How modern churches are embracing video

Enhancing the greatest story ever told

Imagine that as you’re going about your day you run across a huge video crew, with multiple cameras, boom mics and LED lights. You get closer and see a camera on a slider, a DJI Osmo and, hey, are those 4K cameras? You chat to some of the crew, eager to find out what new film or TV series they’re shooting and discover that they’re from a local church. What? Churches are engaged in state-of-the-art video production?

Indeed it’s true; many churches today take video production very seriously. They produce original content on a weekly basis, projecting on large-format systems that demand high-quality images. Many are live streaming and some are broadcasting on local TV and cable. Most have the same workflow demands and tight deadlines as any video production house. Like organisations across the world, churches are harnessing the latest technology to communicate to an ever increasing, video literate audience.

We talked with video makers from three churches from around the United States to find out how they use video. All three have the same goal – tell a compelling story that will inspire their audience and all of them see video as a twenty-first century tool for enhancing the ancient story of the Bible.

Telling the Story – New Hope Christian Fellowship, Honolulu, Hawaii

“You have to have a great story. Without a great story it doesn't matter what the production looks or sounds like. We have great stories to tell here at New Hope. Around the world, the church has great stories to tell,” says Tim Savage, the Director of Media for New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. Tim is a veteran filmmaker who currently leads a team that includes his wife as producer, two editors and a handful of interns and volunteers. They are responsible for the weekend service that is projected onto large screens and recorded for later use in television broadcast.

Tim tells us that New Hope regularly produce video interview packages that they call “video testimonies”. These are personal stories of life change from members of the New Hope congregation. Tim says that video is the best way to tell these powerful stories: “There is no better way to tell an emotional story than with interviews with the subject and other people talking about the situation. Then we add really compelling visuals and great music. It’s hard to beat a really well done video.”

Tim feels that they must bring the best quality they can, “We have to be excellent in our production so that people take our message seriously. I want people to be engaged by what they’re seeing and hearing in the story and not to be distracted by poor production values.” New Hope recently added a Blackmagic Ursa mini 4K camera that they use to capture these testimonies.

Tim also understands that getting the best quality, and ensuring the story is accurate requires collaboration. They produce videos every week, which means his team and the ministry team need to provide input quickly. “We need an efficient way to share projects and get very clear feedback, very quickly. Wipster is a tool that I have been super excited about.” He says that even those who are not quite so “tech savvy” find it easy to use.

Providing Inspiration – Rockharbor Church, Orange County, California

Brandon Setter says that at Rockharbor Church, story is key. He adds, “At Rockharbor, we value creativity, whether it’s video, arts on stage, painting, or lighting design.” The church’s philosophy is to use that creativity for one purpose, “The focus of our videos is to inspire our church with what God is doing in our community.” This means lots of video, including personal interviews, visual metaphors, and even spoken word pieces.

Brandon says that video is the perfect vehicle to inspire. “We really believe that video, as a medium, can communicate so quickly, and dive deeply, into the heart of something. It is a really honest medium to capture people’s hearts.” He adds that, “It’s so hard to be aware of all the ways God is working, and it’s often hard to see Him work. Video has allowed us to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds and actually show them who God is. That He is real, and how He is moving.”

In order to create these inspirational stories, Brandon’s team uses great tools, including Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4 cameras shooting in 4K. They almost always shoot interviews in the field, so they use sliders, and recently they have had access to a DJI Osmo to give the video movement and a compelling feel. Brandon’s mostly volunteer team will edit on Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro.

Just like New Hope, the video team is always collaborating, and there are several layers of approval in these videos. Brandon says, “Wipster has been a life changer for us.” Previously they would send videos for approval with a Vimeo link. “Then each one of those people have their own unique way of getting back to me. Some people use exact time code, other people would just come find me or explain to me over the phone.” He says that now the process that used to take days can be completed in just a few hours. They too use videos on a weekly basis, and they are regularly posting to the web.

The Great Reminder – Calvary Church of Naperville, Illinois

Dallas Thiele says that his church, located about 35 miles from the heart of Chicago, is on the small side of large. He serves as the Creative Services Director for Calvary Church, which uses video in a unique way to help their congregation reflect.

“We know our congregants aren't here every week. So we want to make sure that there is a way that they can catch up. And even the people that were there enjoy hearing a summary of everything that was said the previous week.” Dallas says that each week they recap the previous week with sound bites from the pastor’s message. He tells us that this is not easy to do. “The recap video can be anywhere from an eight to sixteen hour project depending on the level of complexity.”

The first step in the process is that each service is recorded from their multiple Canon DSLR cameras (they project the camera shots onto side screens that are 1080 and they have a center screen that is twin 1080 projectors knitted into a double wide image.) On Monday an editor will review the service and pull out quotes to form the “story” for the recap video. They use Adobe Premiere Pro to edit and ultimately add graphics and b roll from the service to cover each edit.

Dallas says that getting the recap right requires a lot of feedback from the staff. He says that they use Wipster a ton for a process that will have at least three revisions. “We have anywhere between three and five people looking at it for different things. Like we have one person who is really good at spelling; one person who is really good at the message, and knows what the story should sound like. And every one of us is commenting on it.” He says that Wipster allows the process to go quickly and smoothly, streamlining a weekly process that would sometimes take all week.

Lights, Camera, Action

These modern churches have embraced video to help them tell what many consider the greatest story ever told, in more engaging ways than ever before. They use video to share testimonial stories, inspire others and show the work of God in a language people understand, according to Tim Savage: “Video and multimedia, that’s the language that people now have grown up with. If we’re not speaking to them in their language, then they’re not going to understand what we’re trying to say.” And with the latest video technology and collaboration tools so affordable and readily available, there will be many more churches sure to follow suite.

How are you and your church using video to tell the greatest story ever told? Share your experiences or questions in the comments below.


Jeff Chaves is a freelance writer from Las Vegas, Nevada and Chief Creative Officer of Grace Pictures Inc., which he co-owns with his wife, Peggy. He got his start in video production as an army broadcaster in the 1980s.