COVID-19 created the need to start streaming our church services online—with less than 24 hours notice
As our elders monitored the coronavirus situation last week, we informed our congregation last Friday that all services would be canceled except our corporate worship service.
In the 24 hours that followed, we learned that:
- Several coronavirus cases had been confirmed in Tyler
- Dallas had prohibited gatherings of more than 500 (we’re about 250 on Sundays, so we’re not there) and recommended the cancellation of much smaller gatherings
- Quite a number of churches in Tyler had canceled their worship services
And that information left us having second thoughts. So, on Saturday evening we informed our people that we would have online worship only.
But we had no clue how to stream a church service
But there was just a small problem: we had never videoed a worship service. And we had certainly never streamed one.
So, we spent a few hours researching on Saturday night. On Sunday, our senior pastor, 3 members of our worship team, and our 3-person impromptu “stream team” showed up in our sanctuary 80 minutes before the service was supposed to happen. And while we didn’t produce a Hollywood-quality video, the end product allowed our people to worship without (significant) distraction. And it happened with relative ease.
How a team of people who knew nothing about streaming video pulled off a streaming church service at the last minute
If it helps, here’s what worked well for us last weekend:
- One member of our “stream team” brought his DSLR camera, which we connected to our sound booth computer.
- Then, we connected the audio feed from our digital mixer to our sound booth computer. Our sound technician adjusted some of the musicians’ levels to make it sound acceptable. That said, it wasn’t perfect (e.g. the percussion was difficult to hear), but, again, it worked. And we were thrilled.
- As that was happening, our worship pastor logged into our CCLI account and upgraded our CCLI license to let us legally stream the musical portion of our worship service.
- Then, we used Lightstream ($28/mo) to:
- Stream Sunday’s sermon video to Facebook Live. That said, if you prefer YouTube in addition to or instead of Facebook Live, Lightstream can do that, too. In our case, most of our people are on Facebook anyway, so it would be easy for them. But because we streamed the feed to the Sylvania Facebook Page, which is Public, even those without Facebook accounts were able to watch. Both Facebook and YouTube require accounts to comment, but not to view things that are “Public.” In the end, we opted for Facebook Live because Facebook Live videos automatically play (though muted) in the timeline of our Facebook Page and also in the timelines of those who share the Facebook Live video in their personal feeds. YouTube videos, on the other hand, do not autoplay on Facebook and, as result, just aren’t not viewed as often. But because I’ve read that Facebook Live videos don’t remain in the timeline very long, I also downloaded our Facebook Live video and uploaded it to the Sylvania Church YouTube channel. That said, to cut this last step, we’re going to simultaneously stream to Facebook Live and YouTube this Sunday (again, that ability is built into Lightstream).
- Add our Proclaim presentation software to the stream so that our people can see the song lyrics and sermon notes. As an aside, because Lightstream allows for screen sharing, any presentation software (e.g. PowerPoint, Google Slides, Keynote, Prezi, etc) will work.
- Split the screen between presentation software and the video feed (see how the finished product looked).
A closing acknowledgment (and my hope in writing)
Because our soundboard, computer, and camera are no doubt different than yours, I wasn’t able to assemble a true step-by-step guide. But I do pray it provides some direction to those of you who, like we were just 3 days ago, are trying to figure out how to facilitate the worship of those in your congregation during the days of COVID-19.