In an increasingly visual culture, preaching is learning again that stories can be told with both words and pictures.
As churches seek to communicate with new generations that are increasingly visually-oriented (and less and less literary), many have discovered the power of a visual image in communicating divine truth. That’s one reason why the most consistent trend of contemporary church architecture is the presence of projection screens.
As a result, a burgeoning industry has developed to create visual resources for worship and preaching. We aren’t talking about still photography here – the kind of images often used as backgrounds for song lyrics and such – but coordinated video presentations (which may include still photos) with audio tracks.
How are such videos used in worship? The best uses are integrated into the overall worship experience to accomplish some purpose: set a mood, provoke a thought, spark an idea, draw a chuckle. Sometimes they are used early in the service to help set a theme; other times they are used immediately before the sermon, as a virtual sermon introduction. On occasion, they might be used during the sermon to illustrate a truth, or at the end of a service to send listeners away with a powerful last impression.
In this 2006 survey of video resources for Preaching, we are emphasizing resources that are ready-to-use for worship. A variety of resources are available for the church which has media staff to create original resources, but that is beyond our purpose here. This resource will focus on video material that’s ready to go right in your DVD player – ready for you to push the “Play” button.
Many of the websites listed provide the opportunity to view a preview of the videos. Be sure to take advantage of this before ordering something, just in case you aren’t comfortable with the look or style of a particular offering. Even within a single production group, you’ll often find a wide variety of styles and production values.
No doubt we’ll miss some good sources, so feel free to let us know about other options by writing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “Big Box” stores of Video Resources
There are two major sites where many of the video production creators make their work available. Rather than being producers of video content, these websites are places you can go to find hundreds of sermon-support videos developed by many different producers and distributors (including some of those cited above). At the sites you can search for videos by topic, preview them on-line, and download them to your own computer (or order DVDs), for prices typically ranging from $5 to $20 each. If you’re new to the use of video, these sites are a good place to begin exploring video options for your worship; then, as you discover what works well for you, you may want to purchase larger sets from those providers whose work you find most helpful.
WorshipHouseMedia.com. This is the new kid on the block, and they offer access to hundreds of videos, including a free download available each month. In addition to the videos, they also offer a variety of other resources, including still images, articles, and so on. Visit them at www.worshiphousemedia.com.
Sermonspice.com. You’ll find most of the same videos as at WHM. Each month they also have a free video available for downloading. Like WHM, they have their own set of articles, reviews, and other resources. Visit this site at http://sermonspice.com/.
The “Specialty Stores” of Video Resources
Sometimes you don’t need to browse through a wide selection – you know exactly what you want. In that case, you may want to go straight to these sources of video designed for worship, preaching and teaching use.
Angelhouse Media. This seems to be one of the most prolific Christian media companies right now, with a variety of resources available. They offer several categories of video, including “Sharable Parables” (brief stories with a deeper meaning; a bit long for most worship services, but good for small groups), “The Text: Scripture in Pictures” (images and narration focused on a specific biblical text); “Mirrors” (contemplative reflections on life and God; they also have a Christmas collection in this series); and “Interludes” (thirty-second videos on a biblical passage, ideal for transitions in worship). Angelhouse offers quality production and a lot of variety. DVD sets are $35.00 each, and can be ordered from http://www.angelhousemedia.com/.
BluefishTV. “Illustrate” is one of the strongest video tools I’ve seen that will fit well into a worship setting. Produced with pastor Erwin McManus, these three-volume DVD sets contains multiple video clips featuring real-life stories that deal with issues like adultery, divorce, conflict, financial pressures, and more. These are emotionally-charged and will help engage listeners and set the stage for the sermon. (They would also be useful when you are speaking to a youth group or other setting.) Each set is $99.95 each, a reasonable price for a strong set of video resources like this. While you’re checking this out, take a look at “Shorts,” a set of commercial parodies that your teens will love. Visit them at http://www.bluefishtv.com/.
Highway Video. Providing resources for the “emerging church,” Highway Video produces 3-5 minute “visual vignettes (that) challenge, convict, amuse, and drive ministry to the next level.” At present they offer 14 video collections on DVD, each containing five videos, for a cost of $55.00 per DVD; lower prices are available via a subscription option. Unfortunately, their web site only allows you to preview a short clip rather than the entire video. They also have other visual resources available, such as Vibe Video (with music tracks but no audio text). The best bargain may be their “Classics” collection – the first 30 videos they produced – which is available for $120. Learn more at: http://www.highwayvideo.com/
Midnight Oil Productions. This group offers a selection of high-quality video productions which can be used in worship settings. You’ll find a variety of packages, including some for Easter, Christmas, and a package called “On Purpose Media” ($45.00) for use in connection with a 40 Days of Purpose campaign. My favorite preview was called “Good to Go” and featured astronauts and the space program – a good “launching pad” for a sermon on mission and responding to challenges. The two fellows behind this company – Jason Moore and Len Wilson – are also the authors of the Digital Storytelling: The Art of Communicating the Gospel in Worship (Abingdon Press). You’ll find them at: http://www.midnightoilproductions.net/
Nooma. Nooma films are different from most of the others discussed here, since they are short films (10-14 minutes each) that feature the teaching of Rob Bell, the creative senior pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan. Bell is seen teaching on each film, supplemented by high quality visuals and music. Because of the length of these, they are more likely to be useful as discussion-prompters for small groups rather than in corporate worship, but portions could be used in a worship setting. There are a series of films available on various subjects, and each is available in DVD or VHS for $10, plus shipping. Nooma films can be ordered through Zondervan (at a cost of $12.99 each), or direct from www.nooma.com.
Vertical Sky Productions. Vertical Sky’s three volumes of Igniter Videos each contain five mini-movies; prices on the collections range from $39-$45, or you can purchase all three sets for $99. The videos are well-done; the one called “me/church” will have you rolling in the aisles. You can preview clips at their website; a few allow you to see the whole video. Check them out at: http://www.verticalsky.com.
Michael Duduit is Editor of Preaching magazine. You can write to him at email@example.com, or visit his website at www.michaelduduit.com