By Anthony D. Coppedge
Contributing Writer
January 27, 2022

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- has nothing to do with technology

To fully appreciate the statement made in the title of this article, you'd have to know that I'm a "techie" at heart. I love, I mean tools. I only call them tools when I'm talking to the Pastor. Every other time: toys. I like to edit. I enjoy shooting (camera work). Building graphics brings me great satisfaction. And all of those things require a certain amount of equipment.

Whoops. I am talking about toys again and my first statement ontradicts that entirely. Focus...focus...focus.

Let's start again.

Creativity has nothing to do with technology. It certainly has nothing to do with the type of toys you have or even how many toys you get to play with.

No, creativity is what enables you to use those toys. You can create, change, erase and rework because of that creativity...but to be creative puts no requirements on the pocketbook.

There are two groups reading this article: the left-brained and the right-brained.

“Left Brain vs. Right Brain”

You right brainers are skimming through this article already. But the left brainers are reading every line - and some of you are using a ruler or your finger to keep your exact place on the page. Gotcha.

The left-brain crowd is looking for things that will make them creative: examples, video clips, resources, contact information, etc. Let me assure you that it's coming in a few paragraphs.

The right-brain crowd has completely blown past this paragraph, skimming for keywords like Sony or Microsoft or What's hilarious to the left brainers is that the right brainers just saw "Sony" as they were skimming and came to an immediate stop, only to not understand the conversation that's being had about them. Don't fret, I've got stuff for you too.

So what creativity tips can I give you in a text format? I'm going to give you two main things: some examples here in written form, as well as a list of resources for you to use when initiating this media journey.

Both sides of the brain-crowd are now happy.

“Expectations and Reality”

In the church environment, we typically deal with skimpy budgets, tight deadlines (can you do this in the next 15 minutes before service?) and people who have absolutely no clue about what it takes to produce even a short, David Letterman-style run out video.

Want to know a secret? The average church attendee expects you to produce world-class stuff for them. Surely, that can't be right. They know the budgets, and that proves that they have low expectations (did I hear someone say 'ouch!?).

But it is right. Americans are the most spoiled society in the world. In fact, one of the things we're most spoiled with is something we take for granted: TV. The 30-second commercials you'll see at this year's Super Bowl will cost $4 million each. That’s just the airtime. Don’t forget the cost of making them! The American viewer has a very developed sense of ‘quality’ when it comes to TV shows or commercials.

So how do you, as the local church, compete with that? You can. I'll prove it.

Quote me on this: "The church will rarely compete with the production quality of the footage that Hollywood produces. But, we can use the same production values that Hollywood uses."

If I spend time story-boarding (creating a detailed shot list) a shoot, I will know the timing of the events, the types of shots I'll need and a good estimate of the time necessary to actually bring it all together. However, if I grab my camcorder, walk down the hall to the offices and ask someone to tell me why they love our church, I'll most likely be disappointed with the project.

So what does that tell us? Planning is essential.

Did you ever watch a movie and feel like you were actually there? You’ll know that the guy fixing to come around the corner had a briefcase in his right hand, his Fedora hat was hiding his shifty eyes and his pace was quick as he stepped through the puddles – and he has something to hide.

How in the world did you know all of that? You saw 'cutaways'. Cutaways, also known as 'B-Roll', are used to show sections of the image for a brief moment. The tight grip on the briefcase in the right hand. The close-up of the brim of the Fedora casting a shadow on the eyes darting back and forth. The puppy-dog view of the shoes clicking and splashing along a wet sidewalk.

It was by including those extra shots that made the tension build. Had you only seen him walking along a street corner, you'd never know the details that fill this moment with tension.

When you plan your work, pre-think what B-Roll you're going to need.

“Last Minute is Right Out!”

This also means that the Pastor and Music Minister need to be way ahead of the game. Last minute ideas are sometimes great - but rushed projects usually have diminished results.

Since I'm stepping on toes already, let me press down a bit.

Pastors: tell your media team what you're preaching on, if only it is just the theme and basic outline, three to six weeks in advance. This can’t always be the case, but it should be the norm, not the exception.

Music Ministers: give your media team the words to the songs and the song list weeks before the service happens. Notify them if you plan on using a drama, and what it will be about.

Why? To allow time to produce spots, or video “shorts” that build up to that new study. To find testimonies that fit within the theme of the message. To get with some people in the church who want to do a drama that fits - and they need to create a small video that sets the stage for the
drama. To advertise this new, life-application series to the lost and dying world in our community, or to our own congregation. To have time to find graphics, clips and sound bites that they will need to get permission to use - and incorporate them into the service itself! That’s why.

What about when something big happens, and we need to react quickly to the event? Ah-ha!

You've got me! Or do you...

“Use Available Resources”

Remember Columbine? I was in Las Vegas at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention when that happened. The next weekend (about 10 days later), we had secured footage from CNN ImageSource to create a dramatic, newsy spot that lasted about a minute and a half.

