5 Ways to Use Google+ “Hangouts On Air” for Ministry


Regardless of how you feel about Google+ and it’s impact (or lack thereof) on social media, there is one major feature that has captured the attention of Google+ fanatics and everyone else, that feature is Google Hangouts on Air.  Google hangouts are an enhanced version of video chat with up to 10 people simultaneously participating in a video chat.

The add on features such as integrating YouTube videos, Google docs or screen sharing have only made Google hangouts even more attractive to people.

Google+ Hangout vs. Skype

When thinking about Google+ Hangouts the closest comparison is Skype and it’s easy to use video chat features.  Unlike Skype, Google+ Hangouts have the capability to be broadcast live via YouTube to an unlimited number of people, this feature alone makes Google+ an amazing tool for webinars and online broadcasts.  Another great benefit is the seamless mobile device integration so that whether a participant is on a laptop, desktop or mobile device, they can participate in the Google+ Hangout.

The question is how can Google+ Hangouts be used for churches, well i’m glad you asked. :-)

5 Uses of Google Hangouts on Air for Church

Google Plus Hangout

  1. Stream your sermons or bible study live and record it on YouTube.  This feature is built into Google+ Hangouts on Air, it’s a great showcase of how Google is merging all of their properties to work together.
  1. Have an interactive Bible Study or Ministry meetings that can also be recorded for record keeping purposes.  Similar to the example above, you can have a pastor or church leader lead a meeting/bible study and broadcast it via Google+ Hangouts on Air and YouTube.  If you like you can have up to 10 people who can actually interact with the pastor during this broadcast in addition to watching.
  1. Have interactive Counseling sessions.  This option may not need to broadcast or recorded but if the pastor or counselor is at the church and the person(s) needing counseling are somewhere else, they can conduct an online counseling session using Google+ hangouts.
  1. Broadcast special events such as conference previews, webinars and online trainings. This is a great marketing option for people to participate in online.  A good example is where a pastor can call on a few of his colleagues and they talk about a theological topic or an upcoming conference they are participating in.  This online event can be broadcast live using Google+ hangouts and YouTube, then recorded as well.  The MP4 file that YouTube creates can then be downloaded or shared on other social networks such as Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
  1. Podcasts done quickly and easily. Similar to the option above, with the MP4 file that is created from a Google+ hangout and YouTube, it can be uploaded to iTunes as a podcast and distributed in that manner.  Even if you want to do a broadcast by yourself, you can record yourself using Google+ hangouts and take the MP4 file that will be created on YouTube and distribute it as a podcast.

Overall, Google+ Hangouts on Air along with YouTube have a great opportunity to become a great online tool.  I cannot explain how much fun I think Google+ Hangouts on Air are and how much impact they could have in changing how online training, communication and videos are done.


Jason Caston

Jason Caston is the author of The iChurch Method Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Having worked with major ministries and built ministry websites and social media properties that reach millions daily, Caston has proven that his cutting edge technological savvy and business acumen have made him a sought after Internet Church expert.

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  1. Chandos says

    Is there a way to use an actual camera with Google Hangouts? Or does it have to be a USB web cam, iSight, or the like?

    • says

      Its a bit more difficult but you can use external cameras, it depends on your video capture card and the appropriate software for hangouts to recognize the external cam. I would do a google search for specifics

    • Matthew Doebler says

      Did you look into this issue? I did a Google Search and didn’t get totally solid answers. We’re buying from the ground up (computer, camera, even a new sound board). So I can buy to suit the needs. But I’m not exactly sure what the NEEDS are.

  2. Preston says

    We have live church services that we are broadcasting, but just recently I got a notification from a friend of mine that we can’t do the church worship because of copyrights on the songs, however when you go to youtube you see a lot of church worship services..

    I am confused , can you help a bit.. we want to share this with people who can’t come to church or live many miles away but have internet connection.

    Does this apply world-wide.

    We are adapting the music with our own voices and adaptation so we are playing sometimes the original background music but worship is singing.

    I don’t want a fine, and i don’t want to get in trouble with what we have already been doing for quite sometime, we have had many challenges just going live.

    Please let me know of any insight you guys might have into this.

    Ps. Just today when broadcasting a box did pop up indicating that we were using coprighted material and we were supposed to shut down. It also said it would shut us down, but did not..

    Everytime we did a song, I would mute the microphone. But I don’t like doing that, it is not a real service with out the music.

    Thanks again.

