The Ultimate Church Video Production Guide
As pastors and church communications directors, many times we are tasked with projects that we do not know how to start. One of those for me is producing a church video. Whether it is a welcome video, announcement video, or a touching testimony video of how God changed the life of someone in your church, the question remains where do I start? I hope to answer that question in this church video production guide.
This is a long article and for a good reason. I have set out to give you a complete blueprint of how to go from an idea for a church video all the way to completion. You may want to bookmark it or email it to your staff and volunteers so all of you can find it easily.
Preparing For Production
A wise person once said to me, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” One of the most important things you can do is to get everything and everyone in place before you start out shooting your church video.
So start thinking about who is going to help you with this project, what equipment you are going to need to produce the video, what do you want to accomplish with the video, and get honest about what your church offers and what it is that you want to communicate. Below I have listed each of these things and gave you some things to think about.
Gather Your Team
The first thing you need to do is gather your team. You get to put on your talent scout hat and assemble the type of people that will make your church video a success. Here are six questions to ask when recruiting your team.
- Who in your church has a passion for the evangelism, wants to see the church do more outreach, and wants your church to grow?
- Who are the creative people in your church who have an eye for creativity?
- Has anyone in your church experimented with video production, live streaming, uploading videos to YouTube etc?
- Do you have any hobbyists in your congregation that like to shoot pictures or videos?
- Who are the salespeople, marketing people, techno-geeks, and social media mavens in your church?
- Which people have 1 or more of these qualities and are good collaborative team players?
Download a free PDF to help you find your key team members for your church video production
Inventory Your Resources
You may be looking in the equipment closet in your church and noticing a lack of video equipment that will work for your project, or you have some ancient stuff that probably will be a pain to connect with today’s modern technology. That is OK. There is more than one way to skin a cat. 🙂
Just take an inventory of what you do have, even if it is only a great idea and we will go through some ideas on how you can obtain the equipment you need.
What You Will Need
Cameras And Camcorders
Depending on your budget, there are many ways you can come across the cameras and camcorders you will need. You can purchase your equipment. If you are going all out in the project and money is not an issue, then you will want something like the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini 4k.
However, if you are like me, you may have less of a budget and that Ursa Mini is just a dream for the future. You can still get a tremendous 4k camcorder for under $1,000, or just an everyday HD camcorder for under $500.00.
You can also ask around in your congregation to see if anyone has a good camera or camcorder that he or she will let you use. You might be surprised to see how many people have the equipment they would donate.
If push comes to shove, you can use the cameras in your cell phones, but usually, the image quality of cell phone cameras leaves a little to be desired, and you will have to pick your shots with that in mind.
You are going to need some microphones to accomplish your project as well. Now in this, your church might be well supplied. Usually, a church will have a good supply of lavalier microphones and vocal microphones. However depending on whether or not your church uses a wireless microphone system, you might want to think about round up a couple of those as well.
You might also want to see if your people who like to live stream have a portable sound recorder like the Zoom H6 Six-Track Portable Recorder that I talk about on this page. You are probably not going to want to be tied to the church sound system for all of your shots. Having a portable sound recorder will free you up from that need.
This is where your team building comes in handy. Unless your church has a full-blown stage lighting system, coming up with the right lighting solutions might be problematic for you.
Ask those hobbyist camera enthusiasts in your church if they have any lighting equipment you can borrow. You can also get what you need in a lighting kit for under $200.00 if you decide to go that route as well.
Shoot, back in the day when my head could support long hair, and I played Christian rock music in a band, we built a stage lighting system with old coffee cans and colored light bulbs. When there is a will, there is a way!
You will need three light sources which I will go into further detail about later in this guide.
Again this is an area that your decisions will be based on how deep you plan to dive into a video production ministry. If you are only trying to produce a welcome video or a couple of videos to feature on your church website, then you might not want to go for the high-end professional software. You might instead decide you need an easy to use software package or even just a free one.
Here are some options for you when deciding which video editing software to use.
- Avid Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro. Both of these software packages are top of the line video editing programs. They are used by professional video production companies all the time. The drawback to these programs is that they have a very high learning curve. You need to know what you are doing.
- Vmix. There are many excellent video editing software packages out there, but I use Vmix. It is incredibly user-friendly, and the learning curve is not nearly so high. If I can learn to use it, so can you. They also have a free 60-day trial that you can use, and if you like it, you can apply for a free software license for your church.
- iMovie and Windows Movie Maker both are free basic video editors that you can use if you don’t want to get real fancy. I have used Windows movie maker for years for personal projects, and it works just fine. Just realize that you get what you pay for and that neither product has a lot of bells and whistles.
