In this context, the term ‘online worship’ refers to anything that is live streamed or pre-recorded and uploaded to any online platform, such as Facebook, YouTube or Zoom.
The FAQs below aim to provide advice and guidance on issues that may arise when sharing worship online. Most information contained below is taken from elsewhere, but collated here to help simplify the information available.
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Ultimately this depends on your target audience and other questions such as:
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What platform are your audience using?
- What technical skills you have as a church or circuit, and the technical ability of your audience?
Here are some tips:
- Facebook: great for reaching those who already use Facebook or as a means of outreach to your local community. If many people in your church or circuit already use Facebook then this could be a great platform for you. Even if not, you could learn and use it intentionally as a missional outreach platform. Online worship can be done as public pre-recorded videos or on ‘Facebook Live’ (great for doing worship from your home, as it’s a more personal platform). Facebook provides lots of tools for building community and encourages people to engage with your online worship through comments. Facebook is an ideal platform for doing public mid-week online worship.
- YouTube: great for those who don’t use social media as you can easily access the video without an account. It’s an ideal place to upload pre-recorded videos and share the link via email, or embed it in your website. You can also go live on YouTube, and this is often the best route if you are doing a more sophisticated live stream from your church building. It’s also easier to ‘catch-up’ on YouTube as you can easily view all videos and past live streams.
- Zoom: great for small groups, discussions, bible studies, coffee mornings and business meetings. Many use Zoom for online worship, but the platform isn’t designed for a large congregation to sit and watch a traditional service – so it would be recommended not to just recreate in-person services, but be creative in how you deliver worship. Zoom provides lots of tools such as breakout rooms, polls, and screen sharing. It’s the most interactive of all the options and allows people to engage in fellowship and community far easier. On the flip side Zoom worship is often a ‘close group’ and less public than the other options, so less useful as a means of outreach. Zoom is also very easy to access, and allows people to phone in, so a great option if your audience struggles with technology and doesn’t do social media.
Live video is immediate, authentic and interactive, and at a time when we can’t meet in person, it’s ideal for maintaining a sense of community with your church. Viewers are able to comment, ask questions and reply to the host in real-time.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter send notifications to your followers when you are live, helping you reach more people.
Read Church of England tips on going live here.
Can’t live stream your video? Learn how to use a video Premiere as a brilliant alternative.
A phone, tablet or laptop and WiFi are all you really need to film a video or go live from your home.
However, if you wanted to improve your set-up, a tripod would be top of the list. After this, you could invest in an external microphone or a portable light. However, using a pair of headphones with a microphone, and positioning yourself near a window or a light source, can be equally as good.
Read more from the Church of England about setting up your equipment and recording a video here.
There’s a huge range of equipment you can use to live stream services (or anything else) depending on what quality you want to go for, or what you have availiable. Here’s a few examples of live streaming setups you could use (there are many other options, but these are common methods):
- Smartphone or tablet
- Tripod, stand or somewhere to prop the device
- Internet (either WiFi or mobile data
- optional – external microphone for your phone
- A decent webcam / home video camera or budget camcorder / DLSR camera
- Tripod or stand
- HDMI cable (to get the video signal out from the camera – unless you are using a webcam)
- Capture card device (converts the signal so it can be used – unless you are using a webcam)
- Laptop / computer
- Strong internet (WiFi or wired connection)
- optional – external mircophone for camera
- optional – streaming software to allow more flexibility
- Multiple video cameras (you need cameras with a clean HDMI output)
- Multiple tripods
- Video Mixing Desk
- Multiple microphones
- Sound Desk
- HDMI cables and audio cables to connect from the mixing desks to a computer
- Hardware encoder
- Good quality laptop or computer
- Streaming software
- Strong internet (preferably wired)
When you schedule a Zoom meeting, select to record the meeting to your hard drive or your Zoom cloud storage. During the meeting you will see it say’s “recording” in the top left – if it doesn’t, just click the “record” button along the bottom next to your other controls. At the end of the meeting, the recording will stop and save to your chosen location.
- To find your recording on the cloud, go to your Zoom account, click recordings in the left menu, and download the file as an MP4, or share the link with others to watch online.
- Tip: You can trim the video in Zoom before it goes out.
- The downloaded video can be uploaded to social media, YouTube or your website. Be aware, different social media platforms require different specifications for video. Read more here.
- Make sure everyone in the meeting is aware that it is being recorded and will be shared online.
Learn more from the Church of England about using Zoom for your next church service, Bible study or prayer meeting here.
In some respects it’s up to you, but here are some tips:
- It all depends on your target audience, but as a general guide your online worship should always be shorter than in-person services.
- When it comes to videos or live streams on social media (particularly Facebook, Instagram or Twitter), and you want it to be accessible to those outside the church, keep it as short as possible. People’s attention spans are short, especially on Facebook. Try to keep to 30 mins total (including music). Shorter 15-20 min clips can work really well for mid-week talks/worship/bible study/prayers.
- YouTube is different as you’re more likely using it to send the link to those not on social media, or embedding the link in your website, and as such you can probably go slightly longer but it would still be recommended to keep it short.
- For Zoom it’s best to gauge length based on how long your congregation can stay engaged without becoming worn out (Zoom meetings are tiring for everyone!) For most people this is about an hour, so try not to be longer than this. Breakout rooms during the service can also be a great way to break the time up and help people stay engaged for longer. Zoom is meant to be interactive and so works best with small groups, discussion, bible studies etc. and you should avoid just replicating your in-person service on Zoom.
