It’s crazy how much media and communications has changed recent times. 15 years ago I was at university and got to use a broadcast quality video camera worth £30,000. It recorded PAL video in standard definition; an image resolution which is now 20 times smaller than the 4K video on my small-body mirrorless camera. There was no mainstream social media, most people still had dial-up internet, YouTube hadn’t been invented and streaming media was in it’s infancy.
Today, everything’s different. Streaming video is part of our everyday lives. It’s easy to create, affordable, and can be shared worldwide in seconds. With 4G and wi-fi you can broadcast right into the pocket of your target audience, wherever they may be.
As a church our one great mission has a lot to do with good communication, and video can be incredibly rich and immersive. It can be a resource, it can be emotional, it can be used to inspire, to train, to inform, to educate. It can be used in preaching, it can be used to document and it can be used for fun.
So there’s no surprise that as a church, we’re interested. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. One filter you have to run every project through is its ‘return on investment’. Or, put simply, ‘is it worth it?’.
Video production, while a powerful medium, is also incredibly time consuming. It’s by far the most time consuming type of work I undertake. Other creative projects can be relatively quick and easy. Producing compelling video projects is never those things.
So resources are limited. You have to map out your timeline, as far as you can, and ask ‘how can we create the biggest bang in the time that we’ve got?’.
Having said that, there are some easy wins. Below are examples of the different ways that we’ve been experimenting and using videos at Kings (including some fails!) accompanied with some notes on each.
Whether you’re embarking on a gift day, a new project or venture, video can be a really useful tool. If your church expands to multiple meetings and venues, it suddenly becomes quite difficult to impart the same vision to whole church at the same time. You can only be in one place at a time, and even if you can be at all your meetings, you can count on a third of the church being absent on any given week.
Video allows you to carefully craft out your vision, to be concise and share the exact same message at all your venues. You can repeat over several weeks and post online for people to rewatch or catch up. It also allows people outside your church to look in, to see what’s important, what values you hold and where your church is heading.
It’s naturally more beneficial the bigger and more complex your church becomes. But even if you’re small you don’t have to create a Hollywood production to communicate well, or for people to know you care. A good script and good clean audio are two key components to a well executed video.
Simply telling what God has done in people’s lives. We capture an interview and cut down to a concise edit, using b-roll to mask any jump cuts. To date we’ve used a ‘run and gun’ style — most of our videos are shot and edited in two days, but some have taken longer.
We typically create two versions: one without music, which can be played over an instrumental section during our worship times; and one with music which is shared online.
The use of video means we can share stories in all our venues at the same time. Posting online is a way of sharing the gospel, enabling a sort of ‘one-click’ evangelism amongst your church. The stories all point to Jesus, and can function with a call-to-action for Alpha, Freedom or other ministries. They can also sit on our website for years, compiling a type of ‘evidence’ in our Exploring Christianity section.
Theology in Film
This video illustrates how the symbolism of marriage reflects the Christian gospel. We produced this to show at the beginning of all our wedding ceremonies at Kings to illustrate how marriage points to something so much bigger. In the words of Andrew Wilson “it packs a substantial theological punch, on an important and often controversial issue, in a very short space of time.”
Sometimes video should be emotional. It should inspire. It should educate and engage with hot topics. And all in a way that’s very carefully scripted and thought out. We hope this video can be used in lots of different contexts and used to resource the wider church.
Q&A Resource Videos
For our Big Objections teaching series we asked our local community about their doubts, objections and criticisms of Christianity. We stressed that no subject was off-limits or too honest.
As well as seven main talks we produced a series of short Q&A videos answering objections such as “Why is the church so against same sex relationships?” and “Christianity is unscientific”. Some of them have had thousands of views and continues to be a really useful resource on our website. Granted, it helps when you have someone who’s very gifted in apologetics! In that sense the videography projects you create definitely centre around the strengths of your team.
One criteria we generally think about when planning video projects is shelf-life. Some projects are very time specific, and may only get played once or twice before becoming redundant. If a project can take on a life of it’s own and exist online for years, it’s generally much more worthwhile.
Running multiple venues has it’s challenges. We stagger our meetings and preaching schedule so that the same preacher can deliver their talk at each, but sometimes it’s still not possible.
Most people don’t like the idea of pre-recorded teaching. But in practice it can work very well. It’s a different dynamic, and the key is to maximise the advantages on offer to compensate.
Video teaching gives you the opportunity to be slick with the graphics, to shoot a clean shot and edit in all your slides and videos clips in advance. So punctuating your talk with these (more so that you usually would) creates a more engaging experience.