Who Are You?
Focus Your Mission
Let’s face it. There are many churches in your community that offer similar services to yours. If you produce a generic welcome video or other videos about your church, you are not going to stand out and attract attention.
Take a look at these obligatory mission statements and think about your own.
First Community Church is an all inclusive church that loves Jesus and practices living a Christian life. Generic Christian Church is a loving family of faith. We welcome you just as you are with love, hospitality and lots of ways to find your place. We are a traditional church that celebrates the movement of a modern society, one foot in the ancient rhythms while honoring a contemporary beat.
What is wrong with these mission statements?
They are way too generic and all-inclusive. They don’t tell people why your church is unique. In their effort to reach out to “all people” they, in fact, give no reason for any person to want to come. What does it mean to have a foot in “ancient rhythms?” What does practicing a Christian life look like? Don’t all Christians do that? What does “finding your place mean?”
What Makes Your Church Unique?
In today’s society, going to church is an intentional act. People do not go to church “just because.” They go because they are seeking something and want to know that if they invest the time to check out your church, they will find what they are seeking.
It no longer works to hang a sign on your door that says “All Are Welcome.” or “Come As You Are.” You are not telling them if what you offer is what they are seeking.
Yes, being specific in your mission statement and how that is presented in your videos will cause some people not to come. That is OK. The people who come who are looking for something and find you don’t have it, won’t return anyways. You want to appeal to the people that are looking for what you offer.
God has called every church to be a unique expression of Jesus. It is OK if you are not called to be hipster, or traditional. It is OK if you like hymns or contemporary music. It is OK if your services are liturgical or more free-flowing. (All churches have a liturgy, just some are not as well defined as others.)
God has called you to be unique! Let your mission statement and the videos you produce based on your church’s mission reflect your uniqueness.
So here are a couple of ways you can dig down to discover what makes your church unique.
Why Would People Invest In Your Church?
Do a group exercise with your team and even include your leadership if they are willing to do it with you.
Pretend you are on a reality TV show like Shark Tank or the Apprentice and you have to convince the guy sitting across from you in 90 seconds why they should hire your church or why they should invest in your church. What would you say to them?
On these TV shows the contestants who succeeded were the ones that were able to communicate the purpose and benefits of their product concisely.
Here is another exercise you can do to help your team come up with the right type of branding and message for your church.
Download this free mission statement exercise to help your team identify your church’s mission and message.
The One Thing
After you have completed those exercises, try this one. Imagine you are waiting in line to purchase tickets for a movie. You have someone say “Excuse me. I am church shopping. Can you tell me about your church?” You have 30 seconds before it is your time to pay for your tickets. What do you say? Can you tell it with succinctly with clarity and passion?
Here is another exercise you can do with your team to synthesize down your core message and benefits.
Discover the values and benefits of your church with this easy 2 person exercise.
Ok, now before you go on to the next step take a step back and make sure you have your plans in place. Here are some questions for you to ask.
- Who are on your team? What are their gifts and where do they need to be placed on the team?
- Who are the people you are targeting with your video? What is the basic picture of their life and needs?
- Why are you targeting these people? Do you have something to offer them?
- What equipment do you have? What is your budget for your church video production? Where can you get what you lack?
- When is your start date for your production? When do you plan to finish? Do you have a deadline?
Drafting Your Video Production
The next big step to take is to write your video presentation. What I mean by that is that you are now going to start laying out what it is you want to say. This is where all of your hard work narrowing down your church’s mission and the things it values and offers come in.
Now you get the opportunity to lay out all the parts of the video, the shots, the audio, the images, and the storyline in such a way to communicate what your church is about.
I want to reemphasize here the importance of being authentic. It is impossible to please everyone so don’t try. Too many churches today are afraid of being themselves. Instead, they try to be what they think everyone else wants them to be. Don’t fall for this trap.
The kingdom of God has great diversity. Embrace your part of that diversity. When you are not comfortable in your skin as a church, then you not only do a disservice to yourselves, but also to those that might visit you.
What would you want to find at a new church? Would you want one that is the right fit, or one that tried to be the right fit but couldn’t pull it off because that was not who they were? The clearer and more authentic your video reflects your church community, the more real effectiveness it will have in reaching people who will stick with your church.
Don’t Reinvent The Wheel – Get Inspired!
Ecclesiastes 1:9 says that there is nothing new under the sun. There is much truth in that statement. I want to suggest to you that you take some time viewing other church video productions. Here is an example and then some links to some others on YouTube.
As you can see by all of these videos, the approach and what they are presenting is different. Hopefully, this will give you some ideas for your church video production.
