Live streaming tips for churches, organizations of all sizes

Live streaming tips for churches, organizations of all sizes

By Dogwood Media Solutions
Special to TAB Media

Churches have been live streaming their services for years, but due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the CDC recommendations of meetings of no more than 50 people, many more will be joining the ranks. With that in mind here are some tips to get you started.

Your Platform

Your church may already be on Facebook and you’ve already connected with your members there. You can use that to your advantage for these three reasons:

  1. Existing Audience – The assumption is that you already have an audience built for your church’s Facebook page.
  2. Simple – You can record a message for the Sunday service that can be broadcast as “faux live” or easily live stream with something as simple as your phone or one camera connected to your computer.
  3. Free – Facebook doesn’t charge anything for this service!

There are definitely more options available such as YouTube. YouTube is great because it’s already a large platform that many people already visit. This helps in that people are used to the interface. Thankfully, YouTube has created an entire resource on their site that will get you started.

Vimeo is another option, but this is where you’ll get into paying for the service. Their premium service starts at $75 per month. The only reason I’d use this platform is to avoid ads that will show up occasionally on the other two platforms (thus how they are free).

Common Issues with Live Streaming:

1. Audio – Don’t neglect the importance of good audio for live streaming. For the best quality, you will need to mix audio for the online congregation not just for the live congregation. If you have a live congregation, you’ll need to mix for both groups separately. The audio you hear in your worship center might sound great in the room because it’s mixed for the room. The mix that the live stream audience hears will be different. You can use the same audio feed, but the quality of your stream will be affected. For the best quality, consider purchasing a second audio board for that purpose.

2. Record and playback later – If you can’t stream your service live due to restrictions on audio or bandwidth, record the service and then upload it after remixing the audio. Facebook has a function called “Premiere” which will allow you to upload the video and set a premiere time for it, normally the time your church would meet together.

3. Ax the music – If you don’t want to pay a license fee for music or the music audio can’t be mixed separately, record the message only. Another option is to include only public domain hymns. Just look in your hymnal for those hymns which have no copyright information listed at the bottom or check out this list from CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International): Again, be sure to sing them with a live instrument and not a pre-recorded track.

4. The Big Room – If you aren’t planning to include music, there’s not really a need to stream from your worship center. Be aware of people’s limited ability to sit for a long time. Think about your message length and consider delivering a more concise version in a more relaxed environment. Maybe that’s outside enjoying some sun, in your office, or even in your own living room with your family.

How To Make Live Streaming Happen:

1. Capturing Video –You’ll need at least one camera. This can be your phone or a video camera. If using a video camera, make sure it can interface with the computer you plan to stream with.

2. Audio – There are a multitude of options for getting an external microphone or audio interface to work with your phone. Here are a few:—white-midi-audio-interface-for-ios-with-lighting-connector

If you are streaming from your worship center with a phone, you can use these to interface with your sound system. You may even consider purchasing a microphone that is just for your phone like this one:

Working with a camera is dependant on its audio inputs. If you have an XLR input – it’s super simple. If it’s something else, you’ll probably need an interface from XLR to 1/4″ input. Check this out as an option:

3. Bandwidth – Make sure your church has the bandwidth to support video. If you are on a mobile phone, consider using your church’s Wi-Fi. The same thing applies if you broadcast from your home.

While on the network you will be streaming through, go to and run a test. This will tell you what you have right now for upload speed. Download speed is great for the users in your church, but your uploading speed is the important thing.

Assuming you’ll be streaming in high definition (HD), you’ll need a max bit rate of 4mbps. Click here to read Facebooks guidelines for live streaming.

4. Copyright issues – If you don’t take copyright issues seriously…well, you will when you’re charged with your first infraction or receive a letter from the copyright owner’s attorney!

If you plan to include any music in your live stream, you’ll need to purchase a streaming license. CCLI offers a streaming license in addition to their regular copyright license: Costs vary depending on the size of your church.

Remember, the license doesn’t cover all music…you’ll still need to ensure that the songs you sing and play are covered by CCLI. This does not cover pre-recorded music at all (like accompaniment tracks, for instance).

5. Switcher – Blackmagic sells a small switcher for only $295 called the ATEM Mini. It’s perfect for live streaming as all the inputs/outputs are HDMI. With the webcam output (USB), you can easily connect to your computer and stream your video to one of the sources mentioned earlier.

6. Convertors – If the switcher you purchased doesn’t have an output you can directly interface to your computer, Blackmagic sells several excellent converters. Another option that will ensure that all your devices continue to talk to one another during conversion is the Decimator. You pay more for it, there’s a learning curve to getting it set up, but once it’s in, it’s one of the most reliable pieces of equipment I’ve seen.

Some Final Thoughts

If you choose an option that means you aren’t live, set a goal to post the message online quickly. If you are live, go live when you say you will. It’s important to be consistent and set a realistic expectation of when the video will be available each Sunday and meet it.

There are a lot of ways to get your message out there and just because your church can’t physically meet together in the coming weeks doesn’t mean you can’t worship together online. As always, Dogwood stands ready to help in any way possible. Shoot us an email with any questions you might have!

Learn more about Zoom videoconferencing for small groups by clicking here.