Why live-stream your church service

If you run a church (or volunteer at one), you've likely seen a drop in regular attendees.
It's not just you. Attendance is down all over the world.

The average churchgoer today is 69 years old. Most of the younger generation is skipping out on church.

It's not that people are less religious these days. Christianity is still growing strong, and the fastest-growing religion in North America, Latin America, and Sub Saharan Africa.

It's just that Millenials, Gen Zs and Gen X-ers are more independent than before and want to do things their way. Over half the religious population would prefer to worship alone, rather than go to church.

63% of Gallup respondents say they prefer to "worship alone."

If you'd like to reach this younger crowd, you'll need to talk their language. For Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X, that means social media. They live in a world of Facebook and Youtube, with a lot of Snapchat, Vine, and Twitter thrown in.

As a church or religious institution, your message doesn't need to change, but the way you deliver that message does.

The traditional in-person-only format no longer works. It's time to efforts to engage the community in ways that show a right; moral message can still be engaging, fun, and meaningful.

What you need

Over 81% of the population has at least one social media account. So you need to get active on social and the best way to do that is Live Video.

Live video gets 2x more reactions 13.9x more comments and 4.3X more shares than pre-recorded videos

Live streaming is quite easy. There are tons of volunteer-friendly solutions for every budget.

1. An internet connection. How much you need depends on the quality of the video you'd like to broadcast. A good formula is:

Connection speed (upload bandwidth) = 2 x bitrate

And here's what your bitrates might look like

Streaming Resolution Bitrate
1080P 4.5 Mbps
720P 2.5 Mbps
480P 1 Mbps

Source: Wikipedia/Bit Rate

2. A laptop or computer. You'll need it to process and upload your video. If you're using multiple cameras, the processing can get quite heavy, so we recommend a dedicated machine for processing.

3. Decent lighting. Your church may have designed with a certain atmosphere in mind, but for video, you'll want your whole set lit up evenly. We'll cover lighting in more detail in another guide.

4. At least one camera. Your smartphone will probably work fine, but we recommend a dedicated device that won't be interrupted by calls or notifications. If you have the budget for it, you should upgrade to a professional camcorder.

Be sure to get a stabilizer or tripod for your camera. There's nothing worse than shaky, blurry videos when you're trying to pay attention to what you're watching.

If you get multiple cameras to broadcast your service (e.g., from different angles), you might need a video switcher. We'll cover this in the encoder section below.

5. An audio mic. Your camera(s) will probably be quite far away from you, and the sound it picks up from the church's speakers won't sound clear. So get an external microphone (or a lapel mic), so your voice is crystal clear on the video. You can use your encoder to add the audio feed from your mic to your video signal.

6. An encoder. We've covered what encoders do in a lot of detail here. We've also explained whether you should get a hardware or a software encoder.

Now, if you're using multiple cameras with a hardware encoder, you'll want a video switcher. This will let you change the video feed being broadcast (go from one angle to another in the video) in real-time. Software encoders can do this on their own.

7. A live streaming service. This service is a website, app, or network that distributes your church's video online. This is what you use to reach your audience everywhere. You should make sure to choose a live streaming provider which supports adaptive bitrate transcoding.

Where to broadcast (and how)

Social Media

Broadcasting to most social media is free. You can choose from Facebook Live, Youtube Live, Periscope (Twitter).

We recommend you start out with whichever platform you like as you get the hang of it. The audience is already there, you just have to attract them.

Your own website

You might also want to stream to your own website (in addition to social media). You'll need an embeddable player connected to your streaming service. This requires a paid software.

As you get the hang of live streaming you'll likely want to grow your audience.

The fastest way to do this is to broadcast to all the social media channels and your own website.

Doing so will require additional software, most of which is paid. Here's a quick comparison of the most popular live streaming services.

Castr Dacast Livestream
Pricing $ $$$ $$$
Adaptive Bitrate Streaming Yes No Yes
Timeshifting Yes No No
Simulcasting Yes No Yes
Cloud Recording Unlimited No 24 hours
Live Guest Chat Yes No Yes
Live Rewind 4+ hours 30 minutes 4 hours
Multi Ingest (RTSP, HLS, MPEGTS, RTMP) Yes No No
Multi Output (HLS, HDS, MPEG-DASH, RTMP Yes HLS only Only in Enterprise Plan
HLS URL 2TB+ plans Only in premium plan Only in enrprise plan

Everywhere with Castr

Not to toot our own horn, but we recommend Castr.io for live streaming.
It's the cheapest service in its class, includes a ton of useful capabilities out of the box that most other services can't provide.  You can use it to broadcast to your website and stream to multiple social media platforms out there - something no other service seems able to do.

Start live streaming now with Castr.