Post-packaged Video for Social Media

In home_page, Video, Web Articles by tfwm

by Paul Schmutzler

Great video can be a great asset to a great church. But what is the most effective way to implement that video? It’s a key question to ask yourself as a church when deciding to produce videos. Going beyond the live service stream/record can enhance the reach and impact of your church’s ministry, but it can’t be done with a shotgun approach. Just pull the trigger and hope to hit your target. Creating a great video is not the same as utilizing a great video. In researching church videos for this article, I came across some spectacularly produced videos that had 100 or less views. These were created by churches with weekly attendance in the hundreds or even thousands. If the majority of their congregations aren’t even watching their videos, perhaps there’s something wrong with the strategy. Our churches don’t send teams to mission fields without hours of research and planning to make sure their resources are put to good use, so why would we do that with a complex, expensive and time-consuming video production?

In the days before YouTube (if you’re old enough to remember this era), getting a church video in front of an audience was generally done in one or two ways: projected in a service or distributed on a physical media such as DVD. These methods had their restrictions. Showing a video in a service was like watching a broadcast television program. Your audience had to know about it ahead of time to watch, and they had to be in the right place at the right time. Plus, if your intended audience was outside of the church, you would likely miss the mark. Distributing DVDs was good because it gave someone a physical object as a tangible reminder to check it out. But this relied on the audience’s memory and willingness to play the video when they had time. Today, we don’t often distribute disks to watch at home. We post, share, like and comment our videos, making them more interactive than ever before.

Social media has overtaken our video-watching lives as one of the primary settings for consuming both live and produced content. Many churches are using the platforms for service recordings or live streams, but these same churches are often not taking full advantage of these services to reach audiences in new and distinctive ways. Making the shotgun mistake with social media can be easy to do with so many to choose from. Taking the time to learn a bit about each platform to have more impact will give your videos a better return on investment.

Thirteen years!  That’s how long Facebook has been in existence. It’s a tween-aged platform that most of the planet uses to some extent. According to SmartInsights.com (http://bit.ly/2A0UDHr), most Facebook users are 35-44. Good to know. If your video is targeted at young families, you should post there. But what about Twitter? Their users are mostly 16-24. Maybe your young families video won’t work as well there. And you can forget about Snapchat. 57% of their audience is in that 16-24 age bracket. Now it sounds like you need to tailor videos for individual platforms. Perhaps, but don’t start producing custom videos for each social network just yet. You can still use one video across multiple networks simultaneously, but you need to understand how each one is unique to have realistic expectations. In fact, if you’re only trying to reach a specific demographic with your video output, you may decide to limit your church’s online presence across these networks. In other words, maybe you don’t even create a Pinterest, Google+ or Instagram account.

Once you’ve decided how you’ll work with social media, it’s time to figure out how to best produce videos for the platforms. Let’s look at some examples of church videos and consider their pros and cons.

Church in the Park (https://vimeo.com/100563921)

Some friends of ours from Tennessee moved to Salt Lake City, Utah in 2012 to plant a gospel-centered church in the middle of the global LDS headquarters. In the five years they’ve been in existence, their church has thrived and grown to the point where they have recently purchased and remodeled a building to meet in with their growing congregation of about 300. One of their community outreaches is a summertime program they call Church in the Park. Instead of their Wednesday night community small group meetings, they all gather at Liberty Park and hold a service that the entire community is welcomed to. This makes their presence highly visible. Citizens don’t just see a church building with cars parked out front each Sunday. They see the tangible, living body of the church, worshipping openly in the community.

To promote and advertise, they produced this 1:20 video and posted it to their Vimeo page. It begins with a well-designed logo telling you exactly what the video is about. Within 15 seconds, you know all the critical details of what Church in the Park is. Location: NW Corner of Liberty Park. This is key since Liberty Park is comprised of 80 acres. You know it’s on Wednesday nights at 6PM. And you know the three key components of the event: games, food and Bible message. The rest of the video is a musical montage highlighting all three of these components. The final seconds of the video reprise the opening by showing the information graphic and the logo a final time. Remember: the beginning and ending of a video are always the most memorable to an audience.

What this video does well

Gospel Grace Church does well with the length of this video. Social Media videos are mostly viewed on mobile devices, so making them short ensures your audience will commit to watching it in its entirety. The info screen is promptly brought in at the beginning and brought in again at the end to reinforce the most important aspect of the video. The montage of clips in the middle could potentially be shortened, but it does a great job of showing the variety and diversity of Church in the Park. You see the range of ages, the kind of food, the types of games and the welcoming, relaxing atmosphere of the location.