Let’s Play Show And Tell
Do you remember the show and tell time in school? You would bring something from home you liked and found interesting and would show it to the class and then explain why you loved it?
Well now is the time to start figuring out how to do the same thing for your church with the video. Instead of having your pastor recite a litany of things about your church, think about how to show those things going on in your church.
Ways To Show Your Story
- Through Still Pictures
- Through Video Recordings
- Through Graphics And Text
Ways To Tell Your Story
- Through Narrative
- Through Testimonies
- Through Text On The Screen
- Through The Words In Music
Look at those videos again through the eyes of the show and tell. Which ones were most effective? How much show was there compared to the tell? What was the most effective in your eyes?
For me, it was the videos that did more showing than telling. That means that you need to keep your audio narrative concise and to the point.
Use these exercises to understand better how to show your message rather than tell it.
Writing Your Script
Ok, your video canvas is set up, and you are ready to start painting. What are you going to fill the canvas with? Are you going to shoot a scene with your pastor sharing about your church? Are you going to have someone give a personal testimony? Are you going to do a graphics orientated video? The options are endless, but the brushes remain the same.
Yes You Can Write
After doing the exercises I have provided for you, you can write a simple video script. You know what you discovered when narrowing down your church’s message to 30 seconds and 90 seconds. Now take that work and think about how to lay it out in a video presentation.
Communicate Your Message
Say your team keyed into the fact that they like to eat together. Now is the time to share why you love to do this. Is it because the food is good? Is it because you like spending time with friends? Is it because it is the funniest time of your week because you have some real clowns at your church.
Select Your Video Shots
Experiment in your shot selection. Don’t be afraid to take pictures of people eating and laughing with one another from different angles of the room. Showing different aspects of the same scene keeps your viewers engaged.
If your storyline shows how getting together for meals develops trust and that the final result of that trust is having someone to share your struggles with, then think about how you are going to transition from Eating to Trust, To Mutual Support.
Choose Your Images
Let’s say you are going to do a video where you pastor narrates a welcome video. Do you just want to have shots of him speaking? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to highlight his points with some images taken from your congregation as they are participating in church life?
Plan out what type of images you want to use in your video. If you have some, use them. If not, then put it in your script and schedule them to be taken.
Keep It Short – No Documentaries
Studies show that church video productions need to be kept under 4 minutes and 11 seconds. I don’t know where they got the 11 seconds from, but that is what they say. With that in mind, reason tells us that we don’t want to produce the next Lord of the Rings trilogy. We want to communicate a simple message.
I suggest you keep your video between 30 seconds and 3 minutes or so. If you need to say more, consider doing a series of church videos.
Include A Call To Action
This is huge. I can’t tell you how many church videos do not include a call to action. They produce great videos that touch the soul but then never say to the viewer what to do next. They are shy about inviting people actually to come to the church.
You need to include a call to action. The Home Shopping Network spends three days training the show hosts on how to present a call to action. They found that when the hosts only talked about the product but didn’t invite the people to buy the product, nobody called to buy the product. They have to be told to buy.
What makes you think people who are watching your video are any different. You need to invite them to come.
Take a moment to download my free PDF on writing a call to action. (Which is a call to action in itself!)
Learn how to make your church production video effective with this free call to action PDF.
Build A Storyboard
By this point, you have successfully narrowed down the story you want to tell about your church. Now it is time to put it in storyboard form. A storyboard is a visual map of your video. Think of it as a cartoon strip. Each section shows the progression of your story.
However, before you get too involved in this, make sure you have the story right.
Recruit An Editor
Recruit someone from your team or even someone who is not part of the team to edit your story and suggest how to make it more concise and what parts might be fluff and not needed.
Focus Your Story
Refine the focus of your story to make sure it reflects the rhythms of your church, community, and the target audience you are seeking to influence.
Remember Your Purpose
Remember the purpose of your video. It is not a documentary, and it is not an infomercial. It is a story. Less is always more with church video production. Web surfers seem to like short videos.
Create Your Storyboard
Get a whiteboard or a piece of paper and draw 12 or 15 boxes on it. You can use more or fewer boxes if you desire but start with something. Then draw out (No need for artistic talent, stick figures will do) the significant scenes you will create. On each scene give bullet points or pertinent information about what will happen in this scene.
On your storyboard make sure you write notes about which scenes will have either spoken lines or text that will be in the video. Number your storyboard boxes so you can reference them when you are writing your script.
Create Your Script
Grab a sheet of paper for each numbered box on your storyboard. If a scene is an interview with your pastor, then write down what needs to be said. If the scene is being narrated then write down the narration that will correspond with that part of your storyboard.