One of the interesting effects at our venues is that because we have large HD projectors (which naturally become the main focus in a video preach), the speaker appears much bigger than they would on stage. With the talk delivered straight down the lens, the eye-contact and body language is much more apparent, and they appear to have much more ‘presence’ in the room. Even though they’re not there. (Crazy!)
60 Second Intro
The home page on our website is totally geared towards the first time visitor. Everyone else knows where to find what they’re after. Our Kings in 60 seconds video is embedded here and designed to provide a window in on the church. On average people won’t spend more than two minutes on your website, so this video is designed to be super-concise and fit into this time frame. It also makes a great advert as a boosted post on Facebook and Instagram.
A really easy resource to create (in terms of technical requirements) are daily devotionals presented to video. With video you have to remember that audio is half the experience. Great visuals with terrible audio will always have disappointing results. But basic video with good audio can still work well.
We use a Rhode SmartLav mic (very affordable) which simply plugs into your iPhone and records a focused vocal track when filming. There’s usually no post production on our daily devotions. As long as the content and delivery is good, your video will be as well.
Another easy win. Again, shot on iPhones with the Rhode SmartLav mic, we left it to our Kids team to interview the children and then I edited the footage to music. A lot of fun (kids can be hilarious), and a great way to celebrate Mother’s Day with a home grown video. Great content for social media, naturally getting a lot of shares and hopefully gaining exposure to friends-of-friends.
Strand of Gold has become our flagship Christmas event that’s big on production and fantastic to invite friends to. The promo became a great tool for inviting friends and members from our church shared it on Facebook a few hundred times (a lot for us!). Followed up by a highlights video (below) which also gained traction online. The hope — that SoG will be the first link in the chain, seeing people follow on to Alpha or come back to church in following weeks. We usually have our building packed out over four performances, and it’s always amazing to hear all the feedback from the visitors that came.
When DSLR videography is not an option, or you’re looking to produce something quick, stories shot on smartphones and tablets can still be great. The story is always more important than the production. Get a good clean recording of a voice over and you’re away.
Most churches do an audio podcast, which is super-easy and low maintenance. If you’ve got the capacity to do it, video teaching can also be of real value. A preacher naturally communicates so much more through their hand-gestures and body language. Video also allows you to include your PowerPoint slides, on-stage illustrations and other any other media you might use. All of these work to create a richer experience.
I’ve read blogs which say you do this effectively you need to spend thousands of pounds on multiple cameras, rigs, lighting, vision mixers and such to do a good job. I disagree. They definitely add value, but unless you’re trying to do the God Channel thing, one camera is fine and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. We recently bought the Canon XA30 which is perfect. Not mind-blowing quality, but great for simple video podcasting.
Everyone loves the baptism events. The stories are often very moving and it’s a great celebration. If you can get the video footage online quickly (with permissions granted), they can get shared around a lot. They can offer a great glimpse into the life of the church and how God transforms peoples lives. But wait a few days and the buzz dies down. They just don’t fly quite as far, so good to get them up while it’s hot.
We often use drama at our Christmas events. Both live on stage but often through video as well. The video above opened the show at one of our Strand of Gold productions. The narrative then carried through to live drama on stage. One thing to think about: if the narrative of the video is integrated into a larger production, it naturally only works at that event. But if you create a standalone drama, it can serve you for years to come. Not just online, but at various other events. Below is a great example of a comedy sketch that we’ve used time and again over the last nine years:
My kids absolutely love this video. They’re two and four years old and have spent hours dancing round our living room to this song. Produced in large part by our worship leader Pete James, God Suit On is a free resource, a great giveaway, and is just one of those extra resources that helps reflects the heart of our church for kids.
Off the Cuff
Sometimes all you have to do is get your iPhone out. This is the LIV Choir busking in Eastbourne town centre the day before performing at Kings. Quite unexpectedly it became very popular, and got hundreds of shares and currently has over 34,000 views. By far the most viewed video we’ve ever created. Why is that useful?
Obviously stats don’t automatically equal success, but at a basic level they indicate 166,000 people had some kind of impression of Kings Church. Hopefully a few more people now know we exist, have had some kind of connection with church and, if they wanted, could follow the link through and find out all about Jesus on our website.
We haven’t had that many fails, but I will mention one: video notices. Why? Although our experiments came out great and were lots of fun, they took way too long to produce. Like 5 to 6 hours. For something that gets played once and then thrown away, it’s not really worth it. In addition, the person leading the meeting would get on stage after the video and pretty much repeat the entire set of notices (error!). It’s good to experiment, but it’s always good to realise that video isn’t the answer to everything, and some things are much better live.