How do I provide online worship for my members who are not online? It’s a question many have been asking as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and here’s a great solution: PhoneLiveStreaming.com
Zoiper sends the audio from your computer out to the SmartTalk phone line and church members can then call in to your SmartTalk number and listen live – or “simulated live.” The service costs $30 a month and will accommodate up to 250 callers. For $10 more, you can request a toll-free number. If you need to accommodate larger audiences, you can custom tailor a plan. He’s also waived the $50 set up fee until April 15th.
David Plappert, founder of SmartTalk (a VOIP phone service), and a follower of Jesus in Henry, IL, devised a service that connects a SmartTalk phone plan with a free utility called Zoiper.
Don’t be fooled by the spartan appearance of the web presence you’ll see when going to PhoneLiveStreaming.com. It’s simply a Google form to help automate the sign-up process. You’ll indicate a preferred area code and within a few minutes, you’ll receive instructions for set up via email. There are also video tutorials available right there on the site – but I did an overview here:
Online Worship & User Experience:
Your church members will call in to your number and first be asked if they want to be notified when your online worship goes live. If they do, they select “1.” Otherwise, they’ll just wait for the live stream to start.
::: DON’T MISS THAT :::
This is the equivalent of an email or social media notification in the form of a good ol’ fashioned phone call. If they opt-in to be notified, their phone will ring whenever you go live. If they don’t answer, the system will prompt for some kind of human interaction, and if none is received, it will disconnect before voicemail kicks in.
So, you’re nervous about making sure all the connections are just right for a live audio experience, or maybe the hamsters running your 10-year-old computer just can’t be trusted. That’s okay! Just upload an .mp3 of your service. David even includes links to free tools to tweak audio settings and strip audio from video files in the “back office” portal at app.phonelivestreaming.com.
Schedule Simulated Live:
You can schedule the broadcast of your .mp3 file and anyone who has opted in for notification calls will get a call at the scheduled time. Setting this up couldn’t be easier, but there’s one “Gotcha!” … The platform schedules in central time only, so do the math in your head first. East coast churches: If you start worship at 11 a.m., schedule for a 10 a.m. start.
Anytime someone calls in to listen to the online worship they will hear the most recent “broadcast.” This is a great feature since folks may miss the scheduled time, but can have quick and easy access to the last sermon. It’s also handy if you’ve got folks working “essential jobs” and can’t tune in during your scheduled time.
When the account is first set up, a pleasant, but rather robotic voice presents all the greetings. However, you are welcome to record your own greetings so your folks can hear a familiar voice (or at least more human) when they dial in or get called with a notification. This is especially useful for congregations worshiping in languages other than English. Just email mp3s of the greetings to David.
Many are asking about drive-in church. If your church decides to go that route, you can avoid trying to find an FM transmitter and worrying if your signal is too strong for the FCC’s liking. Just instruct your parking lot pew sitters to dial in to your PhoneLiveStreaming number. If they have Bluetooth in their car, they’ll hear everything they need to. (Honk if you love Jesus!)
One Important Note:
If you’re streaming a lot of rich musical content, it likely won’t sound very rich over the phone. It may not sound good at all. Voice sounds great but a full band could be an issue. I plan to do some experimenting.
I couldn’t be more impressed with the solution David has come up with here and for the record. The Georgia Baptist Mission Board is not receiving any kind of kick-back for our endorsement. I don’t know of another solution like this.
Published April 6, 2020