Imagine this: It’s Sunday morning. You’re the pastor of a small church that hasn’t been able to meet since March because of Coronavirus concerns.

You’ve recently started holding worship services in the building again, but a lot of your members–especially the older ones–aren’t comfortable coming back just yet.

So you’ve decided to take a shot at live streaming a church service or two since you’ve been hearing quite a bit about how well other churches have been doing with it. You figure it makes sense to give Facebook Live a try since you’re already active on Facebook and some of your members are as well.

As you walk into the empty sanctuary and start turning on the lights, you wonder how low the in-person attendance will be again this week. Only about a third of your congregation was there last week.

Maybe this live streaming thing will help. You open your laptop and carefully balance it on a few unused hymnals at the edge of the pulpit. Hopefully, it’ll stay put! It’s not a great angle. But all you really need to do is make sure people can see your face and hear you well enough through the laptop’s built-in microphone anyway, right?

A few members (and your faithful pianist) arrive and say hello from a socially responsible distance. Wow, look at the time! You better get the service underway. Everyone you invited to your Facebook Live event will wonder what’s going on!

Oh no. Why is that icon spinning in the middle of your screen?! Oh, please…not now.

Whew, there we go. All the open tabs on your laptop must have been slowing it down. At least it’s connected now, and—would you look at that—streaming!

“Hi, Andy and Ms. Sarah and The Washingtons! I see you online. Glad you’re here!… Let’s see. Can you all see me ok?… I sure hope so. Anyway, Ms. Martha is at the piano and is going to lead us in a few hymns…. Hmm, I don’t suppose those of you online can see her. If I try to turn my laptop, I’m afraid the whole thing will fall over. Well, anyway, hopefully, you’ll be able to hear enough to sing along there at home!”

Little do you know that your audience at home only caught every other word of what you just said and part of the first song…right before what they could see of your face froze on their screens (with your eyes closed and mouth open, of course, looking dignified as always). The feed looked like it was trying to reconnect, but it was so choppy that half of them gave up and decided to go do something else.

Live streaming looks so easy. Until it isn’t.

Facebook Live and YouTube make it seem like all you need to do is fire up an app and point your phone or laptop at something and BAM, you’re taking the Internet by storm!

Yes, you can technically be streaming at that point, but unless you are very intentional in a few key areas, your results will probably be less than great. They’ve designed the process to keep you on their platforms and draw eyeballs to the advertisers who are paying them, not to make you look good.

(In a previous blog post, we take a deeper look into the downsides of using Facebook Live and YouTube to live stream church services.)

Also, download a resource we created on “How to Choose the Best Live Streaming Partner for Your Church” to learn even more.

What Else Can Go Wrong?

Murphy’s Law of Live Streaming states that “If anything can go wrong, it will do so when it can create the most disruption.”

In the story above, your choice of streaming platform was only part of the problem. Even if there hadn’t been any issues with Facebook Live (or YouTube TV) at that particular moment, plenty of other things went wrong on our imaginary Sunday…and they could have been avoided.

Here are five mistakes that will kill your Sunday morning live stream:

1. Equipment Issues

In the example above, you were using your laptop and its built-in microphone to try and connect with your online audience. Since you had a lot of programs running in the background, your laptop locked up. Even when you did finally connect, the video and audio quality were terrible; the people watching were not having a good experience!

A big part of delivering a quality (and non-distracting!) live stream experience is having the right equipment. You do NOT need the most expensive gear, but you do need to invest in something beyond the capabilities of your phone or laptop. Those are fine for Zoom meetings, but they’re terrible for live streaming.

And please get a tripod! Those hymnals are bad news waiting to happen.

(See our post on How to Choose the Best Gear for Live Streaming for more detailed tips.)

Regardless of what equipment you use, always take time well before your live stream begins to double-check that everything is working the way it should! That includes any software you’re running and the cables/power supplies that connect it all together.

2. Issues With Your Provider/Internet

Before your event happens, be sure you aren’t experiencing any connectivity issues with your internet provider or live streaming platform.

Earlier when you were our imaginary pastor, you might have been trying to use your laptop where you had a weak wireless signal. That might explain why your feed was so choppy.

a. Be sure you have a strong wireless signal, or use a cable to connect to the Internet.

b. Log on with your live stream provider ahead of time and make sure all is well. They could be experiencing issues on their end. Better to know that before your service when you could make a few phone calls, instead of during when it’s too late!

These last three mistakes have less to do with equipment and more to do with you:

3. Lack of Focus

Before you begin live streaming church services, be sure you know exactly what it is you’re wanting to accomplish. Otherwise, it will come across as scattered and unclear.

a. Are you simply broadcasting your regular Sunday service?

b. Is this a special outreach aimed directly at an online audience…a separate event just for them with a different setting and more one-on-one content?

c. Are you hoping to attract lurking visitors who are just peeking in to see what your church is all about? Or is this live stream a “family time” where you’re primarily speaking to the home-bound faithful?

4. Lack of Communication

Unless you’re the pastor/media director/janitor/worship leader like our fictitious minister above, you’ve probably got several people (either staff or volunteers) who will be helping live stream a church service alongside you. Communicate with them well early and often so there are no surprises when it’s time to stream.

a. Make sure each person knows what their role is.

b. Make sure each person understands how their role enhances the others.

c. Make sure each person has what they need to do their part well.

d. Make sure you walk through the service with the entire team beforehand so that each person knows what will be happening…and has the chance to address any potential issues they notice as well.

e. Then communicate some more just to make sure.

5. Lack of Preparation

This is probably the number one mistake that can ruin live streaming for churches.

Technically, we’ve mentioned it already in the other four mistakes above (go back and see if you can find all the times I’ve used the word “BEFORE”), but it’s important enough to be emphasized one more time. After all: “failing to prepare, is preparing to fail.”

a. Check your lighting. Does the camera you’re using give you quality video with the light you have? If not, add more. (Vimeo has a couple of helpful videos here that can show you how. Our team can also help walk you through what you need.)

b. Check your audio. The built-in microphone on whatever camera you’re using will NOT work for live streaming. Most likely, your church is already using XLR microphones running through a soundboard. If so, it’s pretty easy to pull your audio feed from there to get much better results. (Again, our team can help you get this set up.)

c. Have a script. Whether it’s a clear “order of worship” for a Sunday service or bullet points on a notepad for a more one-on-one style video, know what you’re going to do before you have to do it. This also goes back to communicating with your team. It will greatly improve the “flow” of your service and the experience of those watching it online.

WSN Can Help

Regardless of what size church service you are wanting to live stream, WSN has the experience to help you avoid these five mistakes…and many others! We understand the eternal importance of what you do, and we’ve made it our mission to support yours.

Download a free PDF resource we put together just for you titled: “How to Choose the Best Live Streaming Partner for Your Church.” It will answer a ton of questions for you.

When you’re ready to stream, schedule a call with our team. We’d love to help you change lives!