Taking Your Church Online During The Coronavirus Pandemic

August 25, 2020

Originally posted on Today Creative.

With the sudden onset of limiting of any sort of public meeting of 50 or more people due to Coronavirus many churches are looking to continue serving their church and local community by running their church service or mass online. There are many ways to do this, from running a simple stream from your phone on Facebook or Youtube, to more professional solutions like connecting a DSLR or video camera up to a computer or switcher. In this short post I'll walk you through some options for getting your church's live stream up and running. Plus some other things to consider when you aren't able to hold church services in a live group setting.

So really, there are 4 main areas to consider when we are in the weird scenario we are in.

  1. Communication with your congregation. Do you have a way to send out messages in bulk to let folks know about service changes and your now live, online service? Many of you probably have an email list, and definitely post on social media as well. Text messaging is very effective. Look into services like Simple Texting, Flocknote, or TextInChurch.
  2. Create online community. How are you setting up your church family up for being able to stay in touch with each other and having access to a little human interaction within your community? Facebook Groups are a great way to do this if you don't already have a group going. For small groups consider setting up a Google Hangout or a Zoom meeting.
  3. Giving/Tithing. You probably are already seeing a decrease in giving because obviously, folks aren't at church to give. Setup a convenient online solution and link to it with each live service. Try Tithe.ly or RebelGive.
  4. Lastly, let's talk about live streaming your services. And this gets realllly nerdy. Continue down to the "Other Options" for more ideas on engaging with your congregation if you don't want to get into the technical side of streaming.

There are all sorts of levels of gear you can get, from simply streaming from your iPhone, all the way up to cinema cameras. Here are some resources to get you started. The main deciding factors are really around budget (of course), how far away the camera will be from the stage/pastor/priest, how good the lighting is in the room and if you have volunteers to help you run the live stream.

A very straightforward approach, though not great for large rooms, would be to use an iPhone. Get a tripod with a iPhone holder to mount your phone, then all you'll need is a better audio source. Plug your audio source, which can be a lapel microphone or even a mix from a sound board into an audio interface like the Rode SC6-L and you can start live streaming, with good audio, right away.

So, for a higher end look to your live videos, with a ton more flexibility on placement, low light, and audio, use a DSLR with a clean HDMI out like the Canon EOS M50 or a higher end cinema camera like the Canon C100. For a low budget video camera, if you have good lighting, check out the Canon Vixia or similar level camcorders. Just be sure they have an HDMI output.

Once you have an HDMI output from your camera, you'll need to plug it into a video capture device. I like the Elgato Cam Link 4k. From there you'll just plug the Cam Link into your Mac or PC. Before you can start streaming you'll need to install some software. OBS is that software. OBS is a FREE software for live broadcasting. OBS can be complicated to setup but there are plenty of tutorials out there for churches. I'll go through a quick run down of my setup, including OBS settings below.

The next step can be just to go live on Facebook or Youtube, however, you can easily go live on multiple platforms at the same time if you use a service like Restream.io or Castr. Both are relatively inexpensive and allow you to go live on many platforms at once. I typically go live on Facebook, Periscope and Youtube all at once. Then that YouTube Live I also embed in the webpage of the church so folks can just go to the website to watch at let's say yourchurchwebsite.com/LIVE.

Multi-Camera Setup
- If you are wanting to setup a multi-camera setup, then definitely look into Sling Studio as an alternative. Here is a video on how that setup works:

Other Options

  • If you can be relatively close to the subject you can use something like the Mevo camera system. This allows you to connect directly to your streaming platform of choice.
  • If you want cameras you can permanently install and even control remotely, check out the PTZ Optics cameras.
  • Fun addition for Facebook Live only streams. Adds a bit of interactivity like quizzes and trivia while viewers wait to join the live - LiveReacting
  • For a full "live" experience with community chat, prayer requests and your video stream check out Church Online Platform.
  • Instead of going "live" you can pre-record your service or talk and then post the video as a Watch Party on Facebook or premiere on YouTube. They folks will all start watching at the same time, and the experience is very similar to live video. Just make sure to have someone there to comment and interact with the viewers.
  • Make sure to announce your new live stream times ahead of time. Get creative with it. Check out this funny video that Andy Stanley recorded with his wife 🙂
  • Encourage people watching your live stream to join your Church's Facebook Group (if you have one), and subscribe to your channel (if on Youtube).
  • If you have folks that can't get online, try out Phone Live Streaming so people can call in and listen to your live stream

More Resources!

Catholic social media content, Catholic stock photos, and Catholic stock video.

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