Video content is widely regarded in professional marketing as the best form of digital media for highest audience engagement on social media platforms. Just to highlight the truth of this further, let’s take a moment to look at a couple of facts about YouTube, which is still the biggest social media platform to date – 73% of adults in the US use YouTube (that’s more than Facebook) and almost 5 billion videos are watched on Youtube every single day. That is a collossal amount of viewing time!
If video is so important to engagement and communication with audiences online, then how can churches leverage this appropriately in their evangelism, especially when our ability to put on in-person events is so limited by COVID-19 restrictions at the moment?
Some churches have been producing video content for some time, yet many more have only recently taken steps in doing so as a response to having to move Sunday services online due to lockdown measures. But no matter how much, how little, or how long churches have been engaging with audiences and communities online, as we all start moving forward into the ‘new normal,’ now is the perfect time to really take stock and examine our plans and strategies with digital media. It is paramount that we make sure that we are using video content not only to serve our current congregations, but also to up our game with evangelism and outreach.
Effective Online Evangelism
So what does this look like? Well, ultimately, it will look different for every church, because your content should always be dictated by your audience, which for churches is their local communities, so naturally these vary drastically! However, here are some key pointers to consider that are crucial no matter where you are:
1) Think local not global
The temptation with putting videos content online and having a look at those viewing stats is to suddenly start thinking globally and not locally. Whilst yes, you will inevitably get engagement with some people from across the globe, we must not make the mistake of allowing this to distract us from the aim of reaching the local community that your church serves. If we keep focussed, it helps us to not become overwhelmed, and also to keep putting our resources in the right places. One way of targeting video content to a local audience is to use social media platform’s targeted ads and promotion tools to have your videos pushed to people only within a small geographical area. Don’t underestimate the power of these tools. Ever wondered why you get ads on your socials for local businesses and not ones in the next town over? Yep, that’s targeted advertising. It works.
2) Take care over your language
We’re not talking about expletives here. We’re talking about ‘Christianeze’. I think people from every denomination and background have all probably been guilty of using this at some point, because we all have our slightly differing common lingo or theological terms. Sometimes it’s only right to use it! But consider for a moment, would somebody who has no prior experience of church be able to understand the sermon? The worship song lyrics? The prayers? Complicated or unusual spiritual words may well be understood by your regular congregation, but may leave everybody else a little lost to say the least, immediately alienating them and as a consequence, probably losing them as a viewer. We only need explain things or talk in more widely used language to prevent this.
3) Keep it concise
One drawback to social media is that your are always competing with other content for your audience’s attention. As such, if you are aiming at non-church goers, short videos are likely to be far more effective than hour long services with a 40 minute sermon. To demonstrate, a vicar by the name of Reverend Chris Lee has recently gone Instagram-viral for his one minutes sermons. Digestable little packages of content that people can consume and ponder over their coffee break, commute or lunch, will be popular with those who probably haven’t sat and listened to a 45 minute lecture since their days at school or University. It takes stamina! But that’s not to say your congregation don’t need that sort of spiritual food, which leads us on to the next point…
4) Produce different content for different uses
This may seem sort of obvious, but there’s no use trying to make your Sunday online service the one-stop shop for everything your are trying to do for both congregation and outreach – worship songs, sermons, kids activites, gospel invitiations, prayers, notices and giving information. You may be thinking that the above is pretty much what a normal (pre-COVID) service looks like – rightly so. But a service in a building, primarily for your congregation, is very different to the online platform. The attention span of your audience is significantly reduced online, they can watch at their leisure, and even fastforward or rewind as they please. Now there’s no doubt that is is essential for congregations to still have those times of worship, to be encouraged and challenged through sermons, and to be informed of what’s going on. Yet, why not split those up? Have the notices in a separate social media post? Just have a short sermon and some songs with communion as your service? Have a kids ‘Sunday School’ via Zoom another day? Why not have a second weekly video solely aimed at evangelising? Ultimately, it is up to church leaders to discern what will work best for their context, but we must certainly think outside the box to find the most effective solutions.
5) Remember video is a means to an end, not the end itself
When we produce quality video content, it reflects well on the church’s ‘brand’ image, and that is very helpful, especially in consideration of younger people who aren’t too forgiving of poorly made videos, and are bombarded with high quality content on a daily basis. But whilst we all get a bit of a buzz off that ‘looking cool’ feeling, let’s not forget that even the flashiest and best-made of video content, should only ever be a tool of communication in evangelism and discipleship, nothing more. Although in this day and age, as we have already established, it is certainly one of the most important. So as a tool of communication, it must work in coordination with other tools such as phonecalling, emails, websites, messaging, video calling, etc etc. To do this, always try to funnel the audience through to their next step of interaction, which might be an invitation to a Zoom call, or expressing interest in an Alpha course, as part of the video.
This applies even more so as we start to be able to resume meetings, house groups and services in person. Evangelism should start with relationship, so let our video content be an aid in starting those relationships – the springboard from which we get to meet people in person.
So there’s five points to think about when it comes to using video content in evangelism. If you’ve found this helpful, do subscribe to and follow us on social media to stay up to date with more articles and videos we publish.