Let’s face it, there has been a rapid increase in the number of churches streaming services online in recent times. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic meant that many places around the world went in to lockdown with “stay at home” orders commonplace.
Public meetings of almost any kind became taboo, but as we know, the church is more that just a building. Streaming your church service online was the obvious answer, but many churches struggled with the requirements.
And that’s not the technical requirements – most people have a phone or camera that is suitable for recording or streaming. Sure, it may be basic, but it does the job.
Issues around licencing came to a fore, and although it was likely that you could “get away with it”, churches rightly wanted to stay on the correct side of the law.
The biggest problem some churches face is incorporating a time of worship music in their services. Copyright claims on YouTube, audio muting on Facebook…what can you do to make it just work?
Get Your Church Online with a Playlist
If your church is anything like the majority of churches, you’ll start off with a song, and maybe finish with a song. There may be a few songs at the start, or they may be scattered throughout your service.
The problem that is encountered most often is that even if you have the right licencing in place to play music through an online stream, you can’t get your worship band together to play. It’s too many people in one place at a time.
Using a YouTube playlist is a hack that allows you to work around this by using prerecorded worship songs legally. Your playlist will look something like this:
- Intro from a speaker
- Song from Bethel
- Song from Elevation
- Church announcements
- The preach
- Song from Hillsong
- Closing prayer and goodbye
Of course, if your worship team have already recorded some songs, insert those as appropriate – but if not, your playlist can contain songs from anywhere.
The Pros and Cons of Playlists
“Great!” you think, “Professional worship music in our streaming church service! What’s the catch?”
The biggest con of this way of doing things is the lack of synchronization. If you share the playlist with your congregation, they can click on it at any time, which means the latecomers could be minutes (or hours…) behind everyone else.
This might not be important to you, and it may be more important to get the message out there at any time. You can set an online church time – “Everyone click on at 11am!” – and that may work well.
The pro to this is that the sermon can be prepared in advance and edited where needed, perhaps adding graphics, logos, and removing any part that goes less well than intended.
Another pro is that whether you use professional worship music or videos from your in-house team, you can mix and match week after week. The more songs you have access to, the more you can keep it interesting.
The biggest con is the lack of live interactivity. With a live Facebook or YouTube broadcast you can enable real-time comments, building a sense of community even when the members of church are apart.
Streaming Your Church Service with Church Online
Life Church offer their Church Online Platform for free, and it’s a great place to start streaming your church service. The platform supports embedding code for live streaming, as well as simulated live streams for YouTube and Vimeo.
Streaming your church service as a simulated live stream is easy – simply enter the URL for the video, and the platform takes care of keeping everyone in sync. However, this can only be for an individual video, and not a playlist.
With a little hacking of the embed code function, you can embed a playlist. Why? So you can use a pre-service video, and schedule a start time. Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect system when you use it this way – if someone joins late, they can still end up behind, but if they’re early, everyone will start at the same time.
Additionally, if the browser window is resized or a mobile device is switched to a different orientation, the playlist can restart. However, the chat window that is built in will consistently run, and analytics will be gathered so you can evaluate your service.
Plus with features such as salvation buttons, live prayer windows, and giving buttons, it’s a great platform to work with.
If you want to give it a try, use this as your embed code, replacing PLAYLIST-ID-HERE with the actual YouTube playlist ID.
<iframe width="100%" height="100%" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/videoseries?cc_load_policy=1&controls=0&list=PLAYLIST-ID-HERE&autoplay=1" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
The settings will allow captions to be shown (cc_load_policy – often used for displaying lyrics), the video to autoplay, and the rotation functions to operate as expected on mobile devices.
In conclusion, using a playlist can work for many churches, and incorporating it into the Church Online platform can help your church keep together and discuss the music, preach, and prayer as a unit. The pros may outweigh the cons, and using a playlist isn’t the best solution for everyone, but it will certainly help those with limited resources start streaming your church service online.