A lot of churches are streaming their services at the moment. Some are pre-recording and some are going out live. Here we discuss the pros and cons of each approach and provide some links to more detailed how-to information.
The big advantage of pre-recorded services is that you have time to prepare. You can edit the video and make sure the picture and sound quality are as you want it, and you can trim down to keep everything snappy, hopefully avoiding your congregation losing interest and changing channels. It can be uploaded the night before and you can take time off on Sunday knowing that everything is ready in advance.
The disadvantage is that it lacks the immediacy of a live service. You can’t respond to people and you may not be responding to the current world situation in your prayers.
There is a lot more practical information on our Recorded Services page.
Live-streaming sends live video of your service, as it happens, to a streaming platform such as Facebook or YouTube. As churches start to open up again after lockdown, many will be considering doing this as a form of Hybrid Church. You could also stream live video from several different locations – people’s homes and/or the church building – although this is more complicated.
Live streaming is usually less polished than a pre-recorded service. Unlike an edited service where you can trim out all the pauses, there is a lot more slack time between items, especially when movement of socially-distanced people is involved. It’s also a struggle to get good audio and video quality. This is where internet viewers may lose interest and switch to something else. But for some people it feels more real. You can react to what people feed back in the comments on your video feed, and you can speak to events happening in the world today rather than two days ago.
But when you’re working live things can and will go wrong. Commonly with Zoom streams the audio quality for music can degenerate to the point of being unusable and participants can drop out due to network problems. With single camera streaming it’s all down to you and one camera and if anything goes wrong there’s no backup. You need a cool head and nerves of steel to be able to continue through anything. Make sure you do a test run before you go live and iron out the wrinkles first!
Find out what’s involved on our Live Stream page.
Many churches are using Zoom meetings to hold their services. This is in some ways the most personal of all as all the participants can see each other and take part together. It works reasonably well for small groups, but there are some things that don’t work well.
It is important to keep most of the meeting participants muted to avoid background noise and to prevent speaker view switching away from the speaker every time someone coughs. Don’t try to read prayers or liturgy together – it really doesn’t work because the of the inherent delay and it is impossible and very distracting if you try to keep together.
One major advantage of Zoom services over recorded or streamed services is that they can be accessed by telephone without needing a computer at all.
Find more information on setting up a Zoom meeting or service.
Remember that not everyone has internet access. However, you can also use a conference call system to hold services or meetings over an ordinary telephone. It’s like Zoom but without computers and could be a better way of connecting with those who don’t have the IT access that most of us take for granted. In this blog post, Bryony Taylor tells us how and relates her experience of using it.
It is also possible to make some or all of your service accessible over the phone. You need to convert it to MP3 format (audio only) and store it somewhere, such as on your website, but you can then set up a telephone access service using these instructions, again from Bryony Taylor.