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March 20, 2020

Streaming Mass: Reaching parishioners online while parishes are closed

Streaming Mass

One question on everyone’s mind during these uncertain times is, “How do we continue to lead the faithful, spiritually, when they are remaining at home?” Our hope is to accompany you in providing online ministerial support for your parish, especially at this time, and help you to engage and unite your multi-generational community in prayer through widely available tools and platforms.

Streaming Mass at your parish

As of April 15, free streaming permission is no longer granted through ONE LICENSE. However, there are still options put in place to help parishes continue to serve their communities.

  • Parishes can still receive a 10% discount on this license, should they elect to continue for one year.
  • Parishes can choose to discontinue this license via email. We kindly ask that they do not use copyrighted music without permission.
  • Parishes livestreaming Mass can choose a limited, streaming only license.

Find more information about these licensing options here.

How do I set up a livestream?

There are a couple of free options for setting up a livestream. There are also several more advanced options that include paid applications and multiple cameras. For the purposes of this article, we are focused only on the simple options. The two easiest methods of livestreaming are Facebook and YouTube.


To start a Livestreamed event on Facebook:

  1. Click the “Create a post” button on your Facebook page: Before entering text for your post you’ll notice on the list of options the option for “Go Live”
  2. Click “Go Live” to set up a streaming post.
  3. Add a description: On the next screen you can add a description to your stream. Here is where you can add copyright lines for any music you may be including in your streamed content.
  4. Click “Start live video”: When you are happy with your description you can click the button labeled “Start live video,” and begin your livestream.

Before you do this, however, there are a couple of points to consider:

  • Bandwidth: Try to be connected as the sole user of your internet connection to avoid stream fluctuations (and ideally have high-speed internet).
  • Diffused Lighting: There is no need to direct bright lights on the priest. Make sure the area is well let with diffused, non-direct, light so there aren’t hard shadows.
  • No Backlight: Try to avoid bright lights behind your subject too, as this will create an undesired silhouette effect.
  • Tripod: Use some sort of tripod or stand for your mobile device. This doesn’t have to be fancy. Putting your phone in a shoe on a stack of books or a music stand may suffice.
  • Angle: The camera should be at the same level as the priest or slightly above. Avoid placing the camera so it looks up at the priest.
  • Landscape: Set the camera so that the image is horizontal rather than vertical. This usually means turning your device sideways to record. This will best fill the screen on whatever device is being used to watch the livestream. Note: this needs to be done before starting the stream, and your phone needs to be set to allow screen rotation.
  • Focus: Make sure that the camera is focused on the priest and the altar — not on the wall behind the altar or on the floor. Have somebody stand at the altar before you “go live” to make sure that they are showing up clearly.
  • High resolution: It’s tempting to use the front facing camera when using a phone to stream. But the back camera generally records higher quality video. Avoid the temptation of being able to see yourself while recording, and point the screen away from the altar.
  • Volume: The audio needs to be loud and clear. This can be challenging when recording from a distance. Using the speaker system in the church can help with this. Make sure to set the camera near one of the speakers, but not so close that the volume is overwhelming. Also be sure that the microphone of the device isn’t muffled by anything — like whatever contraption you may be using as a camera stand.
  • Testing: As mentioned above, be sure to test out the audio and video set up prior to going live for your scheduled Mass. You can do this on Facebook by changing the audience to “only me,” so you can test audio/video and play it back to make any adjustments. Your other option for testing is to use your personal Facebook page. However, your friends may see you staring awkwardly into the camera.
  • Time check: Triple check the time that you are promoting the stream as “going live.” A lot of challenges occur around different time zones.

