How (and Why) to Make Low-Budget Video for Your Church

May 3, 2021

When Jesus commanded us to “go,” he qualified that our destination is a world filled with people so we can preach and live out his good news. Our target and destination is a world where we meet and connect with people. To follow and obey him means we must be where people are, not where they aren’t. There is no following Jesus if we’re talking to an empty room or one that’s falling asleep.

While we pray and plead with God to open doors and hearts, to be obedient and faithful to Jesus we have to be with and get in front of people. And while there is a place for traditional communication, the absolute best means in today’s world is video.

I could bore you with reams of statistics about video versus audio or text. There are countless studies about the “sticky” nature of video in comparison to other digital and traditional media. But the simple truth is that video can be an incredible tool for communicating within your church/ministry, reaching many for Christ. Yes, I agree with you that there are numerous people on cable/satellite that I really wish would go back to whatever “mother ship” from which they descended. But you and I can be a real local and global force for the gospel, if we’re willing to readjust our priorities.

Now, before you delete this article or send vituperous comments that scream chapter and verse why you and your ministry can’t create videos, I ask that you hang in there with me for a few minutes, because I understand. I know that you are thinking about your already stretched resources and schedules, and how you are not a megachurch with a professional production staff.

I get it, believe me, I get it. I’m a one-man organization with all the time and financial constraints imaginable. I have no special talent or education to propel me into making video, yet I am able to create multiple short videos every week for one reason, and one reason only.

I am not committed to a method, but I am wildly committed when it comes to the message. When it comes to the significance and implications of Jesus as God, encouraging people to participate and grow spiritually, I’m all in. I am willing to abandon my own preferences and patterns in order to reach as many as possible. I would be willing to send out engraved pop-tarts if people would read and respond to them instead of eating them. So, it’s not all about me, it’s all about them; communicating and connecting with people. And because of that commitment, I am willing to make choices and changes to my schedule, priorities and use of dollars.

Here are the steps you need to take.

Be yourself — Don’t try to act or sound professional (whatever that means). Relax and just be you … warts and all … cracks and all. For me, it’s creating a personal, safe setting, just like we are sitting together in your living room.

Start small — Do not assemble a committee, or draft a video mission’s statement or budget proposal. Don’t go out and purchase any hardware or software unless absolutely necessary. If you have a fairly recent PC, laptop or smart phone, you probably already have everything you need to get started — web cam, microphone and speakers. If you don’t have these pieces, then go to your local Walmart or RadioShack and pick up the cheapest ones you can find. 

Recent PC’s come with Movie Maker, which is sort of word processing for video. If you have an Apple product, you have everything you need.

Start short — Don’t try to make an epic miniseries or musical, make something very short. And I really emphasize short — 30 seconds is enough. Be creative and think of something different, outside the box.

Replace — This is the most difficult and challenging point. Too many times, we get all excited and “add” something new to the ministry or communication, but we do not get rid of anything. Since we are only adding new things (and not eliminating any existing effort or work), schedules and people get overwhelmed. Use video to replace something that already exists.

Example — Christmas Cards

Yes, I decided to quickly create short, personal video Christmas cards instead of writing and mailing the paper versions. Did you notice the word “personal”? No emailing a single carbon copy to everyone or using one of those eCard services (just about everyone I know, including yours truly, just hits the delete key or drops them in the trash.) I just turned on the camera, spoke from my heart while recording, and emailed them individually. It wound up being a “digital” version of a traditional Christmas card. Each one was about 30 seconds in length and had all the charm of an old-fashioned Christmas card. No “Wite-Out” or trying to make a perfect card. Once I started recording, even if I made a mistake, I kept on going. Once I got the hang of it, it actually took less time than writing, addressing and mailing a traditional card.

I sent out 42 personalized Christmas video cards! It was energizing, fun and was also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. The reaction by Christians and non-Christians friends alike was one of being stunned and was overwhelmingly positive. No one had ever received a video Christmas card, and the personalized version just blew them away. I got numerous thank you calls and notes in response (I can’t remember the last time that someone called to thank me for a Christmas card). Even my Buddhist and Hindu friends all reached out and thanked me.

Example — New Christian Education Class

Every so often, I get the honor and privilege of teaching at our church. After conferring on the standard logistics (key truths, title, duration, passages, etc.), I suggested a short video announcing the class where we could insert the link in the web site, weekly newsletter, Facebook and other social media.

Over the next two hours, I thought through and wrote what I wanted to say, shot the video, created the slides, merged it all together and published it on the Internet.

I’m certain your initial reaction is that this video announcement is not ready for prime time or network news. It’s not supposed to. It is not perfect, but it’s good enough. I sent the video to a few trusted friends that speak truth into my life — they have my permission to say the good, the bad and the ugly. They all commented that the video looked and sounded just like me. And that’s the best possible feedback. Be yourself, who God has made you to be.

As you can see, I love to use movie and news clips. They are available all over the Internet, and easily inserted into sermon messages, slides and other media. They help people understand what you are talking about, and immediately build bridges to your audience.

A large part of my ability to publish this so rapidly is because I’ve been practicing for the past year. Without practice or repetition, we learn precious little in life or ministry. Preaching a sermon, leading a ministry or teaching rarely comes by default — it takes time, practice and even failure. Through this practice I’ve created video “templates” that I reuse. A video template is similar to your church bulletin: It’s a way to create videos that have a standard flow and certain things go in standard places.

Another key ingredient to using video is that distribution is free! You put them on YouTube and people literally around the world can get them. Your people and staff can easily point people to them, sharing the video with friends, neighbors and family.

There will be naysayers in abundance. But I really encourage you to try it out. You never know who God may reach through your video.  

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