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30 Comments | Sep 18, 2009

Live Stream Your Church Service for Free

live stream for free

In the Spring of 2001 North Valley Baptist Church began it’s live streaming video ministry.  We started the ministry for one young man who had cancer and was unable to attend church but desperately wanted to.  We had some brilliant volunteers in our church who set up the whole system.  It has come a long way since then and the video quality of the services are incredible now.  We have spent thousands of dollars on the setup. (read about our live streaming set up) Many churches, however, do not have the technical expertise or the equipment to live stream their services.  What if a small church has sick members who are unable to attend, but has no money to spend on setting up live streaming?  Is there a solution for them?  There is now!

Technology has come a long way since 2001 and there are now free services to live stream your church service. Of course, with any free service, there are drawbacks (like advertisements).  But if you have a situation like we did in 2001 and don’t have the money or technical know how, here are some great solution.

1.  LiveStream.com

LiveStream.com

LiveStream.com

In literally 5 minutes, I was set up and broadcasting live from livestream.com.  It is very straight forward and simple to broadcast live.  I simply attached my Firewire camera (you can use USB as well) to my computer, clicked “broadcast now”, and clicked “go live”.  I found the interface to be attractive and simple to use.  Below is the live streaming interface.

LiveStream.com Live Streaming Interface

LiveStream.com Live Streaming Interface

Here is a short clip I recorded while preparing for a session at the National Pastors’ and Workers’ Conference. Notice, the quality is very good. The noise at the beginning is because I was watching live from my other computer and it caused feedback. Because it’s free, there is an ad at the beginning.

10GB of storage is available with the free account, This would be helpful if you want to make past church services available online.

Free Live Streaming from livestream.com

Free Live Streaming from livestream.com

2. Ustream.tv

Ustream.tv

Ustream.tv

Another free option is Ustream.tv. It took a few more minutes to set up a Ustream.tv account. It wasn’t as simple and straight forward as livestream.com, but there seems to more features available. For instance, it is very easy to set up a poll, add text, and add video to your live stream broadcast. Broadcasting live is very simple, click “broadcast now” and then “start broadcast” and you are up and running.

Ustream's Broadcasting Interface

Ustream's Broadcasting Interface

The advertisements seem to be a bit different than livestream.com. The advertisements are mostly ads overlaying the video (like youtube) as opposed to one commercial at the beginning.

Both livestream.com and Ustream.tv seem to have great quality and are free. I would love to hear what you think. If you have used either company or have any other suggestions, let me know in the comments.

Michael Moyer


Additional resources:

North Valley Baptist Church Live Streaming Video and Archived

How to Set Up Live Streaming for your Church (not free)


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30 Comments

Chrismtp 11:46 am - 18th September:

These are incredible resources that any church with a camcorder, firewire cord and a pc can become broadcast ready. I have used Ustream for the last 2.5-3 yrs for our ministry and it has gone from dodgey and blurry to very good in quality. If you use a Mac you are limited on Ustream to pretty good quality, but on a Windows PC you can get higher quality with the free FME (Flash Media Encoder) application. It gives you near HD quality, for free. Our connection is DSL so we run at 10fps with video and audio quality sliders all the way up. But be forewarned, when recording, our experience is we get disconnected frequently. If we don’t record using Ustream but just broadcast, it almost never loses connectivity. That’s just our experience.

One more thing about Ustream on a Mac. Our media team uses the free CamTwist app to handle the interface between the firewire and browser. It opens up a ton of settings like titles, lower thirds… Google Camtwist for Mac and you’ll see what I mean. Our Camtwist has a slide setting saved for between services so I can play music and keep the broadcast live; it shows a picture of our church, a title and a clock. Not bad for a free app. Then we switch back to webcam when svc begins. Also Quicktime 7 captures that output so we get a very nice MOV ready to be trimmed and sent to Blip.tv for syndication to our blog, twitter and podcast.

One last thing about Usream, Livestream or Stickam; these service many times come with chat. You may want to turn it off. Kids got on ours and posted rude comments during preaching so we disabled all the live chat comments. Just be forewarned. Thanks Bro. Moyer for a great article.

Michael Moyer 11:52 am - 18th September:

Chris, thanks for the valuable insight! I hope this can be a help to many churches.

Daniel Irmler 8:33 am - 4th November:

Wow great article. Livestreaming for a church is a big wow factor and this was an awesome article on getting the job done!

Christopher Sanchez 8:13 am - 16th November:

Thank you Bro. Moyer for all these great suggestions! We started livestreaming our services this Sunday with ustream and it worked like a charm! Many of our college students were excited that they were able to watch the services of Montecito Baptist Church as well as our graduates serving around the world. Thank you so much for all of your help! You’re a great blessing directly to the ministry here at Montecito Baptist Church!

Michael Moyer 11:44 pm - 18th November:

Chris, I’m thrilled to hear you started live streaming your services! It is such a great tool. I think it will be a blessing to many people.

jim 12:20 pm - 24th November:

Please keep in mind that livestream owns everything that streams on their network – forever. They can do anything they want with it. Read the terms and make sure you agree first.

Joe 9:40 am - 30th January:

Trying to improve with what we have but, seems like we always have delay in all our broadcast. Is there a way to have less broadcast with the bandwith we have?

