Pastors around the world are asking themselves these questions right now: Can I still connect with my people? Will our donations decline? How can I still serve the church without face-to-face connection?
The Answer is a resounding YES! It is possible and I can show you how we did it.
Hi My name is Brett, I served for over 10 years as the Technical Director then an Executive Pastor at The Source Church. We launched our Online Campus in 2012, honestly absolutely fumbling around in the dark and figuring it out as we went along. Over the years we've drastically improved, seeing our online reach pass 2M viewers last year. I have since helped other churches do quality focused streaming on a dime, and I hope this article helps YOU in your search.
So let's jump right into it. In order to have a successful "Online Campus" you need 3 things:
- Good Content
- A Simple yet Strong delivery system
- An Audience (Duh Brett...)
-Set realistic expectations for your team and your people
If you’re just starting it’s not going to look like Life Church or Hillsong music videos; start where you are and do your best. What are your services going to look like? A full service with worship or just a pastor in front of camera? How many people will be able to help you run it?
I'm offering 3 hardware solutions based off of two service directions:
Direction A: You stream a full service as if someone came to church on any other Sunday.
Direction B: You stream just the pastor giving a message and some extras.
-Evaluate your environment
What is the demographic of your church? Are most of your people college aged, young families or retired? Are they social media wizzes or barely using Google? Keep this in mind when choosing where you will stream. Although it's cool to be Facebook Live, it isn't cool if your audience can't see it. You want to make the process of finding you simple!
What is already at your disposal? Do you have camera gear already lying around? Do you have a brand new smart phone that can capture good video? Do you have a website already? These things can save you a lot of money in the setup so take inventory.
2. DELIVERY SYSTEM
-Simplify the Experience
Your streaming solution is made up of 4 parts: your capture setup, an encoder, a content delivery network, and a page or platform for users to view your stream.
See button below for a list of streaming kits. If you decided to go with Direction A, I recommend using the "Smartphone" or "Broadcast" setup. If you're going for Direction B, I recommend the "Webcam" or "Smartphone" setup. Click here for Streaming Kits
Some of you are asking, "What gear do I need at minimum?" You need 3 essential pieces to make video look good:
#1 Lighting- this is the most underrated part of video. Even 20k camera looks terrible without good lighting. If your church has stage lighting utilize that. If you're going to film close up use a good lamp or window to bring light in.
#2 Camera- 4K is cool, but most viewers' phones won't stream that. So look for a strong 1080p camera, it'll save money and bandwidth.
#3 Audio- great audio can make your audience feel like they're in the room with you, while bad audio not only feels unprofessional but can inhibit people from hearing your message properly. (Especially the hearing impaired)
There's a piece in-between your equipment and streaming service and that's called an Encoder, I recommend Open Broadcaster Software or Wirecast for software solutions you can start right now. Alternatively there are many hardware solutions out there and most streaming companies have their preferred list. *Phone streaming and MEVO don't require this step
A good streaming platform will allow you to stream in multiple bitrates to multiple locations (Facebook, Youtube, Apple TV, Webpage, etc). Here's our list of my tested recommendations for solid platforms that won't break the bank or fail on Sunday morning.
1. https://churchstreaming.tv (Set-it-and-Forget-it friendly)
2. https://www.streammonkey.com (Supports multi-campus)
4. https://onestream.live (Very affordable solution for broadcasting pre-recorded messages)
The last part is the Platform, or page your users will view from. If keeping donations and tithing up while you're streaming is important then you need to make the process SIMPLE. If you're streaming to Facebook, Youtube, or any other service that isn't solely on your website people will NOT have an easy route to give.
Here are a couple work-arounds for social media:
-Offer text to give
-Have a moderator post the direct link to give in the comments during the offering. (Test this first)
My last comment on this is that when you host on a dedicated page like Church Online Platform you're not competing for attention with all the other interesting videos and posts on Facebook & Youtube.
Here are some goals in streaming:
-Make every desired call to action 1 click away
-Have a follow up plan to engage the audience during the week and connect to new visitors
-Setup online giving if you haven't already, Paypal is an easy starting point but I recommend other companies for longterm solutions.
Hardware choices: There's a fine line between inexpensive and CHEAP. Save yourself the headache and err on the side of inexpensive, we've throw together some suggestions for gear that we've personally tested and used (the best bang-for-your-buck stuff).
Did you know there are laws and regulations regarding content streaming? If you are streaming any music, videos, or content that hasn't been 100% produced by you then you have to pay royalties. Check out www.CCLI.com and their Streaming license for full details on how they can protect you and your church.
I'm sure you don't need me to explain this but people have short attention spans, and when we're talking digital that attention span is even shorter. Translating to Online Campus means eliminating the fat, sometimes the things we do in person aren't necessary online (i.e. "Stand up and meet 5 new people before we start"). Condensing your message and service will help maintain engagement through the entire service and make sure they don't miss any valuable points.
Ask yourself this question: If there could only be 3 things in this service what would they be?
Then write out a lineup of the service and portion time for each piece.
-It's time to go live! Express the vision
This is the first and most important thing you can do when you go live. With a clear vision you can actually experience a stronger engagement regardless of medium. Give them a purpose for being there, ask for their support, prayers, and give them a way to help serve the vision of the church.
People don't buy-in unless they've been given the chance to weigh-in.
Here's the best news, regardless of how you make your services work over the next few weeks. God has equipped you and empowered you to do this. Lean on His understanding and you'll impact your community in ways you never have before.
Enlist a professional
If you need help getting this all running quickly sometimes the most efficient and stress-free thing you can do is enlist a professional for help. At Integrated Media we make it simple for you to keep doing your job well while we handle the technical.
To help churches amidst this Coronavirus crisis, we are offering a flat rate design & setup package to get your online campus up and running quickly.