Just a few years ago, there was very little video on the web. The majority of Internet users still used slow dial-up connections which made it painfully slow to download video. Most web hosting accounts included so little disk space that a couple minute video would fill up the entire account. It was just impractical to put video on a website. But all that has changed.
More than 70% of people in first-world countries have broadband Internet access. Disk space allocations in web hosting accounts have expanded from megs to gigs. With the explosion of video-sharing sites like YouTube, online video has gone from the techno-geek fringes to the mainstream.
We now live in a very video-oriented, media world. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. Online video helps to engage and connect with visitors on a personal level. And yet very few churches have added any video at all to their websites. That’s why we’re doing Video Month at OurChurch.Com, and why I want to talk about three videos every church website should have.
1) A Brief Introduction
Every church ought to have a brief video introducing the visitor to the church. The primary purpose of the video is to connect with the visitor on an emotional level, to demonstrate that your church cares about people like them and they would be warmly accepted if they crossed your threshold on a Sunday. It should not be primarily informational. Informational details about theology, church history, driving directions, service times, etc should already be in the text web pages.
The video should feature and be narrated by the senior pastor, because he or she is the face of the church. The video should give a brief overview of the vision and values of the church. It should mention what the church considers to be it’s most important ministries, cutting away to images of children’s ministry, Sunday services, people feeding the needy, or whatever is at the core of who you are as a church. It should be warm, and conclude with an invitation to the viewer to join you for a Sunday service.
There are lots of pitfalls to avoid when making this video. I’ll list some of the most important ones.
- Don’t make it too long. A minute is ideal.
- Don’t try to make every ministry in the church happy by turning into a laundry list of activities.
- Don’t get into details about theology and church history.
- Don’t use Christian terms that unchurched people can’t identify with.
- Don’t settle for poor quality. Make sure the lighting, audio, narration, editing and so on are good. Better to have no video than a bad one.
2) A Glimpse Inside a Service
People will feel much more comfortable attending a service in person if they know what to expect, and there’s no better way to help them know what to expect than by providing a video on your church website for them to see. The majority of visitors, though, probably won’t watch an entire service. So, I recommend putting two service videos on church websites – one a full service and a second video which is edited down to 3-5 minutes.
3) Personal Stories
People who are genuinely seeking God are looking a God who truly makes a difference in people’s lives. They are not satisfied with the way their lives are now and are hoping to find a God and a church that can help change that. If God is at work in your church, you should have no shortage of personal stories of people whose lives have been transformed by the power of God. Video tape some of these people telling their stories and put them on your church website (with their permission, of course).
Not only do videos of people’s personal stories indicate God is working powerfully in your church, but they help visitors to identify with the people in your church and let them know they are welcome. For this reason, you want to have a diversity in the people whose stories you share – diversity in age, gender, ethnicity, economic status, and spiritual journey. For example, you can feature a young man who found redemption from drugs or alcohol, a middle age woman who found comfort in the midst of divorce and depression, or a white-collar professional who was successful but not truly fulfilled until they found Christ at your church. Different visitors will identify with different stories, and realize “there is hope for someone like me at that church.”
I would love to post examples of churches that have these 3 videos on their websites, but unfortunately I’m strapped for time today. So, if you know of a church that has one or more of these types of videos on its site, please post a link here so everyone can see some examples. And if you have any other church video ideas, post them as well.