Walking into a church for the first time can be intimidating. And the smaller the church, the harder it can be.
Since the video includes walking while looking into a camera, it is essential to practice it a few times before shooting.
Thankfully, with technology, we can make that onramp easier.
One of the great values of streaming and podcasting your church services is that it eases people's tensions about arriving in person. Most people will watch or listen to a service several times, before deciding to leave their house to come to the church in person.
Even before they take the time to watch or listen to an hour-long service, though, there's a simple, inexpensive and effective way to use technology, to reduce that first-timer tension even more.
Our small church, Cornerstone Fellowship Church in Fountain Valley, California, uses a welcome video that visually walks newcomers through the experience of visiting our church for that first time.
More first-time guests mention this video as the reason they decided to check our church out, than any other page of our church website.
Here's our video. Give it a quick look, then I'll walk you through the steps we took to make it.
Here is a rundown of three major aspects, with two of the three to be covered here, and the third to be covered on Tuesday, April 11.
1. Getting Ready to Shoot
It's up to you, pastor
So, who should be featured in the video? Either the lead or teaching pastor.
Knowing who is likely to be speaking in the church service is very important to the first-time visitor. Unless the pastor simply doesn't come across well on video (like, if they freeze or feel phony), featuring the pastor in the video is far more effective than using anyone else.
Have a rough outline, but don't memorize a script
If you show up and wing it, two things will happen. First, the shoot will take far longer than it should. Second, it will look unprepared.
But beware, the other side of looking unprepared, is by looking overprepared. That makes the presentation seem stale and cold. A prepared, but casual approach, using everyday language, is more welcoming than a script.
Do as many practice runs as needed
Since the video includes walking while looking into a camera, it is essential to practice it a few times before shooting. First, for the safety of both the speaker and camera operator. Second, the practice is needed to get rid of nerves, and make the walk feel as natural as possible. Third, to get comfortable with what you're going to say.
Make sure the property is repaired and clean
Make sure the paint isn't cracked or pealing, that the weeds are pulled and the plants are trimmed, that there are no storage areas visible, and so on. Otherwise, your video may turn more people away than it attracts.
You spend a lot of time on the church campus, so you may not see the physical problems others see. Maybe even have an unchurched friend walk through it with you, to point out issues that are immediately apparent to them, that you may miss.
Yes, your smartphone is smart enough for this
You don't need to buy or rent an expensive video camera. Use the newest smartphone you have access to. Almost everyone in your church has one. That's what we shot our video on.
Don't depend on the mic on your phone
While video quality on smartphones continues to increase exponentially every year or so, audio is not nearly as good. Especially if your church is on a busy street, like ours is, don't depend on the camera microphone to do the job. Ask around to find someone who has a plug-in mic with a long cord, if possible. That will be your best sound.
Or test a few Bluetooth earbud/mics that are as unobtrusive visually as possible.
The lapel mic I used is an Audio-Technica Omni ATR3350, which has since been discontinued, having been replaced by the ATR3350iS. It has a 20-foot cord, great sound quality, and cost less than $100. The currently available ATR3350iS can be purchased for $29, or if you take a few minutes online, you can other comparable models around the same price. This is likely to be your only expense for the entire project.
Don't use a handheld mic. They're fine on stage, but they look very awkward in a conversational video.
2. Shooting and Editing
Show them how to find the church
The opening shot should either show your viewers the first look they are likely to have of the church.
For us, on a busy street, that's our sign. For most churches, people are likely to see the building before they see the sign. If your church is on a side street, or has anything blocking its view, start there, so they know how to find you.
Tell them your location
Whether it's the physical address or the cross streets, it's essential that people who want to find you, can. So you need to say it in the video.
Walk them through the parking lot
The first impression people have of your church campus will not be in the building, but in the parking lot. Show people what that looks like, including if there are any confusing aspects to it, or if you have special parking for first-time guests.
Point out any obvious landmarks or quirks
As you saw in our video, I pointed out our skateboard park, simply because it's the most distinct feature seen from the street. If your church has a huge cross, an unusual entrance, or is right next to (or behind) a large store or other landmark, point that out visually so they know what to look for.
Show them where their kids will go
First, this allows newcomers to know there will be something for kids. Second, it gives them a comfort level about where to bring the kids when they get there.
It's not necessary to show them the kids' rooms, but if you have really nice ones, drop in a video clip of them.
Shoot it in one take, if you can
The main part of our video was shot in one piece, mostly because our church is small enough for me to walk through the entire process in one take, without making the video too long. But if your campus is bigger, you may have to do some stop/start edits.
If you can do it in a single walk-through, I recommend it. This will give the newcomer a genuine feel for what their first-time experience will actually be like.
Let them experience coming in the main doors
If you do have to make edits for the size of your facility, don't skip the front doors. First-time guests need to know where they are and what they look like.
Help them know what to do when they enter the main room
The church lobby seems obvious to church regulars. But for newcomers, it's their first time in a strange environment. If you have a guest station or info table, show it to them. If they have to walk through a maze of hallways to find the main sanctuary entrance, show them that as well.
If it's OK for them to dress casual, you need to dress casual
People take their cues from what we do, not what we say. If you tell people it's OK to dress casual, but the person in the video is wearing a suit and tie, viewers will get the message that they need to similarly be dressed up.
Suits are fine, if that's what the people in your church wear. Just be sure what you're saying and what you're wearing are consistent with each other.
Keep it short
The video we produced is 2 minutes, 45 seconds long. That's hitting the upper limit of length, in my view. If your video hits the three-minute mark, I would anticipate that you will lose some viewers. Far more people will click an intro video under three minutes, than over it.
Keeping with the topic of length, read the second part of how to shoot such a video, on April 11, which can be found by clicking this link.