bi-directional streaming by finding a video streaming solution designed for ministry. Not only will a solutions provider that is used to working with ministries have experience in ministry-specific challenges, solutions designed for ministries are often designed to be simpler to operate. Once the equipment is installed and configured, it should require less technical expertise to operate, than with other solutions, making the process of shifting to bi-directional video streaming much easier to manage.

Bi-directional streaming is an excellent tool to support your church’s efforts in keeping the experience aligned across campuses. With a bit of planning and set up, you can take advantage of this technology to cultivate a stronger bond between locations.

Interested in creating a more interactive and dynamic experience for your campuses?  Learn more about how your ministry can start leveraging bi-directional streaming.

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