In the old days, churches used to buy time on a local TV or radio stations to extend their reach electronically but today, that's happening more often through the Internet with live streaming services. TV, radio, and Internet services cost money and for many churches, the cost prevents them from broadcasting their service. Facebook Live now makes this more accessible to a large potential audience of viewers. In many cases, users can do so for free or for a fraction of the cost of the expensive Internet church streaming services springing up all over the place.
Our round-up of church app providers includes some services that make streaming worship fairly simple. If that's what you need to make it happen then you will want to pay the fees that can reach or exceed $100/month for those services.
However, if you're willing to take some time to learn a few new skills, maybe buy some hardware or software, then you can go live on Facebook, saving money compared to live streaming services. It's a plus if you or someone in your church understands things like RTMP streaming or is willing to learn. We'll show you how using a few different options costing anywhere from nothing to hundreds of dollars for some hardware and/or software.
Facebook Live Streaming from a Phone
The simplest and cheapest way to stream your worship services live to Facebook is to use your smartphone. It costs nothing, except the price of the phone, the Internet connection in the building where you're streaming along with a reliable Wi-Fi router. Here's how to do Facebook Live Streaming using your phone. This also works with most recent Android tablets or the iPad.
Start by opening the Facebook app. You'll want to stream from your church's Facebook Page. If you don't have a church Facebook Page, then set one up using this Facebook Help page.
Tap on the three vertical line menu or “hamburger icon” in either the upper right or lower right corner depending on whether you use and iPhone or Android phone. It's on the upper right on an Android phone and looks like three horizontal lines sitting all the way to the right. It's on the lower right on iPhone, also all the way to the right. Now scroll down till you see Pages. Tap it and find your church's Facebook Page. The person doing this has to be assigned as an administrator.
On and iPhone or Android phone, look for the box that reads Write something… on it. Tap it.
If you're using an Android phone, tap on the Go Live button (see above left). On an iPhone it reads Live Video (above right). If it's the first time you've done this, the app may ask for permission to use the camera, the mic or locations. Use your phone's button in camera view to select the forward facing camera which looks like two arrows in a circle.
Hold your phone in landscape view instead of portrait view. It looks more professional. Only violate this principles if you know most of your viewers will watch the live stream on their phones.
When everything looks ready, tap on the blue GO LIVE button in the lower right corner of the screen.
Here's a few tips to make sure your church's live stream looks professional, even though you're only using a phone camera.
- Make the title something descriptive. “Father's Day at High Peak” is better than “June 18, 2017 at High Peak – worship services”. If you know what's happening tell viewers about it or go back after and edit the title after the fact.
- Avoid Filters and Stickers. Facebook offers them as options, and they're fun for video for your friends. Don't use them for your church. They don't look professional.
- Hold the phone in landscape orientation. That means hold it so it's wide not tall. Videos in landscape look more like a TV show than amateur social media videos. Only break this rule if you know everyone who watches only watches on a phone.
- Use an external microphone. If possible, get a good external microphone and attach it to the phone. Believe it or not, but sound matters more than video quality, even in video streaming. People will put up with a low quality video signal longer than they will poor audio quality. If your stream doesn't sound clear, get a mic. Consider a wireless mic system if only one person will speak or sing for the service. Since that's not likely, then get a wired mic and put it as close to the stage as possible. Sit on the front row with the phone.
- Get a phone tripod. You can buy a decent holder and tripod for your phone. I prefer tripod mounts for smartphones from a company called Joby. They fit on a regular tripod or on one of their tripods, like the GorillaPod which you can put on the back of a pew or chair in your church.
We mentioned above using an external mic. Check out IK Multimedia, makers of the iRig Mic and other multimedia equipment and accessories that work great on a phone. They make a whole mount that lets you hold the phone and attach an included wireless mic via XLR input. They call it the iKlip A/V. It costs about $180 or get it for a little over $100 on Amazon.
Facebook Live Streaming from a Computer with Special Software
With special software, users can stream to Facebook Live. This means hooking up a camera to a computer and installing the software on the system.
Two popular options offer a free option and an expensive option. We'll show you how to use the free option called OBS Studio. The program comes from a group of open source programmers and costs nothing to use. It does require some knowledge, but the information comes freely available online.
You'll also need to hook up some kind of camera. A lot of computers come with a camera built-in, but you should instead opt for an HD camera that can output to HDMI. We use a simple Sony Handycam camera that has a mini-HDMI output on it. That's connected to a tripod and the HDMI cable connects to a capture box from Elgato. Elgato designed the Elgato HD60 USB capture box so users could stream their gaming sessions from an Xbox or Playstation, but it works great with the camera.
Download the software from Elgato's website. You only need the Game Capture software. It works with both PC and Mac.
Next install OBStudio. If you get an error message saying that the software can't find msvcp120.dll, then download the files from the OBS site and install them. Then try and open OBS Studio again after installing the file.
