Videos have quickly become the way you reach much of your parish community with your message. While some will join you for your live streams, others may come to your content at a later time. When thinking about creating engaging videos, there are several simple measures you can take that don’t require a lot of technical expertise. 

A key goal for improving engagement is ensuring your message is clear, compelling, and captures your audience’s attention. And that it is easy to find.

We’ve pulled together a few simple methods and samples for inspiration.

Focus on the First Five Seconds

You’ve heard of the five-second rule? In marketing this is the approximate amount of time you have to grab and lock-in on someone’s attention.

While live streaming your service, you may be inclined to build buffer time as people join the service both online and in-person. When it comes time to edit the video for publishing, it is this five-second rule you want to keep in mind.  Cut the seconds or minutes of buffer time you’ve given your audience for the live experience so that your final product instantly engages the non-live audience.

Here are a few ways you can optimise your first five seconds:

  • Consider a voiceover introduction to set the stage for an engaging video experience
  • Hook your audience with a profound statement or question that drives the narrative of your sermon or prayer services.
  • Bring in a powerful visual
  • Use music to set the tone

This video uses voiceover with a strong opening before bringing the individual into the church for the service itself. 

 3:37 / 33:15 Sunday service with the Archbishop of York which shows how to use a strong introduction and transition slides throughout the video

Create an Enticing Thumbnail

Including a thoughtful thumbnail at the beginning is instantly visually appealing for the casual video scroller. According to YouTube academy, the highest performing thumbnails are those that include text along with a person’s face. You add the title card or thumbnail to the video in the editing process, so it does need to be part of the original service. It can be a still image of the speaker you have on hand, or a natural-looking headshot. 

Configuring this image will improve how your videos perform on platforms like YouTube and Facebook. And it will also help parishioners find specific videos you embed on your website. 

If you are practicing a themed approach to your sermons or services, you can use a consistent image across multiple videos that ties the theme together. But you don’t want every video to look exactly alike or have the same headshot, otherwise you will lose the engaging element you are striving for.

For example, in this screen grab from the Church of England YouTube channel, the use of a question in the video thumbnail is instantly engaging. The personalization of each speaker makes it approachable and shows that you can expect to hear from multiple topics and speakers in this series, or theme, that they have defined.

Church of England Channel on YouTube shows use of strong thumbnails to generate video engagement and interest

Add Graphics to Engage the Audience

When you are editing your video, you can add in elements that create natural transitions and break up the video into segments. This also takes the pressure off of your speakers to always be camera ready.

Transition cards and graphics are good for the viewer as well. By breaking up the content you are better able to keep your audience’s attention. Thoughtful ways to do this in a service includes displaying lyrics, scripture, prayers, or poems in your video as the Diocese of Oxford did here.

Diocese of Oxford uses text and imagery in their video stream to produce engaging content and share lyrrics

Optimise your Video for Search

When uploading videos, incorporate useful and descriptive text. This includes everything from carefully titling your video to including subtitles, captions, and transcripts. Text is how search engines know to find your video. Plus, it is how you help ensure your content is accessible to your full audience.

When choosing text, a bit of caution. Using keywords in your services titles helpful, but if every title is “Sunday Service” this will make it harder to find your exact video. The additional descriptive text you add will improve your results, but a thoughtful title is important.

Add a Call to Action

A call to action is a marketing tool that tells your audience exactly what you want them to do. Subscribe, buy, review, etc. But in the church setting, you can use this technique to channel a more spiritual and personal message.

Close your service with a call to help a neighbour, submit a prayer request, read a passage or just to pray. Having this verbal call to action makes your congregation feel more engaged and therefore that they are getting more value from watching a video. 

At the end of this Hillsong video, they help guide their congregation to resources that can help them throughout the week. 

Promote Your Video

Let people know you have archived content they can watch if they missed a service. Use social media, emails, and newsletters to remind your congregation that there are opportunities to connect with your message even if they missed the live service. You can share a few key takeaways or a reminder of the Bible passage covered. Also you can keep your most recent content in prominent locations on your digital platforms. For instance:

  • On Facebook, post your edited video as featured content for the week
  • On Twitter or your blog, use the pin feature to set your recent video at the top of your profile
  • Feature your Sunday Service on your home page

Use these pages to enhance engagement by adding questions to the post and encouraging responses.

Social media marketing on your laptop or smartphone makes it easy to promote your church on the go

Look to Others for Inspiration

If you are having a hard time coming up with topics or ideas, you can always look to other church leaders for inspiration. Search YouTube for topics like “Sunday Services” or “Church Services” to get a wide variety of results, compare top performers, and see what they do that you could incorporate into your own content.

Like any media, it is difficult to work in a vacuum. If you lean on others for inspiration and consume content that inspires you, you will find the fuel to rethink some of your own offerings. 

Tools for Creating Engaging Videos

Creating engaging videos doesn’t have to be a high-budget expense. There are plenty of excellent tools to get started that make it easy to incorporate imagery and transitions into your footage.

VSDC: Free Version

For a low-budget tool, you can accomplish quite a bit. VSDC’s free version includes features such as adding text, lines, charts and special effects. You can make quality improvements as well with filters and colour correction. There’s also a great masking tool so you can apply effects like blur to part of the video, which you can use for  obscuring faces if you ever need to remove an individual from your content for GDPR purposes. The free version of VSDC exports in multiple formats including AVI and MPG.

Hit Film Express: Free Version

The free version of Hit Film Express is feature rich, especially considering you are not creating a major motion picture. The learning curve can be a little steep, but the site includes tutorials and support if you need help creating engaging videos.

Filmora9

With Filmora9 you can do a lot to create engaging videos, including access more than 800 effects and 50+ video formats. You can use this on your phone or laptop. Download for free but you may need to purchase some of the video formats. The intuitive interface is one of the best features for this budget tool.