Creating a Great Church Welcome Video
Lately I’ve heard a lot about church welcome videos, so I did a little research.
What I found left me feeling like Golidlocks. Some videos were too long. Some were too churchy. Some were too gimmicky. But none seemed to be just right. None made me say “YES! Now that’s where I want to go to church!”
Sometimes when we can’t seem to figure out how to do something in a church context, it’s helpful to look to another “industry” and see how they do it. In this instance, I immediately thought of a Keep Exploring Canada video I’d seen.
Tell me this video doesn’t want to make you grab your passport and go north, eh?
What do I love about this video? (Seriously, what’s not to love?)
- Energy - There is an infections energy and joy that pervades every aspect of this video. Whether or not you’d ever actually do some of the high-adventure sports depicted, listening to the exhilaration and laughter, it almost makes you want to try!
- Music - The soundtrack is spot-on perfect as far as matching and enhancing the energy of the video. Try watching it with the sound off – it’s still great footage but it doesn’t have the same emotional impact. Furthermore, the pairing of images with words in the song is perfect.
- Natural sound – From the whoops of daredevils to the roar of a polar bear, the selective use of natural sound enhances many of the scenes.
- Narrative structure – The footage is loosely organized into thematic segments which creates a narrative. Walking, traveling, wildlife, scenic vistas, food, high adventure, cityscapes. Furthermore, each segment transitions into the next using footage that contains some elements of both. The segments aren’t rigid, they aren’t overly defined, some are longer than others, but there is a sense of organization rather than randomly strung together scenes.
- Length and pace – It’s exactly 2 minutes long, which, even though it’s a big country with a lot to offer visitors, is more than enough time to tell the story. Any longer and viewers would lose interest.
- Surprise – While this video includes some stereotypical Canadian imagery (hockey, moose, Northern Lights), it’s full of delightful revelations. You think you know Canada? Hah! Take a look at this!
- Clear Theme - “Keep Exploring Canada” – I love this because it’s one of those clever phrases that can be interpreted differently depending on the implicit punctuation. Is it directed at me as a repeat visitor to keep exploring the great land of Canada? Or is it encouragement to Canadians to keep exploring their own county and sharing their adventures via video. Either way, I’m all in.
- Crowd sourced – This is probably my favorite aspect of it. It’s Canada as loved and enjoyed by Canadians. You can’t ask for better brand ambassadors!
The next question I had was how to apply what I loved about the Keep Exploring Canada video to church welcome videos. To get some clarity, I turned to Lauren Salituro, Supervising Producer for TeamWorks Media, a marketing firm in Chicago which produces promotional spots for clients like the Big Ten Network, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and others.
Top Three Conceptual Tips for a Church Welcome Video
- Emotional storytelling is essential. Get to the core of who you are and what you love. People respond emotionally when this passion is at the core of your narrative. You don’t need to tell the entire story of your church – get to what is essential and what you love. Tell that story.
- Know your goal. Know your audience. Know what you want them to do. Know who can best connect with that audience. In the case of a corporation, it’s not typically the CEO who tells the best story. Know who your audience will relate and respond to. You may have dynamic clergy, but it’s more important to depict real church members joyfully engaging in authentic ministry. Show people doing what your church does best, with passion and joy, and invite your viewers to be a part of that.
- Make it look good. Show your best. Give thought to every aspect of your visuals. Just because your footage is shot on an iPhone doesn’t mean it should look like it’s shot on an iPhone.
For churches, even if you feel like you can incorporate the first suggestions in your video, excellent technical production can seem daunting. For suggestions on how to improve the technical quality of your video, I turned to Alex Haralson, filmmaker and coordinator of Forma Films the monthly tutorial series that can help you learn to make better videos.
Top Three Technical Tips for a Church Welcome Video
- Don't tell me; show me. Narration and text typically distract more than help, and lengthy explanations are a turn-off.
- Rely on members of the congregation with interview-style testimonials if you decide to use on-cam talking heads. These will anchor your piece, so make sure lighting, sound, framing, and focus are all on point. Don't put your clergy and Sr. Warden up front describing the church (see point #1). Ask the congregants about why they feel good at the church. Viewers don't care what they talked about in Sunday school; they want to know why people show up every week emotionally, spiritually.
