Streaming or Podcasting your Church Service

Every week my sales and technical teams are on the phone answering questions from pastors and lay-people regarding streaming and podcasting a church service. This article will answer questions you might have concerning these topics and help you make a good decision prior to the financial investment you will incur.

Let’s start with defining what streaming and podcasting really are.

Steaming is a live feed from the original location to somewhere else. This feed can be transported via fiber, copper, or wireless to another building on your campus. This feed can also be sent out through the internet to a website or a second building site. Another transport avenue is to send the feed through a broadcast station viewed on cable, satellite or a network station.

Podcasting is recording the live event and then manipulating the raw footage in a manageable state to be viewed in a delayed broadcast. Normally the vehicle used to view a podcast is the internet. Most churches use either their website to place this podcast or another source such as YouTube.

Now that we understand what the difference between streaming and podcasting are we need to address which of these technologies best meets the requirements of your church.  Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

Live Streaming Pros:

You can reach a wider audience in real time that is located outside the location of your normal congregation. This can include shut-ins, attenders traveling, or people that simply live in another part of the U.S. or another country all together.

Live Streaming Cons:

If you’re using the internet to deliver your programming then the proper amount of bandwidth will be necessary to send out your broadcast. Usually figure about 5Mbps of upload from the source to offer 1080p, 4Mbps for 720p, and 2Mbps for a SD signal. Note: these figures are your church’s upload minimum requirements not the end users download requirements.

Podcasting Pros:

You can reach a wider audience that is located outside the location of your normal congregation. This can include shut-ins, attenders traveling, or people that simply live in another part of the U.S. or another country all together. Videos can be viewed on demand and numerous times. Videos can be uploaded to a variety of sources such as YouTube, Facebook, or the church website. Video can be edited before broadcast. Video can be compressed into a file format that allows the end user the best possible experience based on their bandwidth requirements.

Podcasting Cons:

It is not live. Video editing and file compression will usually be necessary, though the editing can be as simple as choosing a start and stop point within the raw footage.

What’s legal to stream or podcast?

Anything copyrighted is unlawful to stream or podcast without written permission. Examples of this in the church environment would be music performed by your worship team that has been written by someone else. The actual law is rather complicated so I’ve decided to list it here for your reference.

  • ”Works created between 1923 and 1964 are protected for 28 years. Copyright holders can renew copyrights for an additional 67 years, but, if they don’t renew, copyright protection lasts for only 28 years.
  • Works created between 1964 and 1977 are copyright protected for 28 years, but the 67-year renewal is automatic, for a total of 95 years of copyright protection. The earliest works under this category are in the public domain starting in 2059.
  • Works created after January 1, 1978, are protected for the life of the creator plus 70 years.”

One safe way around this is to purchase a streaming and/or podcasting license. Again this is necessary only if you plan to broadcast copyrighted material. CCLI has a link on their home page addressing some of these issues and sources to where you can purchase the proper licensing.

If you’re only going to stream or podcast your pastor’s message then no copyright laws should be infringed, unless your pastor starts singing a protected song or shows a video from a movie. Again these types of footages can be edited out to keep your church legal.

We’re finding that most churches decide to simply podcast their message. These churches compress their videos and upload within a few hours of the service so expediency doesn’t seem to be an issue for them. For those churches that do decide to stream, most are using that technology in a multi-campus environment or a TV broadcast scenario.

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