Our church does Facebook Live Streaming with OBS Studio for my volunteers to use and it shows all the steps for setting up your Facebook Live Stream using OBS Studio. You can download the file, share it with others and print it off for your volunteers free of charge. Just share this article on Facebook or Twitter as “payment.”
If you think you'll need some hand holding, then you'll have to pay for it. That's where Wirecast comes in. Wirecast comes from Telestream and costs almost $500. They also offer a guide for using their software to stream to Facebook Live. Don't buy Wirecast unless you know you'll need technical support. Also, OBS Studio can get buggy on occasion. Don't update the software unless you know it's stable. If that's not something you want to deal with, then you'll have to pay for Wirecast or something like it.
A cheaper option comes from Xsplit. It's cheaper at $200 for a lifetime license or as little as $4.17 when you buy a 36-month license. They also sell one for three months and 12 months. I haven't used Xsplit Broadcaster, so I can't offer any review of the software. The video below will give you some idea of what the user interface looks like. Remember that it's meant for gamers, but you can use it for streaming your worship services using the above Elgato HD60 box.
Facebook Live Streaming with Mevo Camera
There's an interesting option now called the Mevo Camera that connects to your phone or tablet and lets you stream to Facebook, and others services. The Camera has a 4K sensor, which means you can zoom in and still send 720P or 1080P video to Facebook Live. The Mevo Camera app for iOS or Android (currently in beta) works like a mini-control room. Select preset camera views where you zoom to certain portions of the worship area and quickly switch between them live.
The Mevo camera sits about 2.5-inches high and about 2-inches in diameter. The front holds the 4K lens. The button on top turns it on/off and shows an LED that gives the status of the camera's streaming through the app. For more information on the camera and service, see my review GottaBeMobile.com.
Here's how we use the Mevo Camera at High Peak Baptist Church. The camera sits atop a mic stand in the center of the sanctuary aimed at the front of the worship space. We connect it to an iPad Pro held by one of our multimedia team members in the balcony of the church. The camera and the iPad connect to the same Wi-Fi network hooked up a cable Internet connection that just barely meets the minimum of 5Mbps upload speed.
The sound board controls the sound and a cable runs from the sound board with an XLR jack on one end and a 3.5mm stereo cable on the other end. That plugs into a special cable called the Headset Buddy Line-level Audio Adapter. That's needed because it takes the signal from the cable coming out of the board and does two things. It has an attenuator that allows for line-level to mic-level conversion. You'll need this or the sound won't work right on the iPad. We hook that up to a stereo to Lightning adapter so that we get digital audio coming into the iPad. Plugging directly into the iPad's stereo headphone input doesn't work properly. On the iPad we select the iPad in the Mevo App and this gives us pro-level sound from the sound board.
The Mevo Camera has an optional connector called the Mevo Boost that connects to the bottom of the Mevo Camera. The camera itself only holds 60 minutes of battery life, not long enough when you factor in time to set up the camera before the worship service and the add times when our worship service goes about 70-75 minutes on some Sundays. The Mevo Boost adds 8 hours of battery life.
In addition to extra battery, the Mevo Boost adds an Ethernet connection. If you can use it, do so because Wi-Fi can get unreliable with a lot of people in the room using their tablets or phones to read their Bibles. The Boost adds a regular USB connection and a micro-USB connection. The regular connection lets users plug in a USB LTE modem to use if you don't have Wi-Fi or Ethernet hooked up to an Internet connection.
Without the Boost you can't put it on a mic stand like we do. The connection on the bottom of the boost supports both a mic stand and tripod. The camera alone only connects to a tripod.
The Mevo Camera alone costs $400 and the Boost adds $250. There's a bundle that also adds a nice hard cover carrying case and it costs $600, $50 less than the price of the Camera and Boost alone.
Facebook Live Streaming with Special Hardware
The lastop option won't fit very many churches because this requires expensive hardware like NewTek's Tricaster. The NewTek Tricaster Mini costs $2500 and can handle multiple inputs for up to 4 cameras or one or two cameras and the output from the computer that controls your church's PowerPoint or Worship Presentation Software. That way your viewers can follow along with songs, announcement slides and the pastor's sermon slides.
A cheaper option comes from the same company that makes the Mevo Camera. Livestream sells the Livestream Broadcast, which connects to your camera and sits on top of the hot shoe connector, a little connection on top of most pro or high-end consumer cameras like DSLRs. See the red box in the image above. It costs $600 from Amazon.
You'll also need the Livestream Studio software. It works with the Livestream Broadcaster and the Mevo Camera. Livestream charges $800 for the software, so this plus either the Mevo Camera or the Livestream Broadcast will cost either $1300 for Studio plus Broadcaster or $1000 to $1200 for Studio plus the Mevo Camera or the Mevo and Boost bundle mentioned above.
We've tried all but the last category at my church. We've settled on the Elgato HD60 plus OBS Studio for now. We were using the Mevo Camera, but it wasn't reliable enough over Wi-Fi for us and recently Facebook changed some settings and Mevo hasn't fixed things on their end to become compatible again. That's also the cheapest solution other than using a phone and a good mic.