Taking church online has presented a number of new opportunities and technological challenges. As church buildings prepare to host services with congregations once more, a new missional horizon presents itself. This page is here to offer suggestions for churches looking to live stream their services and events from a place of worship. It includes some of the options available with regards to equipment, preparation and what churches need to consider when it comes to faculty permission, data protection and safeguarding.
Considerations before purchasing equipment
a) Is live streaming a church service for you?
The COVID-19 pandemic has awakened many to the great potential that online church has for reaching people with the Good News of Jesus. However, it is important to think through the pros and cons when it comes to doing live streaming well. With the development of smartphones live broadcasting has never been more accessible, however, to stream a worship service with high quality sound and visuals, it will require significant investment and skilled volunteers to set up and operate the equipment. If this is a resource your church does not have, could you use live streaming instead for a mid week teaching series that would only require a phone and the person speaking? Alternatively, a video recorded service, which is shared at a later time, could be a better solution for your church.
b) Permissions for introducing equipment
The introduction of portable AV or streaming equipment does not require any type of faculty permission as it is included within ‘List A’ of the faculty legislation. Apart from the advantage of not requiring permission, portable equipment can offer an opportunity for experimentation with positioning of equipment. This could be helpful as you get adjusted to streaming services as it gives time to work out what works best before making any more permanent decisions about placement.
If you do need to affix equipment or permanent wiring to the church building, this will require permission and you should seek the advice of the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches (DAC) before carrying out any installation. The DAC can also offer the services of its AV adviser if you want some help in thinking in detail about any installation. For more information, contact the DAC Secretary: lisa.mcintyre [at] leeds.anglican.org or Tel: 0113 353 0277 or visit: www.leeds.anglican.org/dac
c) The internet connection
It is important to make sure the device you are streaming from - such as a smart phone or computer - has access to a good and consistent internet connection. Without this it is will make live streaming difficult. Even with high quality equipment, if the broadband speed is weak, this sets the limit to the quality of images that can be broadcast, not only in the clarity (resolution), but also in the continuity of the stream. As a result frames from the video will be dropped to accommodate the poor connection and result in a picture which shutters. If you do not have Wi-fi or 3G/4G that enables you to livestream a service, then recording and then uploading after the service or event is a preferred option.
If you wish to install a connection, seek advice from the DAC (details as above). Although this involves a change to your building, it may be possible to get special “Directions” from the Diocese’s Chancellor so that you don’t need to go through the full faculty process. Requests are being taken on a case-by-case basis, so don’t carry out any works until you have sought advice. The DAC’s AV adviser is also able to help if you want to understand more about introducing an internet connection to your church.
d) Licences for live streaming
When uploading video content to online platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and a website, it is important to take copyright rules and laws into consideration. This is particularly applicable when performing music and displaying other audio/visual content in a live stream. Before live streaming a church service it is important to make sure you have the appropriate licence. CCLI introduced a streaming licence in mid-March 2020. It is available to any church which holds a CCLI Church Copyright Licence, which the majority of Church of England churches do.
For many churches, this licence will cover them for their streaming activity. However, if your church is hosting the stream/webcast on their own website, they will need the PRS for Music Limited Online Music Licence (LOML) in addition to the CCLI Streaming Licence. Permission should also be sought from the owner(s) of any other creative works included in the service. This can include music, images and text. For further information, please visit the Church of England website
e) Emergence Mission Grants
New grants from the diocese are available to support churches as we emerge from the strictest lockdown measures and to facilitate initiatives that allow church mission to flourish in the current context or to revive mission work that may have stalled. The types of projects that the grants aim to support include technical equipment that would allow broadcasts of services online.
Projects could come from an individual Parish, from a group or Parishes or Churches working together, or from a Deanery. For further information please contact Lead Stewardship Officer: becky.nicholson [at] leeds.anglican.org or Tel: 07496 265509
When it comes to the equipment needed to enable live streaming or video recording at a church building, there are a variety of options available depending on your budget. Generally speaking the more expensive the setup, the greater the picture and sound quality will be. However, this often involves a more complicated and less user friendly set up.
