7 practical tips for recording a video sermon for churches

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The world has changed rapidly in the last few weeks, and with it has come a new sense of importance to find new ways to embrace the human need for connection. This rapid acceleration of change through necessity has brought with it a wave of community and organisation leaders, trying to work out exactly how they can best stay connected with their communities, at a time where people need connection the most. For many, this has meant grappling with how to best stay in touch with communities virtually rather than in person.

This change has come particularly rapidly to churches. Many local churches have understandably prioritised over the last few years the needs of the physical communities around them, and at best tentatively embraced the digital tools that were developing. Suddenly, the vast majority of pastors (who have the tools available), have been looking to alternative ways to connect with their congregations on a Sunday, and for many, this involves creating some form of video sermon.

Digital change accelerated

The digital revolution has brought with it rapid change over the last 15 years, which has been disconcerting for some, and has left many (particularly smaller churches and charities) a little behind the innovation curve. Some groups and organisations have continued to prioritise their physical meetings, preferring to meet with people, rather than use social media and video to connect. These different approaches to change and how best to support communities with limited resources, have all been completely understandable given the circumstances that we were previously in.

However, now we find ourselves in extraordinary times (I’m loathed to use the word ‘unprecedented’ as it feels that unprecedented is currently the precedent), and the need for a pastor to stay connected with their congregation and provide regular messages of hope and faith is paramount.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have had a number of conversations with churches of different sizes, all trying to ensure that they could find some way of creating and sending out a video sermon (and supplementary content) to their communities, all amidst their own anxieties of using new tools, addressing screens and not faces, and not in the least, the anxiety that we all have of an unpredictable pandemic.

This blog series

This blog will be one of a series, designed to help people navigate some of the digital tools available to create effective content, and also share some training videos and tips to help the less digitally able members of the congregation upskill quickly, so that they can be part of any virtual community.

To explain a little, my background is in digital marketing (and TV production before that), and I’ve worked with Christian charities and churches over the last 10 years, helping them to embrace the new digital tools that were being developed. I must confess that although there have been some churches in the world that were ready for this and have full scale levels of production already (churches such as Elevation, and Bethel in the States, and HTB in the UK), a full scale production is not possible for most churches, but there are plenty of tools and tricks they can use to stay connected with the communities around them.

How can a weekly sunday service continue online?

One key area that many have rapidly needed to address, is the idea of a weekly Sunday service. Just how can one replicate the church experience online? This again, won’t be answered in one blog, but we can at least start by looking at the basics of sharing a Sunday video sermon.

How can pastors rapidly adapt so that their video sermon can be effective carriers of messages of hope in this time of need?

7 Practical tips for recording a video sermon

Please find 7 practical tips for recording a video sermon below:

1 – Camera positioning

Think about where your camera is facing and what’s around you. If your camera is using auto focus, then it will automatically focus on the centre of the screen. This means that if you’re sat to the side, the camera will focus on what’s behind you.

If you’re able to, move the camera so that it is set to get the best representation of both you and your office (or wherever you’re recording from)

2 – Set the scene

Be aware of what objects are around you and think about how your scene is set before you press record. Of course, your message is the most important thing, but the setting in your room can be distracting to the audience if you haven’t thought about it. Take out anything that could be distracting, such as plastic bottles, and anything that could be seen as distracting to your viewer.

This is taken to extremes with TV interviews – those lovely well-constructed scenes that you see in documentaries, take a long time to set – often an hour or so, before the crew is ready to welcome the contributor into the chair.

3 – Be aware of hazards

Before you press record or start live streaming – check that there aren’t any hazards in the room that you could fall foul of.

If you want a light hearted example of what not to do – you might have seen the Westcountry vicar who recently went viral, when his sermon became slightly more illuminating than usual.

4 – Be mindful of light sources

I’ve seen a number of recordings of sermons over the past week where the person has had a strong light source behind them – such as a window or a lamp. The camera will expose for the strongest light source in the frame, and this means, that if you have the strongest light source behind you. So, if you do need to have a window behind you, you could always pull down the blind or curtains. Or, ensure that you have another strong light source that’s in front of you, so that your face won’t look in shadow.

5 – Think about friendly faces

One of the biggest changes that comes when you transition to recorded or live streamed content, is the fact that there is now audience in front of you. You could potentially get around this by livestreaming sermons through Zoom (and then you can see your audience if they have their webcams on), but this isn’t a possibly solution for everyone due to band width demands, capability of congregations etc. (If you need it, more will follow on Zoom and its potentials in a future blog).

One trick from presenting to camera is to think about a friendly face in the lens. This can take a bit of practice but it’s worth it. It will make you feel like you’re speaking directly to someone, and not just feel the awkwardness of presenting on your own. This obviously won’t give the complete ability to assess people’s faces as you speak etc, but it will go some way towards making the experience easier.

6 – Sound quality

Sound quality is important to think about too. Try to minimise any background noise that you may have in the room, particularly if you’re relying on an inbuilt computer mic. Any background noise can be particularly off-putting for an audience listening in. It’s probably best to ensure any pets are in another part of the house, and also ensure that any family members know that you will be filming, so that they can keep any noise outside of the room, down.

It is possible to get cheap mics that you can plug in to either your computer or phone – these will be a great help in minimising background noise. Just one tip from the professionals if you do do this, please think about your mic lead if you go with this approach. If you can, tuck the mic lead into your clothes, and feed it out to clip it on to either your neckline, or between buttons. A dangling black wire up the front can be a little off putting when an audience is watching

7 – Don’t over complicate it

In these uncertain times, it can be tempting to want to overcompensate for not seeing your audience in person. Don’t let this tempt you to including too much additional content in your video. If you’re starting out particularly, it’s ok to not show your audience everything (and verge on ‘death by PowerPoint’). The more content that goes into a video, the larger the file size will be, and the more issues there are likely to be in the upload (not in the least because a lot of people will be uploading their Sunday messages onto YouTube / Vimeo etc on a Saturday)

When you’re starting off, try to keep things simple. Your message is the most important thing, and also the maintaining of a sense of community in some digital form with your congregation. Be kind to yourself, there will be teething problems and that’s ok. Over the coming weeks, the technology that currently seems a little strange will get more familiar, as will your audience’s ability to navigate these new waters.

please keep asking

That’s it for now, but I hope that helps with some initial pointers to creating a video sermon. Over the coming couple of weeks, I hope to publish more.

Please do leave me a comment or contact me via social media if there are other questions you have that you would like future blogs on.

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