The Volunteer’s Guide to Video Streaming in the Church: Live Streaming for Your Church
Editor’s note: This blog post is the first in our series called The Volunteer’s Guide to Video Streaming in the Church. Stay tuned for our upcoming posts, helping to guide church volunteers as they enter the world of video streaming with their ministry.
If your church wants to develop more of an online presence, chances are you’ve thought about starting to live stream your services. Whether you’re a volunteer researching how to get started or a staff member charged with making this happen, evaluating the various options can get overwhelming.
The idea of live streaming church services sounds fantastic. You can reach more people with the Gospel and enable individuals who can’t make it to church that Sunday to still participate in the service. The challenge lies in how to get started. There is no shortage of options, configurations, and hardware from which to choose. Then there’s all the technical jargon to wade through. Before you wander into the live streaming maze, let’s address the basics to help you find what’s best for your church.
As with any technology, there are a few key terms you’ll need to know before you start narrowing down your options.
#1: Network and Bandwidth
Whether it’s live streaming a single service onto the church website or streaming services to multiple campuses, you’re going to need a relatively fast network and sufficient bandwidth.
Live streaming a service involves taking the video feed and converting that video into data, then presenting it to viewers via a video player. To make this work, you’ll first need an internet connection (wired is better than wi-fi in this case). That network connection needs to have least 5Mbps of upload bandwidth available.
Bandwidth is the amount of data your network can transfer from your location at any given time. Your local internet service provider should be able to tell you how much bandwidth is available at your facility (and what it will cost if an upgrade is needed). Also, to ensure you have enough bandwidth available during a live stream, you’ll want to make sure no one else is using that internet connection.
To present your live stream video via the internet onto a video player, you’ll need to convert the video feed into data. That’s accomplished with a video encoder. This is usually a combination of hardware and software specifically designed to take the video feed in real-time and convert it into data.
One key factor to consider with an encoder is the bitrate. A higher bitrate will allow you to provide higher image quality to viewers. However, if you decide to use Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or a similar social media platform to live stream your services, a single bitrate should be sufficient.
#3: Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Now, how will your online audience view the service? You’ll need a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN is essentially a network of servers that accelerates delivery of your live stream to those seeking to access it online.
#4: Viewing Audience
One decision point in establishing a video live stream is where to distribute the content. Do you want people to access the live stream through your church’s website, on Facebook, via YouTube, a mobile device, Apple TV, or another platform? In general, having people attend an online service through your church website provides a stronger connection to the church. There are also fewer distractions when viewing a service from the church website versus on Facebook, for example.
#5: Video Content Management
Once you’ve decided how you want to present live streamed services to your audience, you can make the process much easier with a comprehensive video content management system. A content management system is typically a cloud-based tool from which you can schedule and manage the entire live streaming process. This includes receiving the video from your camera(s), encoding the video into data, and delivering the service content to the church website, mobile devices, social media outlets, and more. A robust content management tool also provides you with statistics on how many people are viewing each service, using which medium, and from what location.
Now that you have a handle on the terminology, here’s how to get started:
Step #1: Check on the available bandwidth for your church facility’s network (contact your internet service provider). Make sure this is at least 5Mpbs.
Step #2: Decide how you want to present the service online. Do you want to stream the service on Facebook, YouTube, or via your church website?
Step #3: Determine what camera(s) you’ll use to shoot video for the live stream.
Step #4: Look into encoders based on how you decide to distribute the service.
Step #5: Consider using a video content management service such as Haivision Video Cloud, which helps power the online video streaming for a number of ministries including Elevation Church, Celebration Church, and Redemption Church.
Step #6: Find a Content Delivery Network service provider (this could be included in a content management tool’s service offering).
Step #7: Set up your equipment and do a few test runs to make sure everything works properly.
Step #8: Once you’re confident in the setup, let people know you’re now live streaming worship services.
As you can see, there is a bit of learning and setup to do to get started with live streaming. However, this can be an incredible tool to help your church reach more people with the Gospel.
Are you thinking about using live video streaming for your ministry’s services? Our team has experience working with a number of ministries, including Celebration Church, Redemption Church, and El Rey Jesus. Talk to one of our video streaming experts today and let us help you find the best video streaming solution for your ministry’s needs.