First talk to leadership
Are you looking to expand technology at your church to improve your ability to livestream services, or perhaps you’re just interested in posting recordings of services on your website? Before forming a plan, talk to the senior leadership at your church to ensure they are on board. It’s important for them to have a vision with streaming and/or recording services.
Why Use Livestream or Recording Services?
My non-denominational church uses Facebook, YouTube, and the Church Online Platform for live streaming of Sunday morning services. Our pastors frequently recognize online audiences during services.
Most people who watch streaming or recorded services are:
- Looking for a new church
- Ill or chronically ill
- Have family members who are ill
- On vacation.
- Avoiding bad weather
- Moved away from the area but still engaged with their old church.
Customize Your Approach
If you are planning to record or stream your service, one of the most important aspects is having an adequate number of cameras with the right lenses, placed in the right locations. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Your needs could vary based on:
- How big your church is
- Number of people on stage.
- The average number of people watching services.
Other factors to consider
If you have a limited budget, it’s best to look at less expensive cameras to purchase if you would like to add more. Camera costs can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.
Keep in mind some features that you should look for when purchasing a camera:
- USB connectivity – eliminates the need for extra hardware and lets you connect the camera to your computer directly.
- AC charging capability – prevent interruptions in the stream if the service goes longer than one charge.
- Great resolution and frame rate – consider 1080p resolution but if on a budget, don’t go lower than 720p resolution. My church uses 1080p resolution.
Learn more about working with a limited budget by checking out “Central Worship Tech Tour – Mega Church Results on a Budget.”
Don’t forget that you can use your phone as a camera on a tripod. Learn more by viewing “Using a PHONE for Church Services Live Stream & Recording Sermon! PRO TIPS.”
You will need to have more volunteers if purchasing more cameras, one to use the camera, and one to switch between cameras (if you only used one camera before). If you have a limited number of volunteers, consider Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) wall-mounted cameras.
To encourage more volunteers to join your crew, advertise in the bulletin and church website the need for more volunteers and offer free training to those who are interested in serving but may not have the technical expertise. My church has an average of five video tech team volunteers for each Sunday and we work together to determine the best shots during our rehearsals.
Think about whether it’s important to capture congregation shots during the service.
This can be helpful during:
- Greeting shots
- Before the service begins
- During worship songs.
These add a dimension to the broadcast so viewers can get more of a realistic feel of services. PTZs are best for this. My church has one on each wall and not only uses PTZs for those shots but also side shots of the band as well as speakers and the pastor.
Full Stage Shots
If you’re looking to have shots of all people on the stage at one time, consider setting up a camera with a tripod. If the stage or platform is large, think about setting up the camera in the back of the room. While you can certainly zoom in on individuals on stage using this type of camera, it might be difficult based on where the people are on the stage.
While my church uses this camera for band shots and a lot of shots of the pastor, my girlfriend’s small Baptist church, with no choir or band, has a camera setup on a tripod, in front of the stage near the pulpit. This is a great solution for small churches that have limited budgets and a small number of volunteers.
If you are interested in getting very close-up shots of those in your church’s choir or band, consider handheld wireless cameras.
Consider close-up shots for:
- Solo portions of songs
- Guitars and other instruments
- Speakers and pastors
Since these are handheld, keep in mind that it might be difficult for many to keep the camera still for extended periods of time.
My church uses handheld wireless cameras, with two in use by volunteers in the front row, one usually on each side.
Low Light Shots
Consider whether your service features songs, or parts between songs, with low light. Viewers at home will want to always be seeing people on the screen, rather than just a black screen, so consider using low light cameras.
My church has low-light cameras anchored on each wall for this purpose.
Additional YouTube videos to check out are “The Best Camera for Live Streaming Church 2023 Update” and “How to Design a Multi-Camera Livestream Setup for a Church.”
Seek advice when looking to expand on technology as other components are needed such as:
- Dedicated hardware
- Ability to add content on lower thirds, such as names and titles of speakers, scripture, music lyrics, etc.
Make it a Top Priority
Providing a high-quality video stream or recording of services should be a top priority for churches. Allowing people to easily access services on their televisions, desktop and laptop computers, tablets, and cellular phones could increase in-person attendance. Volunteers from my church interact with viewers live on Facebook and the Church Online Platform to keep the experience as interactive as much as possible offering to pray with viewers and sharing Bible verses related to worship songs.
An Addition, not a Substitution
Online church services should be seen as an addition to and not a substitute for people to attend in-person services when they are able.
One of my pastors compared online services to the military’s pre-cooked, self-contained foods, also known as MREs (meals ready-to-eat), and in-person services to having a delicious home-cooked meal. However, as any soldier or veteran will tell you, MREs are a whole lot better than no food at all.
Online services serve an important function in worship facilities allowing viewers to get a taste of the church by listening to worship songs, sermons, and announcements about ongoing or future events.