Streaming on Youtube

Streaming on YouTube is slightly more complicated, but may be useful for preexisting audiences. This may be the case if your parish or priest already have a YouTube channel. It’s not possible to simply create a YouTube channel and start streaming with a mobile device. YouTube only allows streaming from mobile devices with an established channel. So, if you are jumping into YouTube streaming from scratch, you’ll have to stream from a laptop computer. All of the sound and lighting recommendations from above still apply to streaming to YouTube, but here is a short list of suggestions for streaming specifically on YouTube:

  • Camera: The camera on a modern mobile device is almost guaranteed to be high quality, but the same cannot be said for a laptop camera. Be sure to test the video quality of your laptop camera before choosing YouTube. You may decide to go with Facebook if you notice graininess from your laptop camera.
  • Sound Quality: Built-in computer microphones also tend not to be as high in quality as the ones that come standard on modern mobile devices. This also might be a reason to choose Facebook over YouTube.
  • Tripod: Make shift tripods work a lot better for holding a small mobile device. Balancing your laptop on a music stand could end in disaster, and you might set yourself on a path where you decide to just put the laptop on a chair (NOT a good angle for video).
  • Bandwidth: : If you don’t have highspeed WIFI internet in your church building, you may end up relying on a better 4G Mobile data connection. (NOT recommended, but it could work). For that reason, using your laptop might not be possible in the short term.

After reviewing those points, if you still want to proceed with YouTube, start by logging into your account. Then , see the video camera icon at the top of the screen (“Create a new video or post”).

  1. Click the icon.
  2. Select “Go Live” from the drop down.
  3. Verify: You’ll have to verify that you’re not a robot to proceed. Select the option that works best for you:
    Streaming Mass
  4. Wait 24 hours: Once you activate your account for streaming there is a 24-hour waiting period. This means you’ll want to start this process at least a day and a half before you plan on beginning your first livestream through YouTube (giving yourself enough time to set everything up).
  5. Webcam: Once the waiting period is over you’ll get the following screen (if you start on the “STREAM” tab click on the “WEBCAM” tab instead):
    Streaming Mass
  6. Setup: Let’s run through the first part:
    • Title: Make sure to give your stream a title that makes sense to your parishioners, so thast they can easily find and understand what you are streaming. Eg. “9:00AM Mass at Our Lady of the Mountain in Ashland, Oregon”
    • Who can see it: For this purpose, simply select “Public” from the next drop down unless, you don’t want people to find this video later on YouTube. If you select “Private”, nobody but you will be able to see the video. (This is a way you can test out a stream before making a public one.)
    • Scheduling: You probably do want to schedule this video stream unless you are literally about to start. When you schedule a stream, YouTube gives you a link to the future video stream, so that you can share it through email, social media or your website.
    • Not for kids: This type of video is intended for general audiences, so be sure to select “No, it’s not made for kids”
    Streaming Mass
  7. More options:
    • Description: The description field is a place for you to put any copyright lines for the hymns and songs you might be using. It would really be helpful for us at OCP if you could also include a link as well to the page for each of the songs on our website. Those links are not part of the requirements for your free streaming license through April 14, 2020, but it will likely be required in the future. Doing so now will help both you and us.
    • Category: Select a video category. I chose “Nonprofits” in this example.
    • Video: Make sure the camera you intend to use is selected if you have more than one camera plugged into your computer.
    • Audio: If you have another mic plugged in, make sure to select that here Otherwise, the setting will default to your internal mic.
    • Monetization: If your YouTube account is monetized, then you can select “Monetization” from the advanced options.
  8. Warning! When you are ready, don’t click “Next” yet! It’s about to take a picture for the thumbnail of the video! When you click “Next,” it will give you a countdown, and 3 seconds later, your Livestream thumbnail picture will be snapped with your camera. So, you probably want to move into the church for this part.
  9. Share: A screen will pop up that will allow you to share the link for your scheduled livestream. Just click the “Share” option and select the method you would like to use to share the link. You can also click the “Edit” pen to change the details of your livestream event.
    Streaming Mass
  10. Go Live: When you are ready to start the event, return to the “Manage” page and select the event that is about to begin. Click the option that says “Go Live” to begin your event.
    Streaming Mass

And that’s it! We hope this information will allow you to begin streaming your Mass. If this wasn’t advanced enough for you, please contact us and let us know how else we can help. We hope to provide more advanced information and to continue to update our blog with helpful tips, as we all figure out together what parish ministry looks like when it’s 100% digital.

Jethro Higgins
Jethro Higgins

Jethro Higgins, father of 6,  has Directed Youth & Young Adult ministry programs and led liturgical music ensembles since 2004. Jethro received his Master of Science in Business Analysis from the Catholic University of America and is currently studying at The Augustine Institute in the Master of Arts in Theology program.