- Keep your edits to cuts and dissolves. Cube spins, star wipes, etc. may be tempting, but they scream "amateur". Cuts allow you to move around one time and space (such as coffee hour), and dissolves allow you to gently usher the viewer to a different time and space (moving from coffee hour to, perhaps, formation activities). There's an old adage in TV: "You can go anywhere with a dissolve."
Creating the Perfect Church Welcome Video
With their advice in mind, here are some of my suggestions as you plan to create the perfect welcome video:
- Be brief, one to two minutes max! Most commercials are only 30 seconds. Companies don’t tell you every single thing there is to know about the product, they make you feel good about using it. Your welcome video should be a brief glimpse of the love, joy, and transformation that members of your congregation experience and want to share with the world.
- Have a theme! While you might think the theme of a welcome video is obvious – come and be welcome in our church – it helps to have a phrase or idea to contextualize your video. Consider “Keep Exploring Canada” and how that theme shaped that video. For a church-related example, I love St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Rock Creek, D.C., and their theme of “Believe. Be Loved. Be Involved.” A video focused on those three concepts would be powerful!
- Avoid gimmicks or attempts at humor! Costumes are a no-no. If you wouldn’t wear it in church, don’t wear it in the video. And good comedy is hard. Consider that even professional sitcom writers often create content that isn’t funny. There is nothing more cringe-inducing than an attempt at humor that falls flat.
- Avoid insider language, jokes, or assumptions! What would someone who knows nothing about your church care about? Want to participate in? And remember, the viewer doesn’t know your congregation. They won’t get humor based on seeing parishioners out of context or doing something gimmicky.
- Get out of your building! Show not just what happens at church, but how your parish is a force for good, bringing the hands and feet of Christ into the community and the world.
- Surprise your viewer! People may think they know what church is all about but the narrative they believe may not be accurate. Show them something exciting, something new, something they might not have realized. Dispel the myths and stereotypes that don’t apply to your parish – but don’t be afraid to show the beauty and joy of your traditions.
- Focus on the now! Churches are organizations steeped in history, but your viewers want to know how they might fit into your congregation today and, hopefully, tomorrow. Leave the history for brass plaques.
- Show, show, show! Many videos are watched with the sound off. So create compelling visuals that speak for themselves. Learn how to get great footage with Alex’s tutorials on shooting on a mobile device and camera stablity.
- Choose your music wisely! When viewers do listen, make sure what they hear energizes and inspires them. Take the time to coordinate your music and video images. But whatever music you choose, make sure you are legally licensed to use it. Check out Alex’s video on music (and where to find it) and copyrights.
- If you do include narration, make sure it sounds great! Here’s Alex’s tutorial on voice over recording.
- Edit ruthlessly! Tighten up video clips, avoid lengthy introductions, and forget opening credits. Get to the good stuff! Focus on the good stuff! Only include the good stuff! For a more in-depth look at video editing, again, here’s some suggestions from Alex.
One of the best welcome video I saw, the one that was “just right” wasn’t actually intended as a welcome video - and it's not even true "video" but photos set perfectly to music. I’ve shared this before, but it’s worth watching again. Colette Potts, Director of Children’s Ministries, created this video to share the story of children’s ministry at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Falmouth, Massachusetts. It’s been watched countless times and shared well beyond the original audience of parents and parishioners. Newcomers who come to St. Barnabas are often people who saw the video and were inspired. And isn’t that exactly the point?
Finally, sometimes the best "welcome" video doesn't tell so much about the church and it's programs, but gets straight to the heart of a spiritual journey. My favorite example of this is the Cardboard Testimonies video from the Evangelism Matters conference. What works in this video? It's real people, in their own handwritten words, sharing their personal stories of transformation.
Transformation is intriguing.
Like a good movie trailer that just hints at the possibilities of the story, this video, through example after example, builds a compelling possibility of transformation for the viewer. And ultimately, rather than telling them about programs or practices, offering the transformative love of God in a way that respects who people are, where they are coming from, and what their journey might be is the most welcoming thing we can do!
- Lisa Brown
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