A few months ago a friend of mine asked on Facebook, “Where do conversations happen? Where are people thinking and sharing ideas?” I saw the irony immediately. He used Facebook because he knew people would think about his question and share their ideas. I pointed it out to him. We laughed. It was a good time. 

There are groups of people who think the internet is a passing fad, and that social media is just for those generations who never learned to write in cursive, don’t know what a rotary phone is, and never lived in a world without Google. We love them, but disagree wholeheartedly; and the numbers agree that the internet and social media are here to stay. There are 7.4 billion people on this planet, and 3.5 billion use the internet. To make this a bit more relevant, of the 324 million in America, there are 286 million internet users. That’s 88% percent. Let that simmer for a second: 88% of the American population uses the internet. 

This is the biggest communication shift since the Gutenberg Press and the Reformation. The world hasn’t been the same since, and the world won’t be the same after the internet, social media, and the shifts in culture they’re causing.

The World Wide Web is a big place, and people are spending a lot of time exploring it. Sites like Facebook and Youtube are favorites for users and analysts alike; they are sources for entertainment and connection but also for excellent information on how people are using these new technologies. Here are two big numbers that might boggle your mind: Facebook reports that 100 million hours of video are watched daily on Facebook. The second statistic, given by Youtube in the last days of February 2017, is that their users consume 1 billion hours of video a day. 

Other video stats:

It’s clear that lifetimes of video are being watched a day (80 years = 700,800 hours), but statistics like these are just numbers if we can’t learn from them. Here’s the takeaway from this data: people like video. The world wants video. Here’s how churches can capitalize: create video. It’s a pretty simple action item. The difficult part is deciding what to fill the video with – because video is just a vehicle for valuable content. 

What Makes Good Video

There’s a clear difference between good video and bad video, and you’ve seen it. Sometimes the video drags on forever, and the information you were promised isn’t clear. Others are awkward or gimmicky, and not in a funny way. Unfortunately, some, otherwise good scripting and presentation, can be ruined by poor audio or video quality. Maybe the worst kind of video is just irrelevant; it’s information doesn’t answer your questions at all. 

So what makes good video? Good stories do. Life makes good video. I love watching cats being scared by cucumbers – it’s oddly entertaining – but the Church has a better story to tell than sneaky vegetables. The first element of engaging video is to have a clear story to tell. Flash back to middle school when your grammar teacher told you that every paragraph had a topic sentence. Let me channel my inner educator: every video must have a clear direction. The thesis statement drives the story forward and makes sense of how it unfolds, and lets the audience know why you’re telling it. 

Maybe the worst kind of video is just irrelevant; it’s information doesn’t answer your questions at all. 

The second element of captivating video is timeliness. If you need a coat, buy it in the spring. Why? It’s on sale. Retailers are clearing their racks for shorts, swim suits, and kayaks; they don’t need coats taking up space, so they sell them for pennies on the dollar. That’s completely different than how movies are handled. The “teaser” has become infamous in the last few years. It’s a brief clip of a movie, or just a brief scene written just for advertising, shown months before the film is available or in theaters. Teasers build excitement for a movie, but coats on sale tell everyone the season is over, and it’s time to move on. Which should your video embody? Excitement or irrelevance? In the same way a video needs to be planned, it’s delivery should be planned as well. This helps capitalize on the audience’s receptiveness and builds momentum for the new season of ministry, the event, or financial campaign. 

A subset of timeliness is placement, where we publish videos and get it onto the screens of our audience. Social media has become an excellent platform for sharing content, and social media marketing is a $31 billion dollar business. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube are great places for your video, but they’re not the only places, nor are they necessarily ideal in every situation. Here’s the secret for video placement, the number one best position for your content: where people need it. 

Who needs to hear your story? Okay, those people, where are they? An invite to your church isn’t best placed in your newsletter. Why? The group receiving it already goes to your church. A video talking about leadership development for your church doesn’t need Facebook advertising. Why? The Buddhist down the street doesn’t need to come learn about how to lead in your congregation. 

