It’s been fascinating to see how churches have tackled live streaming their worship services since the Covid-19 pandemic started.Of course, I need to mention Zoom, which has seemingly taken over the world, but I’d like to look at several other solutions – both relatively new and established players.
Perhaps the simplest way to conduct the worship service online is with Zoom; send an invite to your congregation, and up to 250 people can participate. That said, this isn’t the true definition of a live stream as this more of a multi-party video chat. Moving on, Facebook Live is a straightforward way to broadcast service online. The experience might be limited to an individual holding up their phone or using their laptop. Still, it also creates the one to many broadcast experiences typical of a TV broadcast. The advantage is that all you need is your Facebook audience. The disadvantage is that your audience is limited to Facebook, so your videos cannot be embedded and distributed easily onto the Internet.
YouTube, in my experience, is the most popular streaming option for churches. Churches can leverage their existing video cameras, mixing boards, encoder to send audio and video into a software-based live streaming tool. Open Broadcaster Software(OBS) is a software application for macOS, Windows, and Linux that is widely used by churches to get their video onto YouTube Live.
YouTube Live is the live streaming component of the YouTube platform; YouTube Live videos always display the word “Live” in red. Live videos work the same way as regular videos – meaning you can share links or embed them on any website. Users can also watch YouTube Live videos on their TVs or streaming boxes for a lean-back experience.
YouTube Live is free and, combined with its massive reach, makes it the most appealing option for churches. Performance works well in their support for a while variety of services.
The next option is Vimeo(formerly livestream.com), which is similar to YouTube Live in that it works with OBS and can embed a video onto your website. However, unlike YouTube, Vimeo is a paid solution with the advantage of allowing broadcasts to multiple platforms simultaneously. For example, churches can stream to Facebook, YouTube channel, and the Vimeo for much broader reach.
There isn’t a right or wrong solution from the options I’ve mentioned earlier, just solutions that may work better with your church’s AV setup. For example, I know of a pastor with a church plant that uses Facebook Live for his worship services, which works well since his congregation is tiny and all on Facebook.
Before closing, I would like to mention a new entrant Restream – a new entrant in the live streaming industry. They are filling a need for churches that want to broadcast to their various social media platforms with minimal hassle.
This post is not an exhaustive overview of Livestreaming options. Instead, it shares my observations of trends I’ve seen adopted by churches as they deal with their congregations forced to worship online.