Using Google Hangouts to broadcast your worship service online
Often, people cannot make it to church because of illness, travel or weather, but that doesn’t mean they have to forgo worship. Technological innovation has made what was once an expensive venture now close to free. In fact, most churches already have what they need. If you aren’t sure, we have a helpful resource that can help you answer the question,” Why stream?”
What do you need?
In order to stream your service, you will need a computer, a webcam and high-speed Internet access with two megabits-per-second (Mbps) upload speed at the minimum. Test your connection speed.
For best results, a wired network connection is preferred. Wireless can be subject to dropouts, which can cause the video to freeze or end the session altogether. An external camera is recommended for best results. If you need help setting this up, take a look at these advanced video streaming options for your church.
Once you connect your computer to the Internet, you will use Hangouts on Air by Google to make your service available live (and archived after it is over) on YouTube. Here are the step-by-step instructions for streaming your service via Hangouts on Air.
Step 1: Get a Google Plus account.
This service, which began as part of Google’s social network, Google Plus, requires you to login to it to begin the process. If you have a Gmail or Google Docs account, you can use those credentials to log in instead of creating a new account. Either way, you start by going to plus.google.com and either logging in or clicking “create an account.”
Step 2: Navigate to the hangout on air.
Once in Google Plus, you will click on "Home," then down to "Hangouts. From there, you will click on “Hangouts on Air” at the top.
Step 3: Set up the hangout.
Once you are in the "Hangouts on Air" section, click “Start a Hangout on Air” button. Don’t worry; you aren’t actually starting it yet. Here you will complete the title of the hangout and the description. (This will be used when you share the link on social media sites.) In the audience field, you will most likely keep the default “Public” setting as you want anyone to be able to watch; however, sometimes, you might select certain people or groups to be part of the hangout.
If you set up the hangout with enough lead time, you can record a short video trailer that will tell people about your church and what you are talking about that day.
Step 4: Buffer the hangout.
When you click “share” in your initial setup, you’ll be taken to your Google plus profile where you will see your hangout ready to go with a button that says “Start.” When you do that (and accept the terms and conditions), it will launch the hangout and buffer your video. After the buffer is full, “Start Broadcast” will appear.
Step 5: Share and embed the hangout.
Before you go live, click the “links” button at the bottom right of the screen. It will have the links to share for people to access the broadcast. It also has embedded code that will allow you to embed the live broadcast in your own website. Once you have all of that ready, you are ready to stream! To do that, click “Start Broadcast.”
Step 6: Engage with the viewers.
If you have a person operating your feed, Hangouts on Air has many features that will allow you to have a chat room and even post pertinent links like the day’s Bible reading.
Step 7: Archive.
Once you stop the hangout, it will start being processed and saved on YouTube. Depending on many factors, that process can take a while, but after a couple of hours, it will be live on YouTube via the YouTube link you shared earlier. At this point, you may want to log into YouTube and delete the service or edit out any extra time at the beginning or ending using their simple editing tool.
That’s it. Once you have the account set up, you can launch your streaming service quickly and everyone who cannot make it to the building can worship with you wherever they are!
For more advanced live streaming features, consider our TechShop MyUMClive streaming program, which offers discounted pricing to United Methodist churches. Here are some advantages of our program that many free services do not offer:
- Viewers stay on your church website where you embed the video player.
- No outside advertising or inappropriate ads/video playing next to your live stream.
- Receive online donations when you place a "Donate" button next to the player.
- Our customer service team will walk you through setting up your live streaming through a few simple steps. Be sure to test your live stream before the weekend during normal business hours in case troubleshooting with customer service is necessary.
This article covers what you need to know on the technical side of things, but remember that if you use copyrighted material of any kind in your service, you need to make sure you have licenses to use in a broadcast situation. Check out Discipleship Ministries' resources for Christian copyright solutions.