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Sunday, May 19, 2013
Church websites for moving ministry.
Churches use Web videos to promote and connect.
By Jason Otis
At some time or other, if you’ve been driving, you’ve probably returned from a store to find a flyer on your windshield – perhaps announcing a special musical performance at a neighborhood church or a car wash for the youth program. Maybe you’ve gotten something on your front door about an Easter service or a postcard in the mail about a groundbreaking for a new children’s building.
“Getting the word” out about events and activities has always been a fundamental of church life. That hasn’t changed. But now, more and more, churches are encouraging attendance and providing information in ways that convey high-quality excitement with low-cost video technology.
For example, the Lincoln City Church of Christ, an Oregon congregation with less than 100 members, has recently created and posted on their Web site and E-zekiel.tv a video to promote a unique organization.
“I wanted to get the word out there about what we’re doing with our UV Group,” said Stacy Klatt. The wife of the pastor, Stacy hosts in her home a weekly gathering for young adults ranging in age from 19 to 25. Online video seemed like a good choice to reach this demographic, and Stacy enlisted the assistance of her daughter, Sarah, to create the video.
A film major at George Fox University, Sarah Klatt was an excellent choice for the project. Participants in the “unclouded vision” group appear on camera one after another to tell why it’s meaningful to them to join in, and as the video concludes, one of the members says, “If you are a young adult and you want something to do on Wednesday nights, come to UV group. It’s one of the greatest things you could ever do.”
“Since the group is for young adults only, many other people from different generations in the church don’t actually know what goes on,” Sarah said. The video telling of a typical UV night was created for these other church members to learn more about the group – while it was also intended for the church Web site so other young adults could find out what’s going on.
“As a film major, I really believe showing something visually – with the faces and voices of the people actually involved – can be so much more powerful than reading words on the subject,” Stacy said.
The video has not only promoted the UV Group to others, however, it’s also helped to build community within the group. When members saw it, Stacy noted, “They said, ‘Yeah, that’s what we’re about. That’s who we are.’ It’s been informational in more directions than I anticipated.”
In Montgomery, Alabama, at Taylor Road Baptist Church, communications director Brian Harris is creating a video series specifically to encourage Sunday school attendance.
“Small groups are how people get connected,” Brian said. And videos are a way to share that message in one to two minutes during a worship service.
The first video in Brian’s series was created in February of this year as one of Taylor Road Baptist’s members returned from 16 months in Afghanistan. It included scenes from the serviceman’s arrival at the local airport, as well as stories of how his Sunday school class provided support to his family during his absence. Brian noted that he too was among those who mowed the lawn for the family while his fellow church member was away.
In another video, Brian set out to tell the story of how a Sunday school class gave support to a family following the birth of a premature baby. With the newborn admitted to a neonatal intensive care facility about 100 miles away from home, the family was traveling back and forth for some time. “This was not just a momentary responsibility but the class united around the family,” Brian said.
Through video, a serviceman’s return home and a newborn’s growth and development can be captured in scenes that give great impact – particularly within a worship service’s tight frame. “Videos are small pieces that get key things out,” Brian said. “They drive home the point as quickly as possible.”
Does the emerging use of online video fit within the technologies that are emerging across demographic lines – and reaching into spiritual areas? Statistics seem to support that case.
In a survey last year, the Barna Group identified “listening to a church podcast” as an emerging technology for ages ranging from 18 to around 60. Emerging technologies are considered those technologies that are used by at least one out of five but less than half of computer users overall.
Mosaics (18-24), Busters (25-43) and Boomers (44-62) – names the Barna Group gives for the demographical breakdowns – are all growing in their use of church podcasts. But those numbers are still less than 20% for Elders (ages 63 and above).
According to the Barna research, watching videos online is also an emerging technology for the Busters and Boomers. But it’s actually mainstream already for the youngest category of computer users – a designation that means that the technology has been adopted by more than 50% of computer users in that age category.
In light of the growth in the use of technology among the American population, it’s no wonder churches are turning to online videos to promote church activities and to provide spiritual content. Getting the word out (and getting the “Word” out) has a new set of tools. And with free video-sharing Web sites and a wide range of video cameras on the market, the investment can be quite low to get started.
How to Begin?
Taylor Road Baptist, which has been at the task of video creation for awhile, has about 150 videos in its collection and shows about two or three videos each month during the services. But how about others who are just beginning? If you’d like to use videos to promote your church and enhance your worship services, Brian offers a few pieces of advice.
• Start slow and then grow. “It’s been a gradual process,” Brian said of Taylor Road Baptist’s video program. “You’ve got to work into it, maybe start with one a month.”
• Make a purposeful point. “Make sure that when you do them that there’s a purpose for them,” Brian said. “There needs to be a specific reason.” Instead of being merely cute or clever with entertainment value only, the videos would be better used in support of a mission of the church – whether education, fellowship, stewardship or other area.
• Make them a consistent part of your church communications, but don’t overdo. Technology is a great tool but can also be too much, too often. “People can get burned out watching videos,” Brian cautioned. Consistency keeps the flow comfortable.