Follow this link to find five options you could consider, each with a different level of cost and complexity depending upon the type of live streaming you wish to achieve at your church. Each includes a rough estimate of the cost and types of hardware and software to buy. There are other options available when it comes to hardware and software and this is by no means an exhaustive list.
A supplier selection is also in progress at Parish Buying with video and audio-visual suppliers who can provide guidance and a quote to recommend equipment, installation and ongoing maintenance.
If you have any questions regarding these set ups please email communications [at] leeds.anglican.org
Other important considerations
a) Be inclusive
Those leading services should be encouraged to acknowledge, engage with and recognise that there are worshippers present who are not in the building. Make sure to welcome these people, explain things for them and include them in creative ways. For example, content could be included from people not present – the reading or prayers could be pre-recorded by someone who is attending online, and shown in the service. An online welcomer/host could also be appointed to engage with those watching online, replying to comments and overseeing the online content during the service. Additional thought will need to be given to the things we might previously have done that will not work for those online.
Consider viewers who may be hard of hearing or have certain disabilities. Could you include signing in your service or use subtitles to enable those groups of people to be able to follow the service?
b) Training and testing
Practice makes perfect. Can you rehearse everything in the sequence, with time to revise and adjust beforehand? What about a dress rehearsal, recording a version of the service from the internet, just as it will be seen by the viewers? This will allow you to see what the broadcast will look like and sound like and if any necessary adjustments need to be made.
Training may also be needed for operators to ensure someone can set up the equipment and reliably put the service online. Think about your capacity as a church. Filming a successful live stream can be a time consuming and skilled job, ideally requiring someone to set up and operate the equipment throughout the service.
c) Format of the service - who is your target audience?
Should live streaming affect the format of your service and who the service is aimed at? For example, in some churches, a 20 minute sermon is not uncommon, with the children in crèche/activity groups. If instead, your viewers are in their living rooms with the children around, does that affect the type of sermon delivery or content of the children's spot? Hosting services online broadens the potential for reaching people beyond the church community, especially when sharing them on public platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Therefore, think about who it is you will be speaking to, will this mean that the style, content and language used in your church ervice should change?
d) Data protection
Sharing worship services online can be a brilliant way to reach a wider audience and those unable to attend physically, perhaps because of illness or travel. However, it is important to bear in mind concerns related to privacy and data protection. Peoples personal data must be protected and this includes visual images of attending members of the congregation. Here are a few ways to respect people’s privacy whilst live streaming.
- Raise awareness. While there is generally no reasonable expectation of privacy in a worship service that is open to the public, it’s a good idea to let attendees know that services will be broadcast. This way, they can determine the amount of information they’re comfortable providing if, say, they want to make a prayer request or share a health update regarding a fellow member of the congregation. You can accomplish this through signs and/or notices in the church’s bulletin, newsletter, electronic newsletter and other communications.
- Create “no video” zones. Designate specific places or areas within the church building where video does not reach so members who don’t want to appear on video can comfortably gather there.
- Get permission. Exercise particular care with children and vulnerable adults. Avoid putting their names and images on the live stream, or, at the very minimum, proceed only with appropriate authorisation. Also be mindful about personal prayer requests and health updates – these should only be streamed with the consent of the individual in question.
Because it is hard/impossible to control who sees images streamed or recorded for broadcast children and vulnerable adults must be protected. Here are a few ways this can be done, some of which are similar to those suggested above.
- Provide an area of the church which is not visible in the recording/streaming and clearly mark out this area for people.
- All families with children or young people attending should be made aware of this area so that they are not visible on the recording/streaming, unless appropriate permission has been granted for a particular child or young person.
- This area should also provide for members of the congregation who may prefer to attend in privacy and may not wish their whereabouts to become known publically.
- Anyone coming forward to receive communion should also not be visible in the recording/streaming.
- Relaying or recording sound only is unlikely to cause an issue as individuals in the congregation will not normally be identifiable.