Michael Moyer 1:15 pm - 1st February:

Joe,

I’m not sure I understand the question. If you have a delay in your broadcast (i.e. not exactly live) it is because it takes a bit of time to encode and for the computer to upload to the server then for the end user to get the broadcast. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

John E. Girton, Jr. 4:47 pm - 6th March:

This is a great post. I’ve been on ustream and Mogolus turned Livestream for nearly 3 years. I switched from Mogolus to Ustream back to Mogulus once it became Livestream. I’ve been experiencing some issues with the live broadcast for the past couple of months on Livestream. Not sure what the deal is. I don’t have a media team and I manage the live stream myself. That can be tough if there are issues. But, our virtual church members simply pat their virtual feet until I get things corrected.

I was searching around today to see if there are any new solutions out there to assist folks like me who have fully virtual churches and limited budgets. We don’t have a sister nor mother church to help us with financial support. So, we’re simply praying for provision. I’d be willing to pay for a service that is more reliable and stable. But, for as much as I like the free version of Livestream, I can’t bring myself nor the few members I have around the country to commit to $350 per month for Livestream. At this point, all I can say is “Pray Church!”

Pastor Girton (www.thelovingchurch.org)
The Church Has Left The Building

khikhilisu 11:10 pm - 10th July:

please pray for our video ministry (MLW) Kachin Stage in Myanmar.

Alexis Perez 7:35 am - 23rd November:

Hello,

I wanted to talk to you Michael, please send me an email as I want to seriously start this ministry in my church down here in Miami, I want to see what I can do within our budget. This is my new year resolution for my church from me. I’ll be waiting for your email. Thanks Michael!

Jehu Castellano 11:26 am - 21st March:

Hi Michael,

I’m looking into live streaming a prayer event next month. A have a mac computer, I already created a free account at ustream.tv. After reading your blog I realize I also need a Firewire Cable. Do I need anything else?

Can I use any camera?
What other software do I need install in my MAC computer before live streaming?
Can you describe of how the video gets livestream on the internet through the Fiwire from the camera?

Pastor Javed Rauf 4:16 am - 2nd April:

its awesome! i was confused about live streaming and you made all things clear, i have just started Jesus Christ Televsion Pakistan on free base on live stream and working for paid plan for better quility. God bless you.

Michael Moyer 12:30 pm - 6th April:

Pastor Rauf,

That’s awesome! I’m glad to hear that this blog was a help in getting the Gospel out in Pakistan!

Michael Moyer 12:33 pm - 6th April:

Hi Jehu,

I’ve replied to your questions via email. I hope it clears up your questions.

Victoria Perez 6:59 pm - 10th July:

We are looking to set up an online streaming church. This information is wonderful. Thanks!

Joey 3:11 pm - 13th July:

Thanks for this resource, it really helps out!

Jeffrey Andrews 7:35 am - 16th August:

Thanks for the blog. Very helpful. You mentioned that you can use a USB camera with livestream or Ustream. I was wondering if you knew which cameras would be supported. It seems that most camcorders are now going to flash and HD built in with a USB and I have read that the USB cameras don’t always work with Ustream or livestream. I don’t want to buy one and then find out it doesn’t work. Thanks for any help.

Michael Moyer 7:02 pm - 23rd August:

Jeffrey,
Livestream.com states this, “The Livestream Studio will work with most Standard DV cameras but it’s a good idea to check with the manufacturer to ensure that it is capable of streaming.” You can find more info here about cameras: http://www.livestream.com/userguide/index.php?title=External_devices#Cameras

olamide 1:37 am - 12th September:

wow…. this article is the best,to me at this point… God bless you. pls wuld love to receive more aritcle in my mail box. olamide from ghana

Forest 7:19 am - 31st December:

thanks this really helped since were a small church with only about 20 people..not a hole lot of funds coming in to have a really nice setup.

Thanks again!

Michael Moyer 11:22 am - 6th January:

Forest,

I’m glad to hear the article was a help! Thanks for stopping by the blog.

Fran 5:07 pm - 17th February:

Michael,
Thanks for the information. A member with MS is often unable to attend and asked if there was anyway to stream the service. This should get us headed in the right direction. Now to find an appropriate webcam.

Michael Moyer 7:43 pm - 18th February:

Fran,

Glad to hear the article was a help!

DON 7:54 pm - 26th March:

Thank you for all the postings, comments, and repostings. I also am with a small church with limited financial resources. I have ebay purchased three BRC300 PTZ cameras. I am planning on finding a video mixer/switcher and then I was unsure what I was going to do until I found your site. Do you use a mixer/switcher? I am thinking of using S video form the cameras to the mixer. The cameras are SD. Anything else you can guide me toward will be appreciated. Thanks. DON

Trevor 7:05 pm - 8th May:

For those looking for a more cost effective streaming provider, we use pay per viewer plans from Watershed, which is powered by Ustream. I think it’s $1 per hour per viewer which for small audiences makes sense compared to costly monthly plans.

Michael Moyer 9:39 pm - 26th May:

Trevor,

Thanks for the information!

Jon 11:36 am - 25th July:

Michael, thanks very much for taking the time to organize the detailed information and links. My church is unsure about broadcasting video to the world but we’d at least like to start with shut ins, etc. At the present time I simply set up a webcam (with built in audio) and a few people log in to that, but video and audio are choppy, especially audio. Is the Ustream/Livestream methodology a major quality difference? Thanks.

Michael Moyer 6:30 pm - 10th August:

Jon,

Ustream/livestream have great quality. You can try it for free to see if it works for you.

Frank Rudd 11:37 am - 13th August:

Wow this is wonderful. We’re planning on starting audio first then maybe video when that’s going good. Looks like if the audio works correctly then adding video would just mean getting a good camera. Could expand to more cameras with the video mixer later. Can you do just audio with maybe a picture of the church or a slide show for the video instead of them running together? Regardless I’m going to go play a little with the computer tonight ;-) . This is exciting!

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