How to stream church services online

On Monday 16th March, the UK Government announced that all mass gatherings and all non-essential social contact should be avoided during the Coronavirus pandemic, in order to slow the spread of the virus and ease pressures on the NHS. As a result, churches across the Black Country have started to close their doors and cease physical meetings.

This creates a new predicament for many churches. How do we continue to provide encouragement and the chance to worship for our church members when we can’t physically meet them in the flesh?

The answer lies in technology. Some churches across the region already live-stream their services and so the Coronavirus “lock down” doesn’t really cause a major problem for them in this respect. Inevitably, adaptations to the type of service that is streamed will have to be made, but technologically, these churches are all set up and ready to roll.

However, this is not the case for the majority of churches in the Black Country, and we know many of you are currently researching how you might go about creating some kind of online service each Sunday whilst meeting in person is not possible.

This article will hopefully point you in the direction of websites and methods that you might want to use, most of which require no more than a decent smartphone to set up and use.

Pre-recording vs Live-streaming

There is much debate online at the moment about which method is more effective: pre-recording or live-streaming a church service. Most of the articles and threads I’ve read on this subject conclude that pre-recording a service, in whatever format, is the easier option for churches who are not used to broadcasting their weekly services live online.

This is because live-streaming an entire service requires better technology, both audio and visual, in order to do it well, whereas pre-recording an adapted Sunday message can actually be done quite well using technology most of us already have access to.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that whilst this weekend, many local churches have been able to pre-record good quality services already, utilising their church buildings and technology therein, it could be that by this time next week, gathering even a small group of people in a church building to record something may not be permitted. As a result, we may find that most people’s broadcasts drop in quality as the weeks in lock down go on.

Whichever way you choose to do it, here are a few hints and tips to help you on your way.

Live-streaming your “service”

If you already live-stream your weekly services, it’s odds on that you use a specific platform to do this and potentially pay a subscription for the privilege. If you’re new to this, there are several ways you can live stream for free using nothing more than your laptop, tablet or phone. Here is a brief list of websites that will make live-streaming very easy for you:

YouTube Live

YouTube is a great way to live-stream a message. You’ll get the best quality if you use your laptop or tablet as the internal microphone will be clearer. You’ll need to set up a YouTube channel for your church if you don’t already have one. Then you can start live-broadcasting whenever you want. You can invite your congregation to join a “Watch Party” so that they all tune in at the same time and can post comments during the broadcast (or you can disable this option too!). You can also share the video via your social media platforms, text message or via email after it’s gone live for people to watch at their leisure.

Facebook Live

Similar to YouTube, you’ll require a Facebook page or group for your church. You can then broadcast live via your phone, tablet or laptop from the comfort of your own home, which may be the reality for all of us in a few weeks time.

Instagram Live

You can also live-stream using Instagram, although the videos themselves only stay in your Instagram story feeds for 24 hours unless you add each video as a “highlight”.

Pre-recording your “service”.

There are loads of different ways you can pre-record a service of some description that can be broadcast online at a later date. If you’ve found a method you think works and it’s not listed in this article, please share it with us here so we can pass on the information to others.  Alternatively, here is a list and brief description of some of the easiest (and cheapest) ones to use:


By far the easiest place to broadcast a pre-recorded video. You can film yourself on your phone or via the camera in your tablet/laptop and then upload the finished video to your church’s Facebook page, scheduling when you’d like it go out. Once uploaded and published, it will remain on your page so people can watch it at any time they like. Using Facebook also allows people to comment on the video. This is especially good in a private Facebook group, where those watching know each other.


You can also upload homemade, pre-recorded videos to your church’s YouTube channel and schedule when they’re published, in much the same way as Facebook. The bonus with using YouTube to host the video is that they’re much easier to share and don’t require viewers to have a Facebook account in order to watch them. The video link can simply be texted or emailed to anyone you like and they can simply click the link and watch it from their own device. A great option for people that don’t use social media. YouTube videos can also be embedded into your church website.


Zoom is a fantastic resource that we’ll be reviewing in greater detail in the coming weeks when we discuss hosting virtual meetings online. It is free to join and as well as a way of hosting virtual meetings between multiple people, it can also be used to pre-record webinars that can then be saved and downloaded on to your own device. You can then upload these to any social media platform or website.

Broadcasting worship.

As well as a sermon/message, many churches may want to find a way of broadcasting some form of musical worship as part of their broadcast. Unfortunately, this is way more complicated than it seems, as the live (or pre-recorded) broadcasting of copyrighted songs carries many legal implications. We’re found a great article here that explains it really well and is a must-read if you’re considering broadcasting live performances of songs you didn’t write.

Our simplest advice would be this:

  1. Only broadcast live performances of songs you own the copyright to (i.e. songs you’ve written yourself within church) unless you’ve paid for the correct licence.
  2. Consider alternative ways that you can facilitate musical worship for your church members. Perhaps include some links to official worship videos already on YouTube in the accompanying email you send to your members or in the description beneath your YouTube live or Facebook Live broadcast.
  3. Create a Spotify playlist of your own. This is really easy to do once you’ve created a Spotify account for your church and allows you to become quite creative with how you use it. You could create a new playlist each week to reflect the theme of the sermon or message being broadcast to make it really personal and for it to become something people can keep listening to throughout the week.

We hope this article helps you to consider the simplest ways to maintain communication with your church when practising social distancing. We’re very aware that many of you out there are experts in this area, so please, share what you know here. The more we can share good practise, the more we can prove that whilst we may be physically apart, we are still very much One Church, TOGETHER.


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