Streaming Your Church Services legally and attractively.
Because of the Covid lockdown many churches have started broadcasting their services. It was all a bit rushed, we didn’t really know what we were doing, but most of us have stumbled into a solution that sort-of works.
Even with our amateur efforts, the benefits have been obvious. Many churches have found that their online congregations are much bigger than they were getting in the building. Online church has helped people feel connected and people who were previously technophobes have been pushed to discover that it’s not as difficult as they feared and are now Zoom-calling their families routinely.
All this is leading churches to ask, should we continue broadcasting our services as lockdown ends? – and if ‘yes’ how can we do this in a way that is attractive, legal and cost-effective?
There are three main areas to consider. (1)Technical (2) Legal. (3) Privacy and Safeguarding.
The options are almost limitless – but for most people it is a choice between Zoom or YouTube. Zoom is good for homegroups or prayer meetings, but for broadcasting your services, YouTube is king.
On YouTube you can ‘live stream’ (an as-it-happens broadcast) and this is automatically recorded by YouTube so that anybody can watch it at any time in the future. And it is free.
The simplest option of all is to get the YouTube app on your phone and put your phone on a fixed mount and live-stream the service. The main problem with this option is that the sound quality is likely to be poor. Sounds close to the camera will be loud and things far away will be too quiet. Most churches these days have a sound-system and a mixer desk so an effective solution is to broadcast the pictures from your phone and the sound from the mixer desk. A TRS to TTRS adapter will be needed to connect the audio from the desk to the phone.
A single camera view is a bit dull to watch. So the next step is to add multi-cameras. A useful arrangement would be two fixed cameras plus a camera on a tripod that is operated by a person who can smoothly zoom and pan to follow the main point of interest. A video mixer will also be needed to select between the cameras, and a ‘director’ who chooses which view is being shown at any one moment. A modest set-up of this sort, including cameras, is likely to cost between £700 and £1400.
The next level of sophistication is to be able to overlay your pictures with onscreen words for the Bible readings and the worship songs. This a bit more complicated, but it is a lot more watchable.
Ben Foreman, of West Road, Bury St Edmunds (yes it’s a Partnership Church), runs a video consultancy and design service specifically for churches. You can have an initial conversation with him completely free of charge. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Most churches will already have a CCLI song licence. If you use modern songs you need one. In the past, the legalities surrounding the broadcasting of Christian music has been immensely complex. One of the benefits of the Covid crisis is that this situation has been resolved.
From CCLI, churches can now buy a ‘Streaming licence’ so that you can legally stream your services, including music. The cost of the license varies with church size. For example, the license will cost £32 for a year for a church with less than 50 people.
Copyright issues also affect other areas. For example, a children’s talk might consist of someone reading from a published story book and showing the pictures. It would be illegal to broadcast this without specific permission.
(3) Privacy and Safeguarding
If you are broadcasting video of the congregation and of children who participate in your services – it is important to make it clear that you are doing this and give people the choice to opt out.
Good practice is to have a ‘designated blind spot’ in your congregation. It is easy with fixed cameras to set them up so that a certain section of the building is never in view. You can then give people the option of sitting in this area if they do not want to be featured. Best practice also is never to zoom in on one person in the congregation. Having at least half a dozen people in the frame makes it feel less intrusive.
A note on your welcome sheet and an announcement at the start of the service is probably the best way to go.
“We will be live streaming our service today on YouTube. We are excited about this because we are reaching and extra 200 people a week and members of our church family who are unwell or away can still join in with us. If for any reason you do not want your image to appear on social media please sit in the seats in the designated blind spot. If you have further concerns please talk to . . . . . . [name and picture]
Ephesians 5:16 encourages us to ‘make the most of every opportunity’. There is an opportunity here. With a relatively small investment of time and money there are significant potential benefits for the life and ministry of your church.
Simon Ladd is the Partnership Regional Co-ordinator for East Anglia.