Technology today gives us more than a few options for virtual outreach. In order to help facilitate, we’ve gathered a few helpful resources for those interested in sharing their worship online
News and Resources
- PC(USA)’s Live Streaming Guidelines
- Ten Tips for Folks New to Online Meetings
- Three hundred participate in 1001 Zoom conversation on streaming worship services – audio available
- Zooming to the rescue in the face of COVID-19
- The most maddening part about working from home: video conferences – Washington Post, March 16
- Share what you can and curate from others! We don’t all need to reinvent the wheel. If your church is live streaming worship, share it with others. If you already do a bible study online, invite others beyond your congregation to join. If your church is doing something creative with children’s ministry as kids are home from school, share it!
- Be thoughtful about sharing to a wider group than you normally do. If you are live streaming or recording a sermon, recognize that people outside your normal congregation might see it. Welcome them! Encourage them to continue engaging in their local congregation.
- Consider: What opportunities for creative collaboration might be possible? Invite congregations outside your own to join or participate.
- Don’t assume that everyone in your congregation uses social media. If you’re live streaming services, consider whether/how people can see the video.
- Teach your congregation how to use the technology necessary to participate in virtual community.
- Lead with grace and honesty. Don’t stress over leading a perfect online worship service. Write a prayer and email it if that’s the capacity you have. Grace abounds!
What’s Needed: Tools You Can Use
Every congregation is unique, and equipment or software that is commonplace to some may be completely unfamiliar to others. There is a wide range of options for live streaming available, but we are going to start with the most basic and cost-effective solutions, beginning with the tools you may already have. At minimum, you will need:
- A smart phone, tablet or laptop – A built-in camera and microphone are required. A smart phone (the more recent, the better) is ideal for starters because it’s microphone and camera are designed for distances, while laptops are best used up close. Laptops will enable you to use a separate camcorder, if you have one.
- A tripod with cell phone mount to hold device steady – or if at a desk, other stands can be sufficient.
- An internet connection – Decent wireless or WiFi connection. How decent? At least 5Mbps. More information here
- Software or social streaming platform, app or website that is installed or runs on your device.
Facebook is the most popular social network today. It can be accessed by any browser. (If you are using a smart phone, it’s recommended that you install the Facebook app for a friendlier interface.) You’ll need an account, and should have created a “page” for your church or organization first.
Then, once logged in, using same space that you create a “post,” look for the little red “Live” button. Click that to get started. But before you start recording, you can: give your video a title; add a description; and adjust audience settings
PROS – Free and accessible without extra equipment or expertise.
CONS : Facebook generally requires visitors to have their own account. and seniors are less inclined to participate in this social network.
Zoom is a teleconferencing service that is available for free with limitations, or with one of several paid subscription plans.
PROS : Zoom is accessible and widely used for meetings, webinars, and other teleconferencing.
CONS : Audience must be invited to participate, and their microphones need to be silenced (can be done by host). The number of participants is limited by the subscription plan.
YouTube is undeniably the internet’s largest resource for video media. Not only can you upload edited videos from your computer or device, but YouTube also offers live streaming capabilities now.
PROS : Free, accessible, easy to use, and scalable as equipment and skill grow.
CONS : It’s another social network to manage.
Adjust to Circumstances
Virtual connections can’t compare to real life interaction, and although online communications enables continued outreach, there are limitations and constraints that should be considered. But there are also opportunities as well.
- The closer the better – To ensure the best quality of sound, set the camera and microphone close to the speaker. Small rooms are better than large ones, so consider using a different setting than the regular gathering place.
- If you already have a sound system – Use it! Your existing microphones and equipment can likely be connected directly to your laptop or phone.
- Check your lighting – Nothing fancy here. One or two lights in the right place can suffice. Try not to stand in front of windows or bright lights.
- Keep it short – Competition for attention abounds. So, keep your messaging brief, succinct and to the point. Furthermore, subscription services may limit the number of minutes you can use.
- Use the discussion features – Most of the platforms discussed enable your audience to interact. A discussion thread can develop alongside your video or media allowing you and others to continue the dialogue. Social media is a two-way street, so make sure you are listening and responding to interested followers who comment on your media.
From PC(USA): Be advised that a standard license for congregational song from OneLicense or CCLI will not cover rights and permissions to live-stream the words or music of copyrighted hymns/songs; a special broadcast/streaming license must be purchased. Additionally, anthems, hymn arrangements, and other musical offerings under copyright are not covered by such licenses. These require further permission to broadcast. For this reason, leaders just beginning to explore livestreaming are advised to select hymns and songs in the public domain. For service music and anthems that will be live-streamed, consider using a hymn in the public domain.Gratis streaming licenses are now available from OneLicense through April 15. This will cover a great deal of the copyrighted material in Glory to God. (You can search here to find out what is covered: https://www.onelicense.net.)
Test, Test, Test
For many of us, this is a new frontier. Social networks update their platforms and services. so experiment. Don’t be afraid to fail. You can delete what doesn’t work and try again. Most platforms will allow you to practice with a closed session that only you can see and review before going live. Plan to make mistakes and expect the unexpected.
And be mindful of the sound. Not only will you want it to be clear enough to be heard by viewers, but you’ll want to make sure there are no chatty persons near the microphone. Let those around know that you are live streaming. (because none of you would want to record and share their conversations)
But even if you have mastered the publishing of live content, will your audiences know it’s there, and how to access it? You’ll want to make sure that they also have the tools and know-how to receive your messaging and stay informed. Share your insights and knowledge as they develop.
Notify Your Congregations
Schedule you live streams, and let your followers know in advance. Your recording will remain accessible and viewable afterwards, so if they miss it, don’t fret. Once they see what they’re missing, they’ll be more likely to tune in next time. People (and social network algorithms) like consistency, so it’s best to set expectations and keep to a somewhat regular schedule. If it’s once a week, when is that day and time? Keep your audience looped-in as you monitor, adjust and progress.
It is recommended that despite your platform, Facebook “events” be used to schedule and notify your followers. (or if Sunday service, one reoccurring event). That way, they’ll be more able to share with others, and get calendar reminders in their feed.
Although by no means complete, this is a work in progress, and will be updated regularly. We hope this overview, tips and suggestions are useful as you navigate the wide range of opportunities for online engagement. And if you have suggestions for best practices or your own success stories, please let us know.
And Big Thanks