Are Facebook and YouTube Live the best streaming choices for your church?

Facebook and YouTube aren't for churches

Ever since COVID-19 appeared at the beginning of 2020, churches have had to completely rethink how they handle one of their most basic functions…gathering as a community to worship. Learning the art of live streaming a church service has been a big challenge.

According to the Pew Research Center, over half of regular church attendees say they go a lot less than they used to, but when they do, it’s online. In fact, 82% of churchgoers have seen their services move to an online platform.

Live Streaming Church Services

Live streaming church services has become a necessity. A few months ago, many churches weren’t in a position to have an existing media ministry with tons of equipment and the means to deliver quality broadcasts. So Facebook Live and Youtube Live became easy solutions that provided free streaming for churches, and it’s easy to see why.

They’re the two platforms most people immediately think of when it comes to streaming. They’ve been around a long time, and they’ve got a lot going for them:

YouTube Live

  • 2nd most visited website worldwide
  • Over 2 billion users each month
  • Live videos remain available as evergreen archives
  • Archived videos are searchable (since YT is owned by Google)

Facebook Live

  • 2.5 billion users
  • 64 billion FB Live videos watched daily
  • Videos are immediately available to all of your followers
  • Audiences can interact in real time

While those stats are impressive, for churches looking to get into live streaming, all you most likely care about is that they’re:

  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Accessible to most people

Either one sounds like the perfect solution to live streaming a church service, right?

Not exactly.

The Problems with YouTube and Facebook Live For Church Services

You may think you want to live stream church services on YouTube or Facebook, but it may not be the best choice overall. These platforms are definitely convenient for live streaming church services, but they’re not without some compromise.

They offer no support.

This is one of the most common complaints you’ll come across regarding any of the large social media platforms. It’s as if they have so many users generating so much revenue, it just isn’t a priority if you have a problem. If you encounter a technical issue 5 minutes before your service starts, you’re stuck.

They own your content.

That’s the trade you’re agreeing to by using their infrastructure to broadcast your messages. Unlike the content on your website, or the text of your sermons, whatever you put on Facebook or YouTube is ultimately under their control. If they decide to block it or take it down for whatever reason, they can. (But, then again, we probably can’t ever imagine a world where someone’s message would be canceled simply because another group disagrees with it or anything…can we?)

They’re often unreliable.

Your stream is one of the millions that they’re dealing with (remember the big numbers at the beginning?), and quality often suffers. These platforms are basically designed to feed our “need” to see what’s happening right now, which means that they prioritize quantity over quality. That’s why users may experience lags, buffering, or dropped feeds.

They control the ads.

Facebook and YouTube give you free access to their platforms in exchange for showing you a few commercials in space they’ve sold to advertisers. It’s how they’ve made the money to grow into two of the most valuable companies in the world. (Google/YouTube: #2 at $145.6B; Facebook: #6 at $49.7B). They don’t sell any products…you are the product!

There are a lot of advertisers shelling out big bucks for the attention of you and your congregation. By agreeing to live stream church services on YouTube and Facebook, your service could potentially appear next to advertising that you and your church don’t want to support.

They can shut down your account.

Facebook and YouTube will shut down your account if they perceive any copyright violations (check with your worship leader) or any other violation of their terms of service (of course, you’ve carefully read all of those before clicking “I Accept”, right?). If they lock you out, you will have zero access to any of your content. We’ve seen this happen and it isn’t pretty.

Dennis Washington, a multimedia specialist who works with churches in Alabama, does a good job of explaining how YouTube and Facebook are notorious for going after copyright violations. He points out how their algorithms are designed to “listen” to all video content. If an infringement is detected (even harmlessly in the background!), your content could be locked out for days or weeks during a “frustrating appeals process [where you are] guilty until proven innocent.”

(Also, check out this helpful article to keep yourself from becoming a copyright “Dummy”.)

What This Means for Your Church Members

Many people using free live streaming services for churches report that their members are often frustrated because “the signal kept locking up,” “it didn’t look very clear,” or “I had trouble connecting.” Members are often distracted from the message by the quality of the delivery.

People will not endure anything for long that is complicated, difficult, or annoying.

When that something happens to be your church’s worship service, they’ll just tune out and move on to something else. It’s difficult to reach people with life-changing truth when they simply aren’t there.

The Best Way to Live Stream a Church Service

WSN launched in 2010 as a live streaming provider for high school sports, where quality and reliability are essential. (Just try explaining to coaches, raving fans, and the quarterback’s mother why the big game had some glitches.) Since then, we’ve applied the things we’ve learned in that arena to helping pastors and media ministers deliver high-quality live stream church services.

We understand what it means for you to be seen and heard without a lot of noise and distraction. That’s why we’ve built our platform so that it simply works.

We also understand that a lot of companies in this space are less than transparent about what they offer and what it could cost you. That’s why we offer:

  • unlimited streaming
  • multi-device compatibility
  • automatic archiving
  • unbeatable on-demand support (even if it’s at 10:25 Sunday morning)

And we do it at a set price that’s right for you.

Transformation is the Goal

At the end of the day, we work with more than tech equipment, and “1’s & 0’s”. We partner with you to provide hope and transformation to the people in your community. The message delivered through your live stream worship service could be what changes someone’s life today.

Free Church Live Streaming Guide

We understand that you have a lot on your plate as a pastor, ministry leader, or media volunteer. We also understand that you have much more valuable work to do than sifting through lots of technical information.

That’s why we put together a helpful guide for you – “How to Choose the Best Live Streaming Partner for Your Church.” Download it for free. Additionally, if you have questions about live streaming for your church and would like to get some answers, schedule a free Q&A call with us. We’d love to help you find the best solution for your church.