In this unpredictable time in history, when things are staying closed due to health concerns, churches are faced with an important question: “Is now the time to embark on the journey of live streaming?” Easier said than done right? So many questions flood your head. Where do I start? What is a good budget to have? How many cameras should I use? In this post, the goal is to help you organize the steps you need to take before buying any gear and answer questions that are most often overlooked.
Safety is everything when it comes to live streaming your church. Even after the doors open, how can you keep certain congregation members safe? What do I even mean by that? Finding out who can be on camera and who can’t. In our church, we have a few people that are not allowed to be on camera, and children also need to be considered. I always suggest every 3 months to pass around a waiver, especially if you have new families to let them know, you will be streaming the services online. If they would not like to be online, we suggest seating near the back of the church. This way the camera guys know not to focus on them. Another way is to get them involved in running a camera. If you’re operating a camera, you won’t end up on the feed.
If you plan on streaming your worship service, it’s best to look into a CCLI license. What is a CCLI license you ask? It stands for Christian Copyright Licensing International® (CCLI) and enables real-time access to licensed Christian music and media while easing the burden of administration in the many complex issues related to copyright. For more information visit CCLI.com. Now we are not legal counsel, but as someone who has been in the ministry over most of my life, it’s best to keep everything on the up and up and know your protected when streaming music. Especially since Youtube and Facebook have algorithms that specifically look for these licenses. If they see it on your stream, usually they won’t pull your stream down.
If you have a board of directors or leaders within your church, it’s best to sit down with them at a meeting and figure out a good budget. You don’t need a massive budget to start. Especially if you already have a computer that you have purchased within the last 2-3 years. You can have a basic professional setup for under $2000. That would be my suggestion.
For $2000 you can get Wirecast Studio at $599, a single camcorder with clean HDMI out for $500, a capture card for $300, and a CCLI license. As of February 2017, the annual fee for a US CCLI license ranged from $59 (for a church size less than 25 people) to $5,266 (for a church size greater than 200,000 people). ( License fees are similar for churches in other countries, taking exchange rates into account).
Because you’re starting off basic, it’s best to find out before even meeting about budgets, to announce to the congregation your plan. To see if anyone has any experience with live video, there may be someone in your congregation that has been podcasting video and audio for years and is a diamond in the rough. Get them involved in the budget meeting and let them run with the project. They may have friends that have helped them or have relationships with people in the congregation willing to learn, but like the person in charge and therefore will volunteer.
I’m Ready to Go!
Ok, so you followed all the basic steps to get started. You purchased your gear, your CCLI license, and Wirecast Studio. There may still be a few things you need help with, whether it be technical, software, or audio. My suggestion is to look in the Telestream Forums for consultants or even your local church denominations. There are always more experienced people at other churches, willing to volunteer or for a small fee to help other churches get started. All you have to do is ask! I know, because we’ve done that with our sound system. In turn, I’ve gone to the other church to help with their video.
Everyone wants to just start live streaming, but if you don’t understand the legalities of what to look into, you could end up with a problem. Make sure you check with the laws in your country, city, or state before live streaming.