How to livestream a church service

Nearly every cell phone these days is capable of livestreaming a church service using the built-in camera and microphone. If you want to step up your game, however, you may need to invest in some technology. Some of the equipment you will need is listed below.


A digital camera with HDMI output. This is what you will capture the scene with. While most DSLR cameras have an HDMI output, and increasingly so do many point and click cameras, these devices are more geared towards taking still photos. Your best bet is to use a digital camcorder purpose-built for video. You will want a camera that can output at least 1080p/30 (a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels at 30 frames per second). While a 4K-capable camera may be tempting (and within budget), it’s not a requirement, and the recordings will take that much more space on your hard drive.

A quality HDMI cable to transmit the captured video from the camera to a computer. My recommendation is to get a good cable, and not the cheapy one from AmazonBasics. Additional cables might be needed for video distribution (e.g. for additional computer monitors, out to a TV in an adjacent room, etc). If you need longer than ~30′, look into converting the signal to SDI or NDI.

While most computers can output HDMI video, you will need an HDMI to USB capture device to input the video signal. This will make the video source appear more or less like a webcam to the computer’s operating system.


You will need microphones to pick up sounds from the pulpit, the singers/choir, and even the congregation. If you only use one microphone, that can run straight into the audio interface, but for multiple microphones, a multi-channel audio mixer is a must. You will need a channel for each voice or instrument you want to add into the mix. Any instrument or voice that is not mic’d will not make it into the livestream, so don’t forget to mic instruments that don’t normally need additional amplification to be heard in the room (e.g. drums).

XLR cables pass the audio signal from the microphone or instrument into the audio mixer, as well as from the mixer output to the computer. You will need a cable for each microphone/instrument. Unless it has an XLR output, most instruments that get plugged in will need a direct input (DI) box to convert the signal from an unbalanced cable with a 1/4″ headphone plug to an XLR balanced cable. Balanced cables can travel much longer as they are less susceptible to interference.

You will need a USB audio interface to input the audio source into the computer. This performs essentially the same function for sound that the HDMI capture device does for video.

Computer equipment

You will need a decent computer to composite, render, and encode the stream. Most computers made in the last several years should be able to handle live rendering of a 1080p/30 stream, especially if they have a video card with hardware encoding. If not, the main processor and memory will have to perform the task, which can make the rest of the computer sluggish. I recommend a Core i7 processor, 16gb memory, and an SSD drive for storage.

Extra video monitors always come in handy. You may want one facing forwards to show people what the camera is looking at or what the stream video looks like going out. And additional desktop real estate on the computer allows you to have more windows visible without having to switch between them.

Software-wise, OBS Studio is free software and is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux, is easy to use, and is used by millions of users. Using OBS, you can create scenes using various audio/video sources and switch between them as needed during the stream. For instance, you might have a title/end card scene that shows a logo against a plain background. Another scene might be a full-screen view from the camera, or maybe a split-screen view of the pulpit on one side with slides on the other. During the stream, OBS will render the scene at the selected resolution and frame rate, and output it as a stream to a streaming provider or saved as a recording (or both). There is a Discord server frequented by many knowledgeable people for support help if needed.

A streaming provider is needed to distribute your video to the masses. YouTube, Twitch, and Vimeo are all popular options. Keep in mind that some platforms have restrictions on livestreaming, such as minimum subscriber counts.

The church should contain every kind of person

When you come into a community, into a Christian community […] it’s a human instinct to look around and, if you kind of like the community and you think you might want to be a part of it, there’s an instinct to conform a little bit to the way things are done.  How do we dress around here?  Okay, I see a pattern, I can do that.  I’m going to church now, I’ve gotta get my hair cut.  I’ve gotta get a Bible that looks like that guy’s Bible.  I gotta master the vocabulary here and learn to talk the talk a little bit.

What is it at [your church] (external culture things)?  Maybe I’ve gotta learn to drink better coffee in the morning.  Maybe I need to learn to drink better beer at night.  I’m not completely joking.  That’s not for everybody – the coffee and beer thing – and it cannot be what defines us.

Do not ever think that belonging to [a Christian] community means that you need to change your external habits – in regard to unimportant things.  Because in the church, we should have blue highlights and tattoos.  We should have polo shirts and khakis.  We should have sundresses and t-shirts, skinny jeans and mom jeans, goatees and cornrows, long hair, short hair.  The church should contain every kind of person, but every kind of person enthralled and captured by the same Jesus, our living Lord.  Because whenever the church is identifiable by its cultural externals, we’re done, we’re done.

So if you come to church, I want your drive to be, I’ve got to know Jesus better.  He has gotten my attention and I need to go further in relationship with him.  And then, the really important things flow from there, like loving people, for instance.  So […] if we can be characterized by love for Jesus, and love for people, we’ll be doing alright.  Amen?  Amen.

Marc Davis, “What you need to know”, 20 September 2015

The “why” behind worship

(Honestly, I didn’t mean for this post to be so distractingly link-happy.  The last link is the one you want.)

One of the best things we can do is learn from our forerunners.  I recently started stewing about how to create a worship leader discipleship program, and so you might have noticed some recent posts “tipping my hat” to various resources I’ve found online.  Hopefully I’ll grow those out more later.

Tonight I was looking up Youtube links for this coming Sunday’s worship setlist to give to my team, and I found this wonderfully beautiful rendition of Indelible Grace’s version of “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken“:

Scrolling through the comments, I found a helpful Youtuber explaining what RUF was, that it was PCA-affiliated, and a few clicks later, landed on the RUF ministry at the University of Pittsburgh (my alma mater).  A few more clicks, I landed on City Reformed‘s website, and (finally — the point of this post) found their explanation and guiding principles behind worship.

Some days I just love where the Internet takes me.