+Rev. Joyce Graue
St John’s Lutheran, Raymond MN experience with PHONE LIVE STREAMING
Our congregation has about 25 membership ‘units’ who do not have wifi at home, and the majority of these do not use cell phones. Since mid-March we encouraged them to listen to the Willmar ELCA congregations on the radio on Sunday morning; these folk have done this, but I (as their pastor) wanted to be able to connect with them myself and have them connected with the same worship opportunity as the rest of the congregation on Sundays as well as mid-week (a Wednesday evening “Musing and Music” that I have been doing).
We researched a number of possibilities and settled on going with Phone Live Streaming (PLS). [phonelivestreaming.com]
What was attractive about PLS is and what we have learned …
+ Initially when I called with some questions, a real person immediately answered! (Subsequent calls with questions I often left a message and my call was usually returned within the hour. I sent a message once via the website and had a response within minutes.)
+ Many of our members we wanted to re-connect with are a long-distance call from church. We didn’t want anyone to have to pay to be part of worship! (So though one could call in with Zoom, for example, the phone call would have cost most of these members.)
+ PLS offers both a local number dial-in OR a toll-free number dial-in. The first is $30/month; the latter is $40/month.
+ There were a few other possibilities I considered who offered a toll-free number dial-in, but they charged more than having a local number dial-in, and most were a you-pay-as-the-service-is-used and the toll-free option was often an additional 3 cents a minute. Doing a Sunday morning and something mid-week, most of these options would have been more than $40/month for us.
+ A fixed, predictable monthly payment was more attractive to me/us than one based on use.
+ Because of the fixed monthly price, doing a mid-week devotion is not costing more. I could do something every day if I wanted and the cost would still be the same.
+ PLS gives both the option of dialing in to hear the service OR having PLS dial the individual’s number whenever we go live. We have some who prefer to call in; others prefer being called whenever the worship goes live.
+ The recording of the worship can be listened to until something new is recorded live.
+ There is a one-time $50 set up fee for PLS. This was well-worth the money as we needed help to set up streaming both Facebook Live and PLS at the same time. The (free) app Larix was recommended and works well. There is a video with Larix about how to set it up for FB Live streaming, etc, but it was much easier to have David at PLS patiently walk me through how to do it. That took about 30 minutes.
+ Our first Sunday using PLS we did not realize how close the mic on the ipad needed to be to a speaker for the audio to be clearly heard by those listening in. They could just hear; we realized it needed to be louder.
+ Our second Sunday using PLS we plugged a good external mic into the ipad and had it about 5 feet from a speaker. The audio was clear and the phone listeners were thrilled!
+ Because we do video on the ipad for FB Live, we needed a speaker near the external ipad mic (a speaker which was not under the balcony or high up in the ceiling); currently we have an additional speaker connected into our sanctuary sound system and in the middle of the aisle. (No in-person worship yet, so it doesn’t matter.) We have not figured out a way to get the sound directly from the sound board into the ipad, but what we are doing is working well … so we just need to tidy up how we do it. Probably a small speaker connected to the sanctuary sound system near the tripod with the ipad would do the job; we currently have loan of a large speaker.
+ One can do “premiere” with PLS – where you record ahead and establish a time for it to “go live.” You just need your audio – MP3 format – and “drop it” in and set a time for it to launch. [We have not done this.]
+ PLS has lots of other things it can do besides just what we are doing with it. For example, at the end of the listening to worship there could be a message saying that if you want the pastor to contact you, press 1 … or if you have a prayer request, press 2, etc.
PLS was created mid-March for 2-3 churches in rural Illinois. By word of mouth it quickly spread to over 200 churches before a website was created. It has a Facebook page which is very helpful.
Our members are thrilled we are giving them a way to be part of worship!
I’m happy to try to answer any additional questions you may have.
Rev. Joyce Graue