This page is intended to be a quick resource for churches looking to put their worship services online. It is not an endorsement of the platforms recommended. Also, music included in videos uploaded to these services may result in copyright claims that could impact their accessibility. CCLI does offer a license for streaming
Live vs Pre-recorded
The first big decision you need to make is whether you will be publishing your videos live or pre-recorded.
Pre-recorded videos offer the opportunity to edit for content, quality and length. Obviously, you can also record them at any time. That would allow greater flexibility for those participating in the service to record their contribution when it is convenient. Pre-recordings also don’t depend on good internet connectivity to get out to your congregation. You can record them whenever, wherever and then upload them to a streaming platform whenever and wherever. You can also be sure that the image and audio quality you record in are delivered to your end users.
Live video does require a stable internet connection for the duration of the broadcast. Most internet service providers have a much smaller upload speed than download speed. That means that even if you have a great camera and great microphone, it is likely that the people watching aren’t experiencing that same quality. Technical difficulties during the broadcast will also be experienced by the watchers.
Now you need to choose a streaming platform. A streaming platform is just the website that people are going to visit to watch your videos. There are countless options. I am going to focus on the big two: Facebook and YouTube. Both have options for Live and Pre-recorded videos with comparable features that allow some interaction between people watching together.
The major advantage and disadvantage both belong to Facebook. In order to participate in a Facebook video stream a user must have a Facebook account. While most people do, many people do not, and will not create one for various reasons. However, unlike YouTube, Facebook can broaden your video’s reach to the Friends of those watching your service.
Facebook Live allows people to visit your church’s Facebook Page and watch your live stream. While watching they can chat with others that are watching as well as provide feedback through the usual Facebook “like” system. Your stream will show up in the Newsfeed of many people who follow your page, as well as many of their Friends’ Newsfeeds. Once your live stream is complete, the video and the audience interactions is archived on your Facebook Page.
YouTube Live allows people to visit your church’s YouTube channel and watch your live stream. While watching they can chat with others that are watching. YouTube only allows users and channels to live stream that have “verified” channels. This can be done easily with a text message verification code, but should be done at least 24 hours before you intend to go live, as YouTube must enable this feature. Once your live stream is complete, the video is archived on your YouTube channel.
Facebook Watch Party (Pre-recorded Video)
A Facebook Watch Party allows a Facebook Page to create a “Watch Party” that begins at a certain time and streams a video, or videos, in a specific order to the watchers. All of those in the watch party can comment and “Like” as they do on any other Facebook content. The Watch Party videos can be uploaded to Facebook ahead of time but not published until the time of the Watch Party. At the time of the Watch Party, the videos can be published, and the Watch Party started to include those videos.
YouTube Premieres (Pre-recorded Video)
A YouTube Premiere creates a date, time and location (via a web address) for people to come together to watch a pre-recorded video on YouTube. At the appointed time, the video begins to play and audience members can interact via a chat feature.
For the most part you can do this with your smart phone with results of reasonable quality. The notable exception is that you cannot live stream from your YouTube channel via your mobile device if you do not have at least 1000 subscribers. However, you can still use your laptop or computer webcam. I found this article with suggestions on equipment for live streaming. The same recommendations would stand for pre-recording videos.