* THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED BLOG POST *
The news hit, PANDEMIC STRIKES! Schools close. Large group gatherings over 50 are canceled. Stay Home orders are issued. In about 48 hours, our world and our ministries were turned upside down. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds started filling up with announcements of ONLINE Youth Group! Everyone was posting how to use Zoom, and YouTube, and Facebook with students. And we were left with a few decisions; like what's the best way to host our youth groups online?
For our ministry, Facebook was the best platform for us. We do not have a student YouTube page (by choice), and our church YouTube page is relatively unused. I looked at doing a LIVE broadcast over YouTube, but we didn't have enough subscribers and I didn't want to buy expensive software. (At least not this early into the shut down.) Facebook offered the ability to stream live, and it wouldn't cost us anything, WINNER! (After all, youth workers love FREE stuff.)
So we opted to go with Facebook. That was on a Saturday. Our student ministry takes place on Tuesdays. The next three days were spent figuring out HOW to do a LIVE Streaming gathering. Tuesday night arrived. We launched. Success! We welcomed over 20 students and leaders (and a few parents), and kept them for the one hour gathering. It was raw and awkward and a bit ghetto, but it worked. (You can watch our first Live Stream here: C3Students Online - 03.17.2020.) As I watched the recording later that night, there were a few things I wanted to change and do better.
I wanted a way to bring in more imagery; slides, video, and screen-based games. I wanted more interaction and the ability to bring in other leaders. I wanted to have more engagement with students but not the distractions of unwanted noise and video. I wanted to include a time of worship and to utilize my worship leader so that I didn't have to pull out my guitar. All of that led me on a quest for something better.
I still didn't want to use YouTube or Zoom. Our faith community is very active on Facebook, so it makes sense to stay where our the people are. I needed to find a way to work with Facebook and accomplish what I wanted to accomplish in the way of interaction, engagement, and involvement. My answer...Open Broadcaster Software. (OBS)
OBS is described as a free and open source software for video recording and live streaming. Basically, it's a studio on your desktop. And did I mention, it's FREE!
OBS allows you to create multiple SCENES (your content) while giving you the flexibility to transition from one scene to the next flawlessly. You are able to pull from image slides, video, browsers, desktop, and webcams, integrating them into one, clean broadcast; perfect your youth gatherings.
I've used the software twice, and plan on using it for the during of our online gathers. I love it. Super easy to use, stable (although I am running it on a MAC), fluid, and smooth. It has made our Facebook streaming a lot easier.
Remember the issues I wanted to resolve; interaction, engagement, and involvement? Let me share a little on how I'm using the software.
I wanted to be able to use image slides and gaming software Like DYM's Sidekick. With OBS, you can create scenes for each of your slides. You can also create a scene to bull in your desktop and share a window with your audience, i.e. Sidekick. For me this allows for interaction with different graphics, slides, and of course SideKick.
I wanted engagement with students and leaders without the distractions of noise and sound on Zoom. Because you can create prepackaged content, you have freedom interact more with comments and chats as your content runs through the software. This past week, I was able to prerecord my talk which gave me the opportunity to engage students in the comments.
I wanted to include worship and the opportunity for my leaders to be on screen. I asked my worship leader to record her leading us in a song or two. I also asked some of our leaders to share a short testimony, relating to our topic, record it, and send it to me. I was then able to package everything up and drop it into the software. It was super easy. Then all I had to do was click on each scene when it was time, and it worked perfectly.
Now, you might be thinking, "How technical and complicated is all of this?" Great question, but it's not! OBS is super easy to learn AND use.
To learn how to use the software, I found this great tutorial from Lauren Olson, at Sage Designing (https://sagedesigning.com). Lauren has used OBS, and created a super helpful video that walks you through installation, set-up, programming, and live use. I asked Lauren if I could embed her video to help you learn the software and she said, YES! So take a minute to watch her helpful video below! And, thanks Lauren, for sharing your experience and expertise!
CHECK OUT LAUREN'S YOUTUBE CHANNEL FOR MORE GREAT VIDEOS, TIPS, IDEAS, AND HELPS!
Let's be real, what matters most is the message and how we connect with our students. But, there is a place for quality and professionalism. If you look unprepared, or your stream is sloppy, people will stop watching. OBS can bring your LIVE stream to the next level, while allowing you to focus on what's most important, the message and your students!
Check out Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) for yourself. It's free to download and use. It's available for MAC, PC, and LINUX. If you have any questions, reach out to me and I'd be happy to help you however I can!
If you found this post helpful, let me know! Leave a comment below!
To watch our latest, LIVE, student gathering on Facebook using OBS, click on the video below.
Jay Higham is a veteran youth worker of over 28 years; having worked with students in the local church and Christian camping settings. Jay is currently serving as the director of family ministry at a church, located in West Virginia. Jay has been married to Amy for over 23 years. Together, they are raising 5 kids, (4 boys and 1 girl). Jay is an aspiring author, blogger, speaker, vlogger, and social media junkie. He is passionate about student ministry, family ministry, and training youth workers to love and serve their students with passion and excellence.