    God Bless

    • says

      Preston, who’s your live streaming provider? I have worked with many large and small churches and this is the first time i’ve heard about a streaming service being shut down (or threatened) due to copyright issues. I am aware that there are copyrights permissions for songs that churches are supposed to get in order to perform the songs during services but ive very rarely seen that enforced as an issue during live streaming.

    • Suzanne says

      Check out CCLI and CVLI. To answer your question about copyrights, yes, you absolutely have to have licenses to play, stream music/videos. Good news is that you can get the licensing to do it. :)

  3. Matthew Doebler says

    Has anybody actually done this with a Google+ Hangout On Air? I’m totally into it, but would like feedback from somebody who’s actually executed.

    To stream our sermons, I’m particularly concerned about how I’m going to get the link to embed on our church’s homepage. Online research suggests that the link to the live stream can’t be generated in advance. So we would have to embed that last minute? That might be asking too much of our Sunday AV volunteers.

    • says

      I have not done this with a sermon yet but I did it with a preset live training event. Once I setup the Google+ hangout event on Google+ I got a link to add to my website and from there I sent people to my website to watch it live. so to answer your question, yes you can get the hangout link early, I have actually done that part.

  4. Matthew Doebler says

    An external handy cam apparently CANNOT be used as a video capture device for a Google+ Hangout on Air. One must use a webcam.

    To broadcast our sermons, we would need to mount our camera at the back of the church and shoot down a very long aisle to the pulpit (I’ll bet we’re talking about 10 meters or more).

    Are you aware of a webcam with an optical zoom that would handle this? Or have any ideas for any other solutions?

  5. says

    Great article – we are using Google Hangouts on Air for Bible Study and discipleship training. We are adding live streaming services (sermons). Any help with audio? The audio picked up on the videocam for a single person sounds great, but when we stream the sermon it sounds distorted. The camera is only about 8 feet from the Pastor.
    Thank you in advance for your ideas and help

      • says

        Oh Eric, how wonderfully fast are you? Thank you.
        Currently we are using a Logitech c920, but I was going to test out our Blue USB Snowball mic this week before Easter service.
        What do you think?

        • says

          I am just wondering what changes from shooting video of one person versus shooting video of the sermon. If it’s distorted, my first thought was you were sending too hot of a signal during your streaming. It sounds like something isn’t calibrated right. Also, I would recommend running some test with the new mic BEFORE trying it for the first time on Easter Sunday. :)

  6. andrey says

    Here is what we have figured out and how we are using the service.

    1. Set up a YouTube channel – ours is https://www.youtube.com/user/BethanySlavicChurch

    2. Set up a website – http://www.bethanyslavic.org/
    3. Find an html “YouTube Channel Embed” code snippet to post a “Live Broadcast” link and video preview icons on your website.

    3.1 Here is a link to how it looks on our site

    3.2 We used the following – very easy to set-up – https://ytchannelembed.com/

    4. Go to – https://www.youtube.com/my_live_events – create a new event
    5. Your broadcast will be saved automatically in your channel
    6. As far as hardware, in short, (2) BNC Video Cameras, and a Roland V-4EX video switcher, which has 4 camera inputs, PC input and a USB output to PC for web streaming. Google Hangouts on air picks it up; no settings need to be adjusted. Feed audio from main mixer. Best economical church set-up for starting out to broadcast. Here is a system map, looks a lot, but it’s very simple.

    7. Get a Broadcasting license, this is very critical – we use http://us.ccli.com/

    7. Now Copyright Issues – although you have the broadcasting license, you will still have YouTube flagging videos all the time. I have not been able to resolve this or solve the problem. If you’re streaming any singer performance, get ready for You Tubes automatic melody match and flag 75% of performances. Seems like every melody has been copyrighted – and you will get the notorious “Video blocked in some countries” flag on your videos. This can also happen while live streaming. “Stop streaming copyrighted material or your broadcast will be terminated”

    7.1 – Dispute the claim, posting your license information you have – I do it this way
    “CCLI – Christian Copyright Licensing International, Inc. Church Streaming & Podcast License
    License Number ####### EXPIRATION DATE: #########”
    7.2 Eventually you will see a “Claim Released”

    7.3 – This is very annoying, almost every service gets flagged. Anybody out there have a solution?

    • Toddvb says

      We are using a Microsoft Lifecam for streaming to Google Hangouts currently, but looking for a better quality video. Audio is brought in from the mixing board and is fine.

      We need something to stream though a laptop with a little zoom (30′ or so). Looking for suggestions.

      Thank you.

    • Andrew says

      Hi Andrey,
      Thanks for your post. Did you find a solution how to embed the youtube live stream in to website? So that code will be automatically embed the live-stream without changing the code every time when you are on air.



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