3 Essential Tips for Streaming Church Services Online

Wow - what a day!

I feel like every church in America was trying to do a live stream somewhere online around the 11 o'clock hour today. Did you feel the internet groan a little?

This is not a new concept for the church I serve at. We have been doing live streaming for several years now, and our process has evolved quite a bit.

I thought today would be a great time to write a quick post on some things I've learned over those years. This week will be one of adjusting and tweaking for many churches, and I hope that some of these ideas will help you all.

#1. Pre-Record your Service

I can't stress this tip enough. It takes a little more work on the front end, but the ramifications it produces more than make up for all that work.

Remember that your online-only service doesn't have to look like a normal live and in-person service. Tweak it. Cut some songs. Ask your teaching pastor if he could cut his message some. (Consider cutting it in half.)

Do whatever you need to do to make a prerecorded church service nice. It doesn't have to be professional.

Record your music acoustically. Strip it down. Make it simple, intentional, organic, and pleasant. But most of all, keep it worshipful.

Record an online host greeting people and going over general house-keeping items like your connect card, giving, communication, etc.

Piece all this together in a video editor (Adobe Premiere Pro, Wondershare Filmora, iMovie, Final Cut, etc.) and upload it to either Youtube or Vimeo.

The HUGE benefit to doing this as opposed to actually live streaming is that if something goes wrong (like it did today), you can totally just take that video and share the link on your church's social media platforms.

This way, people still experience what you put together, and you don't lose your audience's attention.

#2. Use Church Online Platform

This is another CRUCIAL element for an online live stream.

Church Online Platform (referred to as ChOP from here on out) is a FREE resource at your disposal from Life.Church (the makers of the YouVersion Bible app).

We used it years ago when it was in versions 2 and 3, and we recently picked up using it again in the brand new version 4.

Version 4 is so easy to maneuver and figure out.

You just go to churchonlineplatform.com and sign your church up. You default as the owner, and then you can add users (as owners, admins, or hosts), add when your service times will be, and check analytics on past services.

Seriously, the analytics are amazing. Check these ones out from a recent service my church had online.

So many amazing stats!!!

They (Life.Church) even have amazing training resources for you here and here.

When you are live, there is an awesome separate view for your hosts that includes a separate host chat window, access to the public chat, a host info and notes window where you can put scripts and reminders for your hosts to use, and a private prayer option for viewers to access.

Adding your pre-recorded service is as easy as putting the video link from Youtube or Vimeo into the appropriate service time in ChOP, telling it when it should start (so you can have a countdown or pre-welcome), and telling it when chat should open and close.

#3. Build an Online Campus Team

This is a new era for the Church. Nothing will be the same after this time in our world's history.

That being said, please start your church's online service experience off right --- AND DON'T DO THIS BY YOURSELF!!!

Build an online campus team of people from your church who buy into the vision of gathering online.

You want to be able to replace yourself very quickly. This is also a great opportunity for you to plug people into serving that don't necessarily want to talk to people face to face.

Here are some basic requirements for an online team:

  1. They need to be able to type quickly and accurately. Slow responses and egregiously misspelled words (like those big words?) will not be your friends.
  2. They need to get the "Why" of your church's new online services.
  3. They need to be moderately tech-savvy (at least until you can meet again and train people).
  4. They need to have a passion for connecting with others (at least online) and directing them to Jesus.

Look for people in your congregation who are on social media a lot.

Look for anyone in your church with a blog.

Look for people who might be quiet in person but explode in a digital setting.

Now, once you have a team ready and rearing to go, you will want to get some order to how you will do things.

Trust me when I say that just putting 3 - 5 people on your shiny new online campus and letting them all go willy nilly just won't cut it.

It will get real crazy - real fast. (That happened to us in our first try.)

You need to establish some roles and guidelines before you launch this thing.

(FYI, I got some of these online host role ideas from another church or online church provider. I just can't remember where. It was years ago. So don't go praising me for all these ideas. BEG, BORROW, AND STEAL! lol)

Here are some roles you may want to consider using:

  1. Chat Artists - These chatty folks are responsible for greeting viewers as they enter the chat room, answering any questions that they can, and keeping the chat directed toward the online service. Things can occasionally get off-topic, so gently nudge people back to the subject at hand. You want 2 or 3 of these.
  2. Copy Machine - This person is responsible for pasting prescripted messages (that live in your host info) into the chat room. These could be things like how to fill out the digital connect card, where to go to give digitally, how to request prayer, etc. You only need one person doing this.
  3. Prayer Ninjas - These more mature believers are basically waiting for viewers to hit the "Request Prayer" button. This will open a private prayer chat room for just those two people. I recommend scripting some lines for these people too. Keep it generic and short and get them back into the general chat. You don't want to foster a needy, clingy atmosphere with your viewers. Prayer Ninjas can also pull people into a private prayer chat if they see something posted in general chat that might warrant a private conversation and prayer. I recommend at least 2 of these, and try to include men and women.
  4. Social Sniper - These social media sharp-shooters will be hunting through FB, Twitter, Instagram, and anywhere else to spot people who are hurting, in need, or just depressed that they are home and can't get out or go to church. They need to kindly and gently encourage people to join your live stream.
  5. Captain of the Ship - This person is the team lead. They can do all the other roles, and sometimes, they will be doing one. They will answer any really tough questions, and if the platform goes down, they will know where to go to get updates on when the stream will go back up. They will also have the ability to share the service video on your social media platforms if your live stream goes down. They should also probably be the one to schedule the other roles and encourage the team in a live video chat before and after. These pre and post video "team huddles" are a great place to assign roles, issues reminders, and have a quick time of prayer before you go live.

Pre-record, Use ChOP, and Build Your Team - 3 super important things that I believe will help your church have a seamless experience transitioning into streaming services online.

Let me encourage you to think beyond as well. Don't just plan and work for what is happening right now. We will be able to meet live and in person again, and you will probably still want to do live online church when that happens.

Think about what you will need and want then, and implement those things now. People watching online now and who will still watch online then won't want a bunch of changes. Just something to think about.

I am a huge advocate for "future-proofing."

Leave me some comments on how your church is doing in this area.

Do you do something different? Let me know what is working for you.

In the very near future, I will be writing more posts and also possibly making some videos on our process for each of these components, including the video editing process.

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