Let’s be real. Seminary didn’t teach us how to speak in front of a camera or to learn the art of creating video content.
One of my favorite things to do is preach God’s Word. I love to preach God’s Word because I know that every time His Word goes out, it always accomplishes what God wants it to accomplish. (See Isaiah 55:11)
I’ve had the privilege to preach in many different church settings. I believe we may be on the cusp of the single greatest shift in preaching over the course of the last century. Preaching has been primarily done in the past from a stage to an audience. With the online revolution of the past couple of decades, an incredible opportunity now exists to remove yourself from the stage and record sermons and messages onsite at different locations.
In the past, when wanting to bring in a visual to make a point, pastors would bring a prop onto the stage. Now, the preacher can physically put himself/herself on location to help bring the point home. I would argue this can be that much more powerful. If you are preaching about fishing for men, what would it look like to film your sermon on a boat or even in a fish market?
I’ve been very successful in creating video content at different locations to help people grow as disciples of Jesus. Right now, I am fresh in the middle of doing another round of 5 new videos around a new small group series that will be ready in January 2021 called Reopening Christianity: 5 Questions Every Christian Must Answer. To join the wait list for this series, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In light of what I have learned and am presently learning, here are 5 tips to help pastors who are interested in creating content that’s not filmed on a stage.
Think Shorter (Not Easier)
In general, when delivering a sermon from a stage, it wasn’t uncommon for me to produce 30-40-minute sermons. When I’m creating video content, I shoot for no more than 10 minutes. Rather than 4500-5000 word counts, I strive to be in the 1200-1800 range. Just because it’s only 20-30% of the time and content doesn’t make the overall process any easier. In fact, I would say the total time investment for me in creating a quality 8-10-minute video is equal to, or slightly more, than a 30-40-minute message from a stage. The reason it takes longer is because filming a video requires more collaboration, more people, more schedules, time constraints, logistics, etc. (as evidenced in the following tips). Also, for me personally, it’s easier to throw words into a manuscript often times than to cut words from a manuscript.
When I was in my regular rhythms of preaching from a stage every Sunday, my rhythm would be to do the lion’s share of the work on only one message each week. I’d likely have a general idea and a series synopsis written out, but in creating video content, I find it helpful to plan out even further ahead.
When we do the majority of the work for a series up front, I believe it offers a better chance for each message to build momentum from the last one. When we are preaching week-to-week the messages can sometimes feel disjointed. Because of the amount of people involved, the logistics of pulling everything together, the post-filming editing, etc., I have found it wise to write the video scripts not for a single message at a time, but an entire series.
Unless intentional steps or rhythms are taken, most times when a Sunday sermon is preached on stage, it is the very first time anyone else besides the preacher has heard the material.
When creating video content at different locations, I have found it wise to bring in a team of people to help collaborate in crafting the message. It’s one thing to have an idea for a message, it’s another to match the theme of the message to a powerful visual. In my process, I’ll come up with the original vision and theme, but bring in a couple other strong visionaries to solidify or strengthen the vision.
Creating new, fresh, creative visual content is not simple, and can often feel overwhelming. At times I am overwhelmed, I have found that bringing in a couple of people to help me brainstorm my ideas has given me the energy or endurance I needed.
As you collaborate, it’s also very wise to ensure that your video team, whether that is one person or a group of people is comfortable with your arrangements and able to speak into your vision.
Have a Backup and Another Backup and Another Backup
I have found the single most difficult part of creating video content is not in coming up with the actual content, but the logistics behind scheduling the shots. There are budget constraints, time constraints (especially if bringing in public places/facilities), people constraints, audio and visual constraints, weather constraints, etc.
It may be that you have a great idea paired with a great visual but often times it won’t work. I’ve had a few really good ideas that just didn’t pan out. One time I wanted to do something that I thought would cost about $100-$200 total and found out it would cost $15,000 to pull off. As good as my idea was, it wasn’t $15000 good!
Currently, I’m trying to film a video that talks about how important each person in the church is. To be the greatest and fullest expression of who Jesus has called us to be requires every person. Using the analogy from the Apostle Paul of the importance of each body part, my team had the brilliant idea to do this video shoot in a production facility with a working assembly line. There we would highlight how each person plays a role in the beautiful finished product. What was even better was we had a strong connection and relationship with a person there. It was a shoe-in. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 and some pre-existing conditions of the owner, we could not find a way to make it work.
Onto the second idea. Now we are hoping to pivot to a local coffeeshop and talk about the process of how many people, pieces, and parts go into making one single beautiful cup of coffee.
It is important when thinking of a visual that will connect with your church that you not only have one idea, but I would suggest 2-3 alternatives as well. Just because an idea didn’t work out this time doesn’t mean you couldn’t use it in the future in a different way.
Look for Holy Spirit Moments
One of the blessings of creating video content at different locations is the unique bonding experiences you get to have not only with your team, but those you meet along the way. Our ideas have led to some pretty crazy interactions with people that we otherwise never would have had.
In my task-oriented mindset, especially when it comes to getting things scheduled, I can often times miss the fact that the Holy Spirit is actively at work. Not only will a well-produced quality video produce an opportunity for God to move in someone’s life, but there are opportunities along the way that God can use as well.
Just today, as I was looking to schedule a shot at a local bee farm, I cold-called the farmer and started telling him my video idea. Not only were they open to me coming (Yay!) and excited to help in any way, but we struck a good conversation and he opened up about how he had left the church. He started asking questions about our church and I got to invite him to check out our website. Pretty cool!
As we are filming this new content in creative new ways, let us never forget that we are the lights in this world. I believe that with the technological advances we are seeing today, there may be no greater opportunity to shine the light of Christ brighter than we can right now through engaging video. Go, shine your light.
It’s not easy to create new engaging video content. It is a lot of hard work but work that has a great payoff. In addition to creating new content, there’s also value in curating engaging video content as well. An incredible ministry that has curated tons of video content is RightNow Media. You can learn about them here.
Our team at Red Letter Challenge has created two very powerful church-wide challenges that come with small group videos already done for you. Both of these small group studies are not only featured on RightNow Media, but included for FREE in our 40-day challenges. The start of a calendar year is a great time for a church-wide study that is done for you. You can check out Red Letter Challenge here and Being Challenge here.
So, pastor, I challenge you. Give it a shot. Film a message, sermon, or content to help your people and see how God uses His word to accomplish His will!