7 Tips for Choosing Streaming Software for Your Church
Live streaming for churches has become a near necessity in recent years. Basic live streaming doesn’t take much effort or gear to get running: an iPhone and a stable internet connection are all you need to start a live stream video on Facebook, YouTube, or other social media platforms.
But most churches aren’t content to stick with such a simple setup long-term. And stepping up to a more professional setup adds a lot of additional complexity.
One of the first and most crucial decisions to make is what church streaming software you’ll use. There are numerous live streaming software vendors on the market, offering both general live streaming solutions and church-specific live stream software.
Below we’ll describe the must-have features that the best live stream software for churches should include, along with a quick survey of some of the top options available for purchase today.
7 Features to Look for Church Live Stream Software
Ease of Use & Quick Setup Process
The user-friendliness of a live streaming software can greatly influence its adoption and the overall success of your digital services.
Think about who manages your Sunday service live stream. At most churches, the person sitting at the computer isn’t a highly trained paid staff member. They’re a volunteer. So it’s crucial that your streaming solutions use a simple interface that doesn’t require major training to operate.
Behind the scenes, you still want full control and high flexibility. But while actively streaming your church services, you want something that runs well without much hands-on effort.
Here are some factors to consider:
- Setup Process: The setup process should be straightforward. The software shouldn’t require expert knowledge to install and run. Some software providers offer ‘wizard’ setups guiding you through installation and initial configuration.
- User Interface (UI): A clean, intuitive UI can help even those not technically inclined to use the software effectively. The functions should be clearly labeled, and the software should be easy to navigate. Overly complex or cluttered UI can hinder the user experience and make broadcasting a chore.
- Workflow Simplicity: Going from setup to live streaming should be uncomplicated. You should be able to go live with just a few clicks. The software should make it simple to manage and control your live streams.
- Training and Learning Resources: Check if the software provider offers comprehensive tutorials, user guides, or training sessions. These resources can be beneficial, especially when starting out or when you want to explore more advanced features.
- Troubleshooting and Debugging: When issues arise, identifying the problem and finding a solution should be straightforward. Some software has built-in troubleshooting tools to guide users.
Supports Current and Future Hardware
Make sure any church live stream software you consider supports all the hardware you’re currently using, along with anything that’s in your pipeline for a future budget year.
Compatibility and hardware support can be a mixed bag because of the wide range of devices and formats in use. People are using everything from cheap PC webcams and microphones to broadcast quality equipment.
Whatever you’re using — or hope to use in upcoming years — make sure the software you’re evaluating can handle that hardware.
If you’re using video switchers, hardware encoders, or other hardware that sits between your inputs and your streaming PC, evaluate support for those as well.
The best live streaming software won’t struggle with compatibility, but lesser options may.
Pro Quality Design Tools
Live streaming is more than video and audio alone. Stream design is something that churches sometimes overlook, but successful live streamers outside the church (in gaming, for instance) have mastered it. Stream design is a catch-all term for the visuals accompanying live video and audio within a stream, including frames, overlays, multiple cameras or angles, transitions, etc.
These visual assets must be built and configured. While using a separate app is possible, you’ll have an easier time integrating visuals if you can design them within your streaming software. The best solutions offer robust design tools or, like ProPresenter, are directly integrated into a broader presentation solution that includes a pro-grade scene editor.
Professional Software Encoder
Converting audio and video into a format and bitrate that can be live-streamed is called encoding, and there are two approaches: hardware encoding and software encoding. Hardware encoding relies on an external hardware video encoder such as a Blackmagic encoding device. The results are reliably high in quality, but adding external hardware creates new complexity and potential compatibility issues.
Software encoding keeps the process on your PC or Mac. You’ll need more powerful hardware to handle software encoding, and the software encoder you use can make a big difference in performance demands and output quality.
Technically, ProPrsenter uses “hardware” encoding since it uses a GPU to do the encoding, but the general software makes the process be considered software encoding since it’s using software on a computer to make the process work.
ProPresenter’s software encoding capabilities are professional-grade, giving you the ability to output crisp video streams at whatever resolution your hardware can handle.
Along the same lines, live streaming for church services must work reliably. There’s no time to call up technical support when your live video isn’t working — services don’t pause to wait on technical fixes.
Choosing cheap or free streaming solutions may seem like a smart way to save money, but if those options don’t produce a highly reliable live broadcast, they aren’t accomplishing your goals.
Resilient Streaming Protocol
The industry-standard protocol for streaming is RTMP (along with RTMPS for secure streams). This protocol works reasonably well and is responsible for most live streams you’ve watched or produced. It uses a fire and forget approach to sending packets over the internet.
But it’s not the most resilient streaming protocol on the market.
Resi’s Resilient Streaming Protocol, or RSP, adds error correction to keep streams running smoother, fully protecting against audio and video quality loss during transmission. Resi is so powerful, your stream can survive two minutes with no internet connection at all — you could even sever the cable and then plug a new one in without losing the stream.
ProPresenter is the only presentation software and church live stream software that offers Resi’s RSP. If high stability despite a weak or unstable connection is a priority, Resi is worth the investment.
The software’s ability to scale according to the church’s needs is an essential factor.
Let’s dive deeper.
Audience Size: The software should be able to handle the number of concurrent viewers you’re expecting, and ideally, should be able to support a growing audience. This is particularly important for larger churches or for churches that expect their online live event viewership to increase over time.
Bandwidth Usage: As your audience grows, the amount of bandwidth required will also increase. Make sure that your software and internet connection can handle this. Some software solutions may offer bandwidth management features to optimize your live stream based on your current internet speed.
Geographic Reach: As your online congregation grows, you may find that you have viewers tuning in from different parts of the world. Software with a global Content Delivery Network (CDN) can help ensure that your live stream is stable and fast for all viewers, no matter where they are located.
Multi-Platform Streaming: As the church grows, there may be a need to stream across multiple platforms simultaneously (like YouTube, Facebook, church’s website). Your chosen software should have the capacity to scale up and stream on multiple platforms without quality loss.
Reliable Under Load: Some software works great when you’re only streaming to a small audience, but it might falter under a heavier load. Check reviews or ask the software provider about how the software performs under heavy load conditions.
Infrastructure Growth: As your needs grow, there might be a necessity for more complex setups, like multiple cameras or various audio sources. The chosen software should be able to handle these added complexities.
Future Proofing: The tech world evolves fast, so scalability also means that the software should be frequently updated and should incorporate newer, more efficient technologies. It’s about ensuring your software can not only meet the demands of today but also of the future.
ProPresenter: The Best Streaming Software for Churches of Any Size
Churches looking for the best software for church live streaming need ProPresenter: it’s the most complete, most professional live streaming solution packaged within a full professional-grade presentation application, and we built it to meet the needs of churches and houses of worship.
With ProPresenter, you’re gaining access to a highly reliable streaming solution that’s robust and flexible for professionals yet easy to operate for volunteers, the most resilient streaming protocol on the planet, and an industry-leading set of design tools.
ProPresenter is also the leading church-focused presentation app: features include the ability to design beautiful, engaging slides for your services and granular control over multiple distinct video outputs. Send one feed to your main screens, another to the lobby, and a unique feed to your live streaming platforms.
If you need the best all-around pro-quality solution for live streaming—and for in-house presentations, too—ProPresenter is in a class all its own.
See ProPresenter for yourself today: we’re offering an unrestricted two-week free trial of the full ProPresenter experience. Download now to get started!