Many times there will not be much script that accompanies specific boxes in your storyboard. That is OK. When you are done, go through each page that corresponds to your storyboard and make sure it flows smoothly.
Getting Ready To Shoot Your Video
Here is an excellent video by Wistia on ten basics of shooting video shots with an iPhone. Even though they are using an iPhone, the techniques will work with any smartphone, camera, or camcorder.
Selecting Your Shots
Your shot selection, angles, and how you frame your video will affect the feel of your video in tremendous ways. Deliberately make your choices based on what you want to convey. Using close up shots are more intense while wide angle shots are more relaxed.
Basic Filming Techniques
These three ways to film your shot will help you gain clarity and define the action you are portraying.
- The subject moves and the camera is still. Place your camcorder on a tripod so that the camcorder is entirely still and let your subject walk or move into the line of sight.
- The camera moves, and the subject is still. Pan the camcorder on the tripod until the camera moves to where the subject is in the line of view.
- Both the camera moves and the subject moves. This is the most challenging type of shot to take because of image stabilization. You get a jittery video if not done correctly. Try using a handheld image stabilizer if you attempt this.
What about a shot where the camera is still, and the subject is still? Uh, I think that is called a photograph! 🙂
Camera Angles And Interview Techniques
There are five primary camera angles you can use as is diagrammed on the left. Although this diagram shows a person, the aspects are valid for other objects as well.
3 of these shots are used in basic interview style shots and will be used a lot in your church video productions. They are the frontal, the 3/4 from, and the profile angles.
Make notes on your storyboard which camera angles you want to use. For instance, if you are doing an interview, you might put in your notes something like this. Storyboard #4 Frontal MS and Profile CU. That would mean a frontal angle with a mid-shot zoom and a profile angle with a close-up.
Of course, that means you would have at least two camcorders recording at the same time getting this video footage. Here is an example of 3 camera angles being used. Let’s see if you can pick them out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gX7ZudlthIc
Framing Your Shots
You want to frame your subjects interestingly and compellingly. Just having people against a white background is boring. Maybe using a church mural, or the sign in the front of the church, or maybe sitting in the sanctuary would be a right frame for your video. Take some footage of different ideas you come up with for backgrounds for your video.
Here is a great little tutorial on how to frame your video.
When it comes to light, it is better to see what you need to do than just read. So let’s watch a couple of great videos about lighting.
3 Types Of Light Sources
Whether you use the lighting kits I linked out to earlier in this guide, or you come up with a homemade light kit as we did back in my rock n roll days, or even just grabbing some lamps from the living room, if you use this 3 point lighting technique you will get some great video shots.
- The Key Light. The primary light source on your subject.
- The Fill Light. Opposite the key light.
- The Back Light. Behind the subject to separate them from the background.
Shooting Your Church Video Production
OK, now it is almost time to become the next independent filmmaking mogul. Here is the last step before you hit record.
Make A Shot List
A shot list is what you give to all of your team and lists all the shots or scenes you are going to record for the day.
After you meet before shooting, designate one person to be the director. They will take the storyboard, notes, script, and organize it into a shot list. This will help you to keep on track and not put the cart before the horse or put the pastor on video without the lights in place. It will bring order out of a lot of moving parts.
Download a free shot list template to use in your church video production.
Using The Shot List
The scene number is correlated to the storyboard. Which storyboard number are you working on? For instance, if you are planning to shoot at the church picnic, the cookout maybe Scene #5 and have three different shots. Therefore, Scene #5 would be listed three times for each shot.
Shot Number And Angle.
If you’re filming people that are BBQ-ing, how many different “shots” do you want? If you’re going to get video of the burgers being grilled, do you want Shot #1 to be a Long Shot Profile of the master chefs in your church? Shot #2 could be a Close-Up Frontal of the actual hamburgers sizzling on the grill.
Is the subject going to be moving? Is the camera going to be moving? Will you use a tripod or a hand grip?
Lighting And Time Of Day
Is your shot going to be inside or outside? Interior or exterior illumination and what time of day will it be? Noon vs. dawn or dusk vs. night time. Each time of day has different types of ambient light.
Shot Description And Notes
Here is where you remind yourself of what you want to film. Do you want specific movement? Do you want laughing chefs? Do you need silence? Whatever the shot requires, you place it in the description and notes.
Make It Easy To Edit
Now you are ready to start shooting your video. All of your previous hard work on the storyboard and the shot list is about to pay off. When you go to shoot sister Agnus playing the organ you already know you only need 10 seconds of footage of her doing that so you won’t spend 1 hour videoing her playing the organ.
