When describing the style of a worship service, the modern day church has often used two descriptions: traditional or contemporary. And when one talks about the use of visual media, it is assumed that video belongs in the camp of the contemporary service.
But that perception is quickly changing. Visual media is no longer considered a style but — like music — it can be traditional or contemporary, simply giving the pastor another tool with which to communicate.
With the ever-increasing production of worship video products over the last 10 years, churches now have a wide range of visual media to choose from. Video is no longer just a resource for the youth minister but also the preacher.
In this 2007 survey of video resources for preaching, we will be focusing mainly on resources that are available on the internet through immediate download (which covers most of the products available). No longer does a pastor have to buy a complete video series to find a few usable resources. The individual download gives a person the ability to buy only what they need. But maybe most important, it allows instant access, 24 hours a day.
Before we begin, let’s briefly talk about the three main types of worship video available which are sermon illustrations or mini-movies, motions / background loops and countdowns. It is important to know these three categories because it will allow you to search quickly through the thousands of available videos.
1) Sermon Illustrations or Mini-Movies
These are short videos that communicate a message through a wide-range of approaches — from drama to documentaries, animation, man on the street interviews and everything else in between. They can be serious or humorous and focus on everything from current events to biblical themes.
These are loopable videos, which mean they seamlessly repeat themselves and can be used as stand-alone videos or backgrounds for text. The majority of motion videos being produced are geared toward the worship experience and are mainly produced without audio. These can be an excellent way to set a mood before or during a service. Preachers can also use them as a subtle on-going visual during the teaching time.
Countdown videos are a friendly and creative way to let the congregation or group know when the service or meeting is starting. They can be themed around a holiday, be humorous or set the mood for worship.
Our first list of visual resources are the companies that provide a one-stop shop in the area of worship media. These websites would be the “Amazon.com’s” of the church media world. While all of these sites typically have similar content they do not all provide the same user experience.
Sermon Spice is the largest and most well-known brand name for worship media. Launched in 2004, they stock over 5700 videos to choose from. The strength of this site is the search feature which allows the user to search by keywords and scripture verses. If you are preaching through James, you can type in James 1 and all videos relating to this chapter will appear. They also claim to have more producers exclusive to their site, meaning you will find more videos not found elsewhere. The downside to the huge library is you might have to spend a little longer to find what you’re looking for, though the most downloaded videos (and normally better quality) appear at the top of your search results list.
Worship House was launched in 2005 and has been quickly building a large catalog of worship resources that include not only video but still images. They also provide a useful resource called “Editables” that allow you the ability to download components of the video to edit for your own purposes. The strength of Worship House is that they are operated by the same group that produces the best-selling Igniter Videos, so they know and understand the worship media world. They also offer a “seasonal” store that allows quick search for seasonal products like Easter or Mother’s day.
The Shoutable Store is provided by Media Shout, which makes media presentation software for churches. Their store has been around for several years and contains a video catalog that is similar to Worship House. This site is worth mentioning simply because Media Shout is in the worship media presentation business and understands what churches are needing and looking for.
Faith Visuals is one of the newest re-sellers of worship media. Because they are new, their inventory is going to be much smaller but they are note worthy because they are a venture of Christianity Today. They offer discounts on videos but you have to buy a membership. Unlike the above companies, Faith Visuals is launched from a print publishing company and not a video company. This may not be a major issue, but it is always interesting to see how a company does when they venture into areas outside their main focus.
Here are some smaller sites that might be worth a look:
Meat Loaf Media
Besides worship media, they have some interesting stock footage
You’ll find a large collection of images for PowerPoint
Word Search Media
Their Christian stock footage is worth a look
Video “Boutique Shops”
This is a quick list of some producers who also sell their products through their own sites. Many of these sites also offer free downloads.
Blue Fish has been one of the leading providers of Bible teaching video curriculum for over 15 years. They have recently started selling short illustration videos online (for only $1.99) which are available exclusively through their website. One of their strengths is in telling “real life” stories that cover a wide-range of topics appropriate for both adults and youth. They are also a good source for videos on missions and evangelism.
Highway Video is considered one of the pioneers of worship media and their content has an edgier feel that will appeal to 30s and under audiences. One of their strengths is their “man-on-the-street” documentaries that ask the general public questions like, Who is Jesus? Why is life Unfair? and What is love? These are great sermon openers or discussion starters. They offer a subscription plan through which users can save on both downloads and DVD volumes.
The Work of the People
The Work of the People produces videos called Visual Literagy which are inspired by Scriptural texts of the Revised Common Lectionary. These creative videos focus on a passage of Scripture in a way that powerfully engages the viewer. They also provide short films, background loops and stills. You can buy an unlimited download membership for only $250 annually. (This adds up to about $1 per video).
Worship Films has been creating worship media before there was even the genre of worship media. They have one of the largest libraries out there, including lots of great motion backgrounds to fit just about any subject from Easter to Memorial Day. Their website also contains over 20 articles for churches getting starting in using visual media. They have a free section that’s worth checking out.
Sermon Videos was started by a youth minister who thought that there was a better way to use media in church. The videos have the feel of someone who understands ministry and how to better utilize visuals in a worship environment. Their site is well-designed and easy to navigate. They offer a great selection of motion backgrounds and sermon illustrations that do a good job of setting a mood and making you think. They also offer a subscription plan that fits a pastor’s budget.
Angel House Media
If you are looking for videos to set a reflective mood in your service, you might want to check out the guys at Angel House Media. They offer a wide variety of visually interesting short videos that can be used as transitional pieces between worship and teaching or stand-alones for contemplation. Many of their videos focus on a specific passage of scripture which work well in setting up your teaching.
The name Igniter Media has become synonymous with high quality. Most of their sermon illustration videos have become best sellers. If you have spent anytime inside a church with a video projector you’ve probably seen their stuff. They are the creators of the powerful and inspiring “That’s My King” and the humorous and convicting “Me Church.” To be blunt, when it comes to church media, no one does it better. They recently released their 5th DVD of five sermon illustrations and every one of their volumes is a must-have for pastors and youth ministers.
Midnight Oil Productions
This site offers background motions and other visual media but the bonus of this site might be the resources that are provided on how-to do media ministry at your church.
Creative media from Ed Young and Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas
Short films featuring the teachings of Rob Bell, Mars Hill Bible church
A collection of short films based on the parables of Christ.
Good source for nature footage
Willow Creek Video Resources
Videos produced by the creative team of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago
Video scripture illustrations for the Bible teacher
Jeff Horch is Web Content Manager for Ministry Publications at Salem Publications. He is the founder of the Visual Scripture site.