If we have a great story, we need to make sure the people who it’s tailored for hear it. A welcome video belongs on your home page. Your youth camp highlights should go on Instagram or Snapchat. Family event promotions go on Facebook. These aren’t hard and fast lines, but each channel needs content that is uniquely formatted. In this case, the medium doesn’t change the message itself but how it’s communicated and formatted. 

The last element of effective video is that it’s skillfully crafted. The art of telling the story and strategy of placing it when and where it will be most effective have been covered; the final piece is to ensure that the audio and video quality are on par with expectations. When the technical parts are done well, no one notices – and that’s the point. The viewer shouldn’t be left wondering what’s going on because the subject wasn’t in the frame, or have their speakers blown out because sound levels were way too high for the video. 

There’s a class from a seminary on iTunes U that I won’t listen to because the audio quality is terrible; I’m sure the content is great, but the scratchy audio is too much to handle, especially for a whole semester’s worth of lectures. When technical aspects aren’t done well, they will hinder the story from going forward. Not only will it stop individuals from watching the video, but it can also put your brand, your church, in a negative light, and they’ll be less likely to watch future content from you. 

When the technical parts of video are done well, no one notices – and that’s the point.

Engaging video content has three elements: it has a compelling story, it’s timely in delivery, and is skillfully crafted. When these three come together, you can create value for your audience and begin conversations that lead to relationships. So, there are billions of video views daily, and we know what makes video effective, but what kind of stories can we tell through video?

Stories Worth Telling

Sixteen Forty Six’s mission is to amplify what is unique to Christ and unique to the local church. We wholeheartedly believe that whatever is celebrated in an organization gets replicated. You’ve probably seen this among church staff, in small group settings, or even in siblings. Being excited about something helps others be excited about it, especially if you have formal leadership influence. So here are two questions to ask that will help you find a story to tell:

  1. What am I excited about? (Or what is the Session/staff excited about?)
  2. Should other people be excited too?

If your church is about to begin a push for small groups, leadership development, or serving, those are great things to get fired up about! How can you capture people’s imaginations and affections for those things? Tell a story. Grab someone who has been through the program or has been serving to tell about their experiences and how they’ve been impacted. 

Some churches go through months of behind-the-scenes conversations about what God is calling them to as a congregation. How can leadership get the congregation on board? Tell a story. Talk about all the great things that the church can be involved in and doing for one another and their community. Cast vision for parents and families learning the catechisms and paint a picture of what covenant life looks like. One of the quotes that impacts me as a communicator and as a leader is this, “If you wish to build a ship, do not divide the men into teams and send them to the forest to cut wood. Instead, teach them to long for the vast and endless sea.”

The emphasis should be on inspiring people to get involved or to ask for more information. One of the worst things you can do is create a video, get someone in front of it, then bore them with information. Information is absolutely necessary, but we should always ask what’s most necessary and what’s most engaging. The perfect video script falls within those parameters. 

“If you wish to build a ship, do not divide the men into teams and send them to the forest to cut wood. Instead, teach them to long for the vast and endless sea.”

Now that we’ve covered some broad reaching internet and video stats, talked about what makes good video, and what stories are worth telling, here’s what you should do: sit down for 15 minutes and write down the awesome things God has done in your congregation. Some are about salvations, other are healed marriages, and still others about maturity and ministry passions ignited. Each of these are great stories and would make great video content that point people to the Savior. 

Here’s a closing list of ideas for video content:

  • Ministry and testimony videos 
  • A welcome video for your website’s homepage
  • A promo video for an event, like a camp or marriage retreat
  • A Q&A series covering popular questions
  • Sermon introductions
  • Weekly video announcements 
  • A video series explaining your church’s mission, vision, and core values

What are other ways you want to use video for your church?

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