Remember the good ol' days of overhead projectors in church?
By "good ol' days" I really mean, remember how awesome it used to be when churches printed lyrics on transparency sheets and an old lady would sit there and flip through the pages during the songs? Good stuff.
Of course things are so much better today right? Didn't things get way better when video projectors became a thing? To me, they actually got worse. Churches started making their own videos, and the surplus of horrid, cheese filled, embarrassingly lame church videos came in groves.
We'd like to think that we've come a long way from those dark early days of church video... but I sadly don't think that's the case. While the churches I've worked at and with over the years did have huge budgets and staff, just for creating videos... the cheese in most cases still ran thick and heavy, like a block of Velveeta left in the sun to long.
Here are, in my opinion, the 3 mistakes every church makes with their videos.
1. Making videos for the people inside the church
Maybe that sounds stupid, or doesn't make sense, but to me this is number 1 mistake churches make. I don't get it. Video is one of the most effective broad communication tools we have available to us today.
I work with a ton of start-ups, and they all pay small fortunes for crowd funding videos. Small businesses invest a ton in videos for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube channels and to get content on content delivery channels like Netflix and Hulu.
Video is emotional, intimate, engaging, and compelling. Never has it been so easy to reach and touch so many people in such a powerful way. Social media and the speed of the internet today has made video THE vehicle used to reach the world with your message... that is until you get to the church.
The church does the opposite.
The church creates videos primarily for the small group of people (small in comparison to the billions online) who meet inside it's walls.
They rarely think about, or put any real effort into creating content specifically for the very people they are trying to reach, those billions who are outside it's walls. This makes no sense to me. Video gives you a way into peoples lives, (if done correctly), in a way that few other vehicles offer, including your church service in many cases... "whoa, take it easy on that high horse there said you to me." You're probably right.
You may be thinking at this point, we're way ahead of you, we put all our videos online (on our website, booooo). We even have a YouTube channel, (that we use only to host the videos we put on our website, double boooo). That's so lame. And don't get me started on your "online service" if you have one. Sorry, but those are such a lame, poor attempts at being "online" and "digital".
What I'm talking about is actually putting real effort and resources and time into creating killer, specific online video content.
A Facebook video ad campaign to start. Side note, don't do this with someone who doesn't have experience in this area by the way, you'll waist your money. Maybe (God forbid) a real effort at a YouTube channel that isn't filled with your Pastors sermons (don't get me started on that), but rather a well conceived, well produced, high priority show that has a purpose, and intent on reaching a specific person.
How about a real documentary? A web series? A short film that isn't just a sermon in disguise? How about real resources that could help people, even people who may never go to, or never support your church financially... too far? I think not. What about reaching people in a new way. It's risky, it could mean that it might be successful, it could mean that the Pastor and his sermon from the stage is center stage... Ok, too far that time.
I could go on this rant for hours, but I'll spare you and try to wrap this up with only 12 more long ranty paragraphs... not really, sorry, I'm passionate about this. I'll end with this:
To me, spending resources (time, people, money) on media that does little more then add sparkles and sprinkles to an event you’ve already attracted people to (like a weekend service), is stupid, and an utter waist.
Of course, there are valid arguments to make for why these elements exist, you may be thinking of a few right now… I just think most of them are wrong (which is super arrogant of me to say), but it’s my rant, you can write your own. Or you can digitally punch me in the face below in the comments. Either way, using video to reach the few people inside your church walls, and mostly ignoring the full potential video has on reaching people outside of it, drives me batty.
We need a total overhaul of the video (and probably media resources in general) in churches.
2. Being a a 1 trick pony.
I've worked on staff at, and freelanced for a lot of churches over the years doing video work. One thing I've found to be true of them all, regardless of their size, is that they each lean super heavily toward one type of video.
There's not much (if any) variety. If you looked at all the videos they produced in a year, you'd find that 80, or even 90% of them would fall into one of these categories.
The testimonial video. This is the video where you get a church goer to sit in a seat and tell a story that goes great with the pastors message (ugg) I've made so many of these. Don't get me wrong, they're fine, sometimes even great, but in most cases they are also fake. As an editor of 100s of these, I know that in the end, you just make the video say what the pastor wants it to say, regardless of how the person actually told the story, or what the facts really were. In the end,
it's Reality TV editing to make the video relate to the topic being taught.
It's not fraudulent, at least not every time :) but good editors know they can make the story say almost anything, and that's what tends to happen.
The promo/recap video. This is the type of video that promotes event's coming up, then highlights the event after it happens to say "look what you missed" or, "look what we did", or, "don't miss this next year". I was at a churches once that had so many promos and recaps, the hole service felt like a commercial.
The "funny" video. This might be one of the worse to get caught up in. Sure, sometimes a church video is actually slightly funny.
There are many more, but you get the idea. The real probably here is that churches don't like change. They may say they do, they may even make some changes (so long as they're in the comfort zone of the decision makers) but I've found that when it comes to an area the decisions makers don't know much about, like video, they prefer to keep things the way they've been. It's worked, or at least no one has complained, so lets not change that... besides, video isn't a real ministry anyway, it's just a support tool for the real ministry event... the weekend service.