When you start filming your church video production, you want to shoot your footage while thinking like an editor. How much footage do I need of the kids at the bbq? What is the easiest way to interview the pastor and splice the camera angles together? Remember, the more footage you have, the more time you will have to spend wading through the raw video finding the exact shot you want. Sometimes less is more.
Editing Your Video Production
Wow! You made it! You have finished filming your church video production. Now comes time to start editing.
Do yourself a favor. No matter which editing software you choose to use, watch the tutorials before you dig in. I listed some options for you at the beginning of this article on some of the video editing software options you have. Go to the software companies websites and watch their tutorials or search YouTube for some tutorials. The 20 minutes you spend watching tutorials will save you hours of frustration later.
Once you transferred all your video to your video editing computer, organize your files. If your software will allow it, create folders with each scene in them so that you can quickly find each shot you are looking for.
Remember The Story
You will have a lot of video footage. Not every shot will fit with your story. Remember what it is you are trying to tell and filter out those shots that didn’t work or didn’t fit.
Time The Flow
Is your story that you are telling action-packed or quiet and contemplative? Time the flow of your footage to reflect the story you are trying to convey.
Long Cuts Vs. Quick Cuts
There will be scenes that are longer and scenes that are shorter. Choose your long cuts wisely. You only have a couple of minutes to tell your story. Intersperse those long cuts with shorter cuts that keep people interested and engaged in your video.
Don’t get caught up in all the fancy swipes. Nothing looks like a cheesy cable access program more than fancy swipes. Fade to black or jumping to the next scene is much more professional. Think about it. How many movies have you watched that used a fancy swipe?
Action And Stillness
Create a balance of action shots and still shots. For instance, as you are interviewing your pastor, his shots are still, but as he is describing something you can switch to scenes that correspond to what he is describing giving some action to his interview.
Your video editing software will give you the option to place text overlays on your video. Use this sparingly and wisely. Software manufacturers love to have useless bells and whistles. Using a font that is pretty but hard to read will defeat your purpose. Pick a font that matches your church logo or signage.
Keep it simple. Make sure you include all the pertinent information like location and service times or a quote that is being given but don’t go overboard.
The background music of your video will set the mood of the video. It will convey emotion. A Rhythm and Blues beat can match more extended clips that are possibly placed in slow motion, creating a feeling of sentimentality and thoughtfulness. A fast-paced beat like dance music or rock and roll can match short and fast clips, creating a sense of excitement and fun.
Feel The Vibe
Finally, trust your instincts. You have the best idea of what will resonate with your audience and communicate what your church is all about. If you think a shot needs to be longer, go for it. If you think it needs different music, then change it. Trust that God can lead you to make the best church video production possible for your church.
Reviewing Your Video
After you have completed your editing, take a moment to get some trusted friends and people outside your church to review your video. No matter if it is your first video or your hundredth, we sometimes do not see things that others will notice.
There may be a mistake somewhere that you didn’t catch. There may be something that you can improve on. Let some people outside of your team give you an honest review.
Promoting Your Church Video
Now it is time to get some eyeballs on your video. It does no good to go to all this hard work and then have nobody watch your video except your pastor and your mother.
You get people to watch your video by using two specific techniques. Those techniques are search engine optimization and social media. Now before you skip this section, please understand that just publishing to YouTube and Facebook is not going to work. You need to understand how each platform works and how they determine which videos are seen at the top of their results.
Search Engine Optimization On YouTube
YouTube is not just a video sharing platform. It is a video search engine. Google owns it, and it ranks the best videos only as it lists the best web pages on Google.com.
To rank your video on YouTube, you need to do these three necessary steps at least. Optimize your titles, description, and tags. For more information do a search on YouTube for Youtube SEO.
Social media like Facebook is an entirely different creature. Instead of being driven by SEO it is driven by user metrics like how many likes, shares, and comments your video receives.
Publish your video to Facebook and Twitter and then get all your team members and church members to like and share it. Ask them from the pulpit to do this. You can’t be shy.
Regularly schedule it to be reposted and retweeted. Social media exposure does not last very long. It usually is 90 minutes before a Facebook post is buried, and the exposure stops, and it is less than 15 minutes on Twitter. So you have to repost them from time to time.
Like I mentioned above, get your entire congregation involved in sharing your videos. We do a live stream at my church every Sunday. The people share it on their timelines. Currently, we have double the amount of people who attend my church that watch our videos. We also ask all our people to check in on Facebook every Sunday. We have people visit our church because they saw the check-in.
After you have finished your church video production and it is now live, evaluate the process, rinse off the parts that didn’t work, and repeat. Soon you will have a thriving and vibrant church video production ministry.