I am not a tech person, but I am interested in the gospel going out to as many people as possible. In our modern age, video streaming is definitely a tool at our disposal. Although all the technical jargon can get overwhelming, Paul Martel from Living as One does a great job explaining the different options available to churches along with considerations of which to be aware.
At the time of this writing, we are still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and many states and counties still have tight restrictions for gathering in large groups. In addition to that, many people in the community both in the church and out feel concerned and worried about public exposure for themselves and their loved ones. Being able to access sermons and worship experiences online is critical right now. The churches who were not able to pivot online quickly are suffering because they are not able to fellowship in any way – online or in person.
In addition to that, there are people that may not feel ready to walk through the doors of our churches (even after the pandemic), but if we can introduce ourselves online and God starts to work in their hearts – then maybe they will take a step of faith and reach out to connect.
None of this would be possible without the technology and equipment needed to record and stream our message of hope to those who are far from God. In this video, Paul Martel gives an overview of different kinds of streaming and what is required for each one.
He covers both multi-site streaming and online streaming.
There is a broadcast campus that distributes to multiple sites. Many churches are using this technology and in different ways.
- Stream Sermon Only: each site has their own worship and announcements.
- Integrate Worship with main campus and site via click tracks and audio channels.
- Multiple Video Channels to create a more in person feel by having a full shot of the speaker on the stage area and tighter shots on the sides.
How to Deliver Files
Prerecorded – A file of the video is uploaded to a hard drive and physically delivered to the site or it is uploaded to a cloud service and then downloaded by the campus for viewing.
- Pro's: Low cost; high quality; low risk.
- Con's: Long delay in file delivery; not very scalable; if a big event happens after the recording, it is not addressed during the message.
Online Streaming – using a satellite, Point to Point streaming or Internet server.
- Pro's: Extremely scalable; cost-effective; good quality.
- Con's: Internet is unpredictable.
6 Things to Consider When Choosing Your Options
- Quality – is it pixelated, blurry, etc.?
- Reliability – Is it buffering, choppy, skipping?
- Ease of Operations – can you easily train new volunteers to use it or do you need to hire a professional?
- Delay Availability – how quickly can your viewers access it, does it take too much time to upload?
- Scalability – will this method grow as you grow, or will you have to change methods if you grow larger
- Costs – consider both the up-front costs along with maintenance, repairs and replacements
Where do you want people to watch?
- Custom Web page on your website
- Church Online Platform (free)
- YouTube, Facebook, Instagram TV, Twitch
- Roku, Alexa, Apple TV
Paul also shared information about how Living as One is a solution for many of these considerations. Their hardware and cloud service helps prevent loss of data and provides more reliable delivery. In addition to that, their software interface is easy to use and operate for volunteers. This is huge in terms of sustainability. If you have complicated software that only one person at your church or a representative from the company knows how to troubleshoot, you’re going to find yourself in a world of hurt when glitches occur.
These are all things our church has been in discussion about. We have known all along that we wanted to move towards live streaming our services, but now with COVID and the realization that many people will not be ready to return to large gatherings for some time, it is even more important to us.
We have been using prerecorded messages on Church Online, YouTube and Facebook, but we hope to move to live streaming in the next couple of months. I would agree with Paul regarding not overextending yourself. We started with 2 platforms and because the internet was unreliable, we had to keep pivoting until we found our sweet spot. In the first few weeks of the pandemic when every church had to figure out a way to move online, the internet crashed every week on at least one platform if not more. It was like the Christians broke the internet! The East Coast was streaming their late services when the west coast was streaming their early services and kabam! – everything went down. It was kind of cool that so many people were watching church online, but not a good viewer experience.
Overall, Paul really helped me understand the complicated topic of streaming with all its technicalities so I could imagine how our church could do what we want to do. I like the name of Living as One because we are all one Church no matter if we worship at another physical campus or an online campus.