How to get UNSTUCK and start making church videos FAST!

I receive questions from UUs all over the United States asking for advice with video including tips for getting started.  Often I find that something specific is keeping things from moving forward.  If you’ve been stuck or stalled I hope this post helps.  By now you should have a welcome video on the front of your website, one that features your minister(s) or key lay leaders.

We are one week into August.  There is plenty of time for you to produce a simple, effective and inexpensive video for September 1st.

I’ll share my recommendations on getting started, but first the top factors leading to congregations getting hung up with video.

Why Your Stuck

  1. Not knowing where to start – from gear to content
  2. Having an overly complex visions for videos
  3. Not having  in-house production capacity

These are the top factors.  There are plenty of others.  Feel free to share yours in the comments of this post.

Whether it is these or other factors, it is easy for a congregation to enter a video limbo wonderland — you know you should, you want to, but for one reason or another it doesn’t happen.

Sound familiar?

Getting Unstuck

I advocate that congregations take the following approach to starting with web video.  You can always upgrade as you go, investing better equipment, bigger volunteer teams and budgets.

  • Keep videos very short, simple and focused on one topic
  • Develop an in-house video production capacity
  • Produce them on a regular basis, make it routine.

The goal?  I want you to have the ability to share short, focused and effective videos any time you want.

Keep in mind that there are many kinds of videos that can be produced.   Some by their nature are longer, more complex and more expensive.  Many can and really should be short, focused and nearly free to produce.  I recommend you start with those.  Are they the only kind of videos you can produce? No.  But the key is to get moving, to start learning and experimenting with the medium.

In my consulting work with congregations I regularly hear frustrations with church communications.  How many times do you have to share information for it to sink in?  Doesn’t it seems like it requires more and more and more messages to get through to people.   It does.  Social media has moved us to a persistent engagement model.  If you’re communicating in big giant chunks, like monthly newsletters, you’re going to start losing people.

You need more frequent messages.  And video cuts through the online noise, is more personal and memorable.   Think in terms of short video messages.

Short Video Messages

Big complex videos are not particularly effective.  Not online when a single distraction can lead people to another site or video.

It is better to keep videos as short and focused as possible.  Think 90 seconds to 3 minutes.  Short videos become more mini video messages.  They can be more informal and there is more forgiveness if something is wrong with the lighting or background for a few seconds.  That isn’t the case for long videos.  To stay engaging longer videos must be AMAZING.  That’s a high bar.

Try making the mental shift from “video productions” to  “video messages” for your community and beyond.   What do you want to tell your community this month?  This week?  Today?

Short.  Video.  Messages.

Then you’re in touch and engaging people on a regular basis.   By doing it with video online all of a sudden the reach of your ministry is magnified by magnitudes.  Each one may be shared via your website, blogs, email, Facebook and Twitter.

Video Content

Here are some ideas for things that you can share through video.  Remember, we’re talking short video messages!

  • A short welcome from your minister
  • Answer a common question people have about the congregations
  • Introduce people to a staff member or key lay leader
  • Interview a member or friend sharing how they came to be a member
  • Highlight a big coming event inviting people to attend
  • Have the minister talk about a coming service
  • Share your mission
  • Share you vision
  • Explain why membership matters
  • Tell people about the RE program
  • Have the Youth Group explain what they do
  • Explain small group ministry / covenant groups
  • Have someone film from a passenger seat as someone else drives around explaining where to park
  • Interview elders about the history of the church – just one story per video
  • Explain what’s happening with your search process
  • Tell people to bring a flower to the Flower Communion service

Perhaps you’ve noticed that this is really more of a video blog format than a polished video production approach.  Yes. Exactly.

If you get more people involved through a media team, you could have one volunteer record a testimonial per week.

Now I should say here that I do like more polished, professional and expensive videos.  I work in media professionally both within our movement and beyond including work on a variety of nationally syndicated shows.  I love beautifully made video.   But regular, sold, engaging video can be just as effective.  Therefore I suggest you start there.

I love this video of Fred, the music director at my home church. I was there one day with a camera and we asked him if he’d give me a tour of the organ.  No rehearsal. Hardly any editing.

When in doubt, Flip

Another part of developing your in-house video production capacity is having a camera.  I have a simple approach.  If you don’t have a camera yet or don’t know which camera to invest in, just buy a Flip.  Think of it as your video training wheels.  You can play, learn and then know what you want when its upgrade time.

Don’t let the camera be a barrier. Ready to go shopping? (Affiliate link)  Not only are they affordable, you can carry them around all the time.  The more you shoot, the easier it gets.

Media Teams

If you are going to produce videos on a regular basis it does help to develop a media team.  If you’re a tech oriented minister with the time and interest to work alone, fine.  But remember that there are media-tech oriented people out there who are looking for ways to get involved.

Given the prevalence of media in our world chances are you have members and friends with cameras, editing software, know-how and the desire to help you produce videos.  This is especially true if you keep it simple.  You might not know them, but they are there.

That is, unless you’ve systematically driven them out of your congregation with a low-tech inward focused ministry.  That does happen.  Ah, that is a point worth highlighting.  If you’re the minister of a congregation, don’t be the one holding up the media production, outreach process and movement into the 21st century.

If you are in my neighborhood — I’m Boston based — you can invite me to lead a service or program on a media / outreach theme.  Besides getting people excited, we can identify volunteers, talent and offer training to make your media dreams come true.  That’s part of my growth and media ministry, building capacity.

Not local?  I’m talking to ministers and lay leaders across the country using the free video conferencing service SKYPE as well as the telephone (rates for me and the phone may apply).

Filming Sermons

I personally think filming sermons is overrated.   You get more bang for your buck – or volunteer hour – focusing on audio sermons delivered as a podcast.  Don’t let the equipment and skill needed to video tape sermons well keep you away from video.  You can play with that later.

Questions: After you read this, let me know what questions you have and I’ll do by best to address in follow up posts.

3 thoughts on “How to get UNSTUCK and start making church videos FAST!

  1. You write: “I personally think filming sermons is overrated. ”

    Peter, thank you for saying this. I *love* watching online videos, and spend way too much of my time doing just that. But I never watch more than a few seconds of an online sermon — it’s just too painful — the pacing is way too slow for online video — and the videography usually sucks (I think you need two to three cameras to do excellent online sermons: two different viewpoints on the preacher, and one for audience reactions).

    But I do watch short snappy videos of the kind you describe. Like the organ tour above — brilliant!

  2. Peter, great blog topic. You’ve outlined what it takes to get started.

    I’ll be quoting you to ministers in our area as we teach a hands on video production class that’s taught in non-technical language. We love sharing our knowledge with ministers. We try to bring up the production values to a fairly high level using a Flip style HD camcorder.

    Hope you don’t mind that I’ll be quoting your blog.

    All the best,

    Yvonne Charneskey
    (former UU Office Administrator at the Unitiarian Universalist of Clearwater)

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