A little over 2 years ago, I made the decision to start live streaming our Modern Worship services at First United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. At the time, we didn’t have a budget for live streaming and had very few resources available. Even still, we felt that this emerging medium would allow the church to better serve our members, reach new people in our community, and engage people from around the world. As the musical director of the service, and a dangerously curious person, I embarked on the journey that led to where we are now—streaming both of our weekly services with a, piecemeal, but stable platform.
So, if you are interested in live streaming your worship service. The first question that you need to ask yourself is… Why?
Are you trying to reach prospective members? Are you trying to provide a resource for current members? Both? Neither?
It is important to know the audience you are trying to reach before you get started. Knowing your target audience will help you decide how much you want to invest in equipment and staff/volunteer resources needed to begin live streaming your worship services, bible studies, or other events. Be sure to decide who will be in charge of implementing this new ministry. If you don’t already have a team in place, you will want to form one, even if it’s a team of one! This ministry will be a public face of your church so make sure that you are providing a quality product.
Once you have answered the “why?” It is time to decide… How?
Here is where you need to decide the best way to reach your audience. You can spend practically nothing, or you can spend thousands of dollars on a state-of-the-art, fully automated video system.
But, before spending a cent, you will need to check with your internet service provider and find out if you have the bandwidth to handle live streaming. For a 720p broadcast you will need between 5 & 8 mbps UPLOAD speeds. Upload speeds are different from download speeds and are always slower than your download speeds. (Typically around 15%-20% of what your download speeds are;. i.e. 100 mbps down & 20 mbps up.) You will want to have a cushion in your speeds of at least double the amount needed. Here is a great article about upload speeds.
Why, you ask, is this important? You could invest significant resources in audio/video equipment that will—without the proper bandwidth—be glitchy, often appear grainy, or may not work at all. So, the first three steps in implementing live streaming in your worship services are to: 1) define the target audience, 2) develop a team who will implement the streaming service, and 3) ensure that you have the proper bandwidth to stream reliable, high quality video.
In a future article, I will detail some of the primary platforms that you can use to live stream, the equipment that will be needed, and costs associated with each method.