Here are some free video editing software options:
- iMovie (for Mac users)
- Windows Video editor, in the Photos app (basic)
- VSDC video editor (free + paid available. Mid-range level)
- InShot (mobile app for apple or android)
- Hitfilm Express or DaVinci Resolve (advanced – these are really great free editors but you will need a really good spec computer to run them and it might be a steeper learning curve)
Here are some simple tips for improving your internet speeds if you’re having problems live streaming (video buffering) or connecting on zoom (unstable internet connection):
- Limit other devices connected to the internet, or close unnecessary tabs on your computer
- Try connecting using a wired / ethernet cable directly into your hub, rather than using WiFi (wired connections are nearly always stronger than WiFi)
- You can always get a long ethernet cable to reach from your hub to your computer, or a long wire to extend where you can place the internet hub in your house or church
- If you’re on a mobile, try using mobile data (ideally 4G or 5G) as this can sometimes give a stronger signal if you have poor WiFi (depends on your location, data connection, and might need some trial and error with this one)
- Often the device itself has an impact on internet speeds, so a newer computer or phone might perform better than an older model
The best advice would be to talk to a church who have already been through this process to find out if there any issues to be aware of, but also what internet provider they are with.
When talking to, or researching internet providers, you might want to have these questions in mind:
- What speeds will you be getting? (often referred to as “bandwidth” and measured in megabits per second (Mbps)) This is often given as the “maximum” speeds you could get, but it’s also useful to know the average speeds.
- Are there any limits to your download usage? (note: often “unlimited” doesn’t always mean you literally get an ‘unlimited’ amount of data. It depends on what you will be using the internet for whether this is an issue or not at your church).
- Is there any work that needs to be done to set up the WiFi? Such as reactivating your phone line or installing new ports.
- Do the costs include line rental, set up, and the router? Or are these all additional charges? (it varies between suppliers).
You might also want to think about where you are going to put the router in the churches, both in terms of security and in terms of getting the best WiFi coverage across the building. Many churches that struggle with this, often in large old buildings with thick walls – the router is in an office somewhere and the WiFi can only be picked up in one location and not across the whole church. (People often get around this by purchasing and installing a ‘booster’ to send the WiFi signal further, but it’s not always ideal). This is increasingly important now, as more churches look to live stream services, where you need a good internet speed – ideally close enough (or a long enough wire) to have a wired connection to the hub, rather than relying on WiFi, which is slower.
Yes, anyone can view the video, however, only those logged in to a Facebook account can interact with the video.
For those who can’t access online platforms, it’s become increasingly popular to offer a phone number where people can call in to hear a message/prayer/sermon. Such as the Methodist Dial-a-thought.
The most popular platform for doing this is Twilio where you can easily set this up.
Here are a few sites where you can obtain copyright free and royalty free images for use as backgrounds, sermon illustrations, or in other ways in online worship:
Here are some places where you can download copyright-free videos and audio for use in worship (some free and some for a small charge) but please note that you must ensure that you have the correct licenses to play the songs/hymns as part of your online services. Please consult the district Copyright FAQ document for more details. Also note that some of these have only been granted during the COVID-19 crisis and permissions may be withdrawn again at a later date.
- Resound Worship resoundworship.org have released all of their material for use in streaming at this time. They state: “During the Covid-19 crisis, we give permission for all churches worldwide to stream Resound Worship songs.”
- Jubilate jubilate.co.uk/collections/lyric-videos is a sister site to Resound Worship, and so the same copyright statement above applies. This site has a different catalogue of lyric videos and contains more of a mix of styles, whereas Resound Worship is more contemporary.
- Evangelical Movement of Wales, congregational hymn singing emw.org.uk/what-we-do/resourcing-publications/hymns-for-use-in-church-services A large selection of hymn recordings from the Aberystwyth EMW Conferences. They state: “We are thankful to be able to offer a number of hymns, free of charge. We have been given permission to share all the hymns listed on this page by those holding the copyright, but please note that you must ensure that you have the correct licenses to play the hymns as part of your online services.”
- Rend Collective https://rendcollective.com/pages/worship-club-church-stream have recorded live versions of some of their songs for churches to use for free. They state: “As a ministry we wanted to keep providing free resources for you all to worship from home with so we decided to record the Worship Club Church Stream for your local church to use for free.”
- Reawaken Hymns reawakenhymns.com/full-worship-sets They state: “Below you will finds pre-recorded full worship sets which you may add to your existing service. The HD video file will be free to download and use however you need. All songs will be Reawaken Hymn’s versions of public domain hymns, so your church will not need to purchase any streaming licenses for the music.”
- Worship Lyric Videos worshiplyricvideos.com provide high quality music & lyric videos and have vocal & instrumental versions available. They are part of the iSing Worship company, and have all the songs/hymns that appear in the iSing Worship library (www.isingworship.org). They do charge a small fee, and you must ensure that you have the correct licenses to play the songs as part of your online services. They state: “We are very happy to allow Worship Lyric Videos to be used for the purposes of streaming services for your congregation online”
- Sovereign Grace Music https://sovereigngracemusic.org/music/songs They state: “We are giving churches permission to use any Sovereign Grace Music published song in a video stream, live or recorded, from now through the end of December 2020. If the crisis continues, we’ll extend this deadline. This includes permission to use an original audio or video recording, and/or display the song lyrics. We only request that you include the copyright information.”