Doing a talk in church is hard. Not only are you trying to say something faithful to God’s word, but you’re trying to be faithful to the people listening. You want them to walk away changed. But we’ve all been in those awkward situations where there is an elderly minister speaking to a young crowd in the same way that he spoke to the retirees at the 7am service. From the start the young people are not engaged, for a large part because he hasn’t been faithful to them in seeking to engage them where they are at. But then there is also the younger minister who is really eager to engage the young people, and figures that in order to do so he has to use all the new types of media, like ‘cool videos’. He’s found some videos online that look great and are funny, and uses them alongside his talk. After the service though, all the young people are talking about the funny parts of the video, and it doesn’t seem like they engaged with the talk at all. Maybe you’ve even been one of those ministers.
I think they actually present two sides of the same problem, and that is that technology like video has become usable on a popular level – it’s available. The question then is what you do with it. It becomes a two sided problem because you can either ignore it’s there and not realise that it can be a helpful tool for engaging people in a way you couldn’t before, or you can use it simply because you can without actually considering whether or not your use is engaging people in the way you want. I hope that you want to avoid both of those. If you give talks, then the following posts should give you both some ideas and some boundaries for using video to aid your teaching. If you make videos, then the following should give you some categories for how to think about what your video is doing.
But before we get to the ideas, I want to give a simple principle for how to use video well. The ideas will all refer back to this. Here’s the principle: let your purpose dictate your use of video. The same goes for uses of other media. It’s an available tool, so treat it as such. You can use it if it helps you do your job better, but you don’t have to use it if it won’t. By way of analogy, say you’re a carpenter, and you’ve just found out that the circular saw has come on the market. Yay! A power tool! One carpenter, who mostly sizes wooden planks, might say “I’ve been using my hand-saw all my career and it works just fine”, then finds out that other chippies are starting to produce at a much faster rate. Another carpenter buys the circular saw because that’s what all the cool carpenters are doing, but then uses it for everything, including sharpening pencils. Do you catch my drift? A circular saw is a really helpful tool if used for appropriate purposes. It’s the same with video.
Why do you want to use video? Why do you refuse to use video? If your answer revolves around what will help see your purpose happen, then you’re on the right track. But I do have a disclaimer at the same time. If your natural tendency is to swing much more to one end of the spectrum (no use or over-use), then it is probably a good idea to ask yourself whether or not it’s just your preference coming into play. For most people giving talks, as we mentioned at the start, your purpose will be something to do with wanting to see people walk away changed. If that’s your purpose, then it’s not about you. Video might not help you if you were listening to yourself preach (that would be weird enough in itself), but it may well be the best thing for many of the people listening. Or it may be the most distracting thing ever. If your purpose is to see people changed, then let that dictate your use (or non-use) of video. And that means that you won’t just use any video for the sake of it. If using video will help your people, then you will pick a video that appropriately achieves what you want it to. It will complement your talk, not distract or take away from it.
I’m hoping the ideas that follow will give you some good ideas about how to use video to complement your talks. I’m also hoping that you might contribute some more ideas, as well as example videos that we can watch online. I’ll try to keep adding to the illustration project as I work through these ideas too. Hopefully we can help each other to get better at using video as a powerful tool rather than a gimmick or not-at-all.