What this video lacks

The only sound in the video is music. While there may not be much to say about what’s on screen, it would be nice to potentially add a brief message from a pastor or even just a narrator to provide a call to action.

Trees (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sInBV276ITY)

This video, produced by C4 Church in Canada, leans heavily toward the cinematic. Used to promote the 2017 Easter service, they created this video as more of a teaser than a hard sell invitation. Their approach is more “come and find out what this is all about” rather than “come to church on Easter.” The super-wide 21:9 format immediately draws the audience in as the beautiful opening aerial shot draws movie trailers to mind.

What this video does well

Video, being the visual format that it is, should be designed with the visuals first and foremost. Too often churches make video that is just a boring, video version of their announcements or regular service. Trees works hard to throw off those stereotypes by crafting a narrative with stunning visuals and symbolism that makes you really wonder just what these trees are all about. Even though the video is about two minutes of solid voiceover and on-camera narration from the pastor, it maintains interest with a few key elements. The pastor is natural and engaging on camera. He’s captured from multiple angles which keeps it from being too static and boring. Finally, the beautiful visuals of forests and trees show attention to detail and quality.

What this video lacks

An experienced video encoder. For some reason, C4 Church went to great lengths to create an excellent, highly-polished video but then lost a lot of quality between the final edit and output to Vimeo. The footage is all noisy, grainy and highly compressed. Note the opening fade up from black, how the compression destroys the smoothness of this transition. Don’t make the same mistake in ruining your video by botching the final step in distribution: the encode.

Welcome to the Family (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLYTQ17NspM&feature=youtu.be)

From Abundant Life Church in Stephens City, Virginia comes a good example of a super-short, easily digestible church life overview video. This 60 second film shows what the church is like in a nutshell that anyone could easily consume on a mobile device even when on the go. Here’s a quick list of everything I learned about ALC in just this video. What their location looks like, how and where to park, their child/nursery capabilities, their music style, preaching, baptism, fellowship activities, and missions work/trips.

What this video does well

Social media and mobile device video consumption must be concise. In general, the shorter, the better. ALC nails this aspect by providing a great overview in a tight, well-planned way.

What this video lacks

What’s lacking is the core or heart of the heart. We see lots of things that this church does and what’s available, but we don’t really know much about its uniqueness. We can assume that what’s shown in 53 seconds makes up the bulk of what this church is about, but we don’t get to experience anything fully. We don’t even get to know a pastor or member of the staff. What I’d like to see instead is a series of short videos like this that each highlight a different aspect of ALC. Children, music, missions and theology/preaching. This would avoid the shotgun approach.

Christmas According to Kids (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suowe2czxcA&feature=youtu.be)

Out of all of these videos, this is the one you’re most likely to have seen already. Produced for the 2015 Christmas season, this charming, humorous video from Southland Christian Church in Kentucky borrows from the Kid History YouTube channel in having a group of kids tell the Christmas story in their own words with adults lip-synching and acting out their story. The result is a hilarious and nearly disjointed retelling of a well-known story.

What this video does well

It’s universally funny. You’d have to be a crusty curmudgeon to not find the humor in this video. The production value is high with great scenery and thoughtful scripting and editing. In a Kids Say the Darndest Things sort of way, there are also memorable lines that will stick with the viewer. I dare you to try and not find yourself repeating, “You’re the best baby I ever seen.” Best yet, Southland set an example by refusing to capitalize financially on the success of this video. Creative Director Hanna Wahlbrink says, “We don’t want to make any money on it (many organizations have reached out to us about monetizing it in different ways), but rather want to share the love of Christ as far and wide as the video will reach.”

What this video lacks

There’s not much that’s really missing from this video. It’s not intended to be a direct invitation to Southland, so you can’t fault it for not promoting the church in a direct way. They’ve instead taken the approach of just taking a celebration of Christ’s birth and helping to retell a familiar tale in a memorable way.

When your church has the staff, funds and need to expand your video ministry to include outside-the-church programming, look to these examples for methods to make your video targeted and effective. Keep it short and concise. Consider your audience when scripting. Choose the correct platform(s) for the demographic you’re seeking. Starting with this planning will get your video production off on the right foot.

Paul Schmutzler has been involved in various aspects of photography, film, and video production, post-production, and motion graphics for more than 10 years. He reviews tools of the trade as a freelance tech journalist.