When the COVID crisis hit, churches scrambled to move their services online. Now that many churches are becoming more confident in doing online ministry, it’s a great time to look at options for the best online platform
There are several different online platforms that you can use to host online services. For larger churches and bigger budgets, it’s best to use a streaming provider that can provide customized service and stream to multiple destinations. But for many smaller churches, the choices come down to the different social media platforms.
Facebook offers an advantage of a pre-built audience for your livestream service. If you already have a church Facebook Page or Group, you can start streaming and see people start watching immediately.
Facebook also allows great interaction with comments and sharing, so that people can share what they are watching with their friends. Facebook has also started adding new features for churches, like phone call-in to listen, and the creation of online host badges for people commenting on behalf of the church.
You do need to be careful to not stream pre-recorded music that you don’t have the rights to. Facebook is aggressive in blocking livestreams that play copyrighted music.
YouTube is another good option. YouTube is where people are searching for answers to their questions, so it’s a great place to share sermon content and livestreams. It’s also easier to embed into websites than Facebook.
If you already have a strong presence on YouTube, you may want to consider sharing your livestream there. YouTube also has a good commenting system for engagement during the stream. If you want to embed your stream into your website, YouTube is a great solution.
At this time, Instagram isn’t your best option. Some churches are using it for livestreaming, but to get your livestream from a video switcher into Instagram you have to use a third party app that seems to be against Instagram’s terms of service. IGTV is great for sharing sermon clips and sermon content after your service, but I don’t recommend using it for you livestream at this time.
Hosted Streaming Provider
Hosted solutions like Vimeo, Boxcast, Resi (Living as One), ChurchLab, and many others are great for giving you more control over your livestream. They give you greater control over embedding your stream and using it with your own website. They also offer better quality and help prevent your members from buffering problems while watching.
Church Online Platform
The Church Online Platform is not technically a livestream provider, but I wanted to include it in this list. It is a free solution that allows you to create an online experience for your church. It has full commenting, prayer requests, private chat, and much more for your service. It works by creating a custom landing page for your church website where you can embed a video from another service.
You can embed a YouTube video, or a video from a hosted solution. One thing to remember is that The Church Online platform does not currently support Facebook videos. You can do livestream or simulated live services with this service.
The Best Solution – Stream to Multiple Services Simultaneously
So what do I recommend? I recommend streaming to where your people are! For our church, currently, we are focusing on Facebook, but we are looking at also using the Church Online Platform to provide more interaction during the service. To do this, we will need to either use a hosted video solution or use a multicasting service.
For a fee, Vimeo, Restream, and Castr, all let you send one stream to multiple destinations simultaneously. So you could send your live stream to Facebook Live and YouTube at the same time, and also use the Church Online Platform. You do need to remember that you will need to engage with the people watching on each platform.
This is a quick overview of your options for livestreaming your service. I know it can get confusing quickly. I’ll be sharing more here on Online Ministry Made Simple to help simplify your ministry!