The spot was used to begin the sermon. Images of kids running, police and firemen cautiously entering the building with bullet-proof shields and a boy being pulled from a window and slamming into the side of the vehicle. The audience was rivited.

The footage changed to that of ambulances and a hospital spokesperson counting off the types of gunshot wounds, a father who hadn't heard if his child was dead or alive, and Isaiah Sholes’ father in front of a news crew which then dissolved into a shot of him closing his son’s casket. A silhouette of the crosses erected on a nearby hill and students praying soon turned into a picture montage. Small box windows of pictures appeared and moved across and around the screen, superimposed on a slowly moving background.

Finally, when the graphic of a gun with the text "Lessons from Littleton" appeared at the end of the spot, the lights came up to reveal the Pastor - already standing behind the pulpit - and his haunting first line "It was Adolph Hitler's birthday." The impact was immense.

This spot was hugely successful...and extremely time consuming. I edited for two solid days to create a minute and a half of content. All other work stopped. This was the focus. The rights to use the footage cost money, too. CNN doesn't give footage away, but the need was great enough
to justify the cost. What a phenomenal return on investment.

“Money! That's the culprit here! You have to actually buy the video footage,” says the left-brainer. In some cases, yes. In other cases, you can literally spend 90 minutes and create a spot with a camcorder and a VCR. Let me give you the perfect example.

“Sometimes it’s simple”

I had a project where a Sunday school administrator needed 12 new teachers for the pre-school area.

Easy enough, I surmised. I'll just make a weepy, mushy piece that makes the pew-sitters feel guilty. The only problem was that we had to do this project in a tight timeframe. The Pastor gave me two days.

I asked him how often he watched the David Letterman Late Show. A man in his early fifties, the Pastor responded with a chuckle, "On occasion.” That's all I needed.

To summarize: A 25 minute meeting with the preschool director, a five minute meeting with the Pastor's secretary, 30 minutes spent shooting the next day, and 30 minutes editing. The result?

The Pastor gets a note at the pulpit the next Sunday morning. He informs the audience that he forgot to get the Preschool Director the necessary help, and that he promised her that he would help himself if he didn't.

So out runs the distinguished-looking Pastor through one of the rear doors of the auditorium, conveniently located right under one of the IMAG (projected image) screens. As he hits the door, the live shot from the sanctuary cameras seamlessly cuts to the pre-shot footage of the Pastor
from the reverse angle. Same suit, same tie...but with Mission: Impossible theme music.

The camera chases him as he runs around trying to push the Bye-Bye Buggie cart, dashes down long hallways, tries to feed babies, change diapers, read books and put together puzzles with kids in various classrooms, only to find himself run ragged.

This cuts to a scene of him running towards the auditorium with his tie pulled down, hair messed up and jacket unbuttoned. As he opens the same door, we cut to the live shot of him running back in, tie pulled down, hair messed up and jacket unbuttoned right on cue.

The net result: 78 new volunteers in one day. That's right, 78. The Preschool Director still sends me thank-you notes.

“OK, now what?”

So what does this mean? How do you do this? Where do you start?
The left-brainer is thinking through the logistics of manpower, time, scheduling conflicts and budget. The right-brainer is wondering why we didn't do it his way; after all, he's obviously found a way to improve upon these ideas.

Good. You're both thinking. That is my whole point.

In getting started with a media ministry, look at what other media savvy churches are doing that you feel would work for you. Then, consider the following:

• Ask them why they chose brand X over brand Y. Also ask them how long it takes them to produce their content. Then ask them how many people are involved with the creation of this content. Finally, ask them how much they spend on personnel, equipment and supplies and resources per week/month/year.

• Some of you will discover that some churches are really investing heavily in these ministries. Others will discover a church member who donates his equipment and/or time for church projects. The point is, though, you may very well have the beginnings of your tech team sitting in your church right now.

• When getting started, don’t expect to start where the established media ministry churches are at today. They didn’t get there overnight, and you won’t either.

• It’s also very important to discover who in your church would be highly interested in media ministry now, before you start. Having equipment without a dedicated volunteer base is wasted money.

• Seriously consider a full time staff position; a Media Minister or Director of Media. While many different people may fit this position, potential candidates should have a strong production background. As the ministry starts up, this person will be instrumental in building a strong foundation of content creation and equipment training.

• Research local Audio/Visual (A/V) firms who have worked successfully with churches. Ask them for several references, and check those references thoroughly. It will be very important to have the support of a qualified dealer as you build and grow. Explain to the dealer that a long-term partnership is desired, as the ministry will grow over the years, so will your need for their products and services.

WEB Resources

I applaud you for taking the first brave new steps into Media in your church. Or perhaps you’re doing some form of media, be it sermon notes and song lyrics projected or an occasional video opener for a message. Wherever your church is in this journey, you have room to grow. By
researching good resources and learning from other ministries, you are poised to impact your community with a medium that they already relate to: Multi-Media.

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