Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Sermon Video


One of the many unusual aspects about clergy job searches is that churches often request a videotape of a sermon or even an entire worship service. Some churches settle for an audiotape, which is much easier to produce, but a great videotape of a great sermon is a key ingredient for a successful clergy job search. The difficulty is that a great videotape can be difficult to come by. People who have served on search committees have reported receiving videotapes that were so dark and unfocused that they had difficulty telling there was a person in them, and with sound quality that made it difficult to make out any words, much less follow the thread of a sermon.

I do not know of any service providers who videotape sermons professionally. I know that some seminaries have a studio for videotaping students, but I have not heard of these studios being made available to non-students.

If this post seems as though it raises questions and airs complaints more than it offers answers, that is because I don't have any definitive answers. During my most recent search I made three sermon tapes--one before a live audience with the camera located in the balcony, and two "canned" sermons during which I utilized a homemade teleprompter system (i.e., my husband scrolling furiously on his Ipad as he held it next to the camera.) In general I was pleased with the results of these sermons--at least, in terms of picture and sound quality. Fortunately I had access to a good video camera, the church that allowed me to tape my sermon during their worship service had good light, and the amateur videographer (a.k.a. my husband) did a great job of framing and focusing the shot.

Most pastors, I think, prefer to create the "tape before a live audience" to the "canned sermon" tapes. It is easier to do your best preaching when you are getting a reaction. Perhaps the best case scenario for creating a sermon videotape involves enlisting a few volunteers to act as an audience which the videographer shoots from fairly close up.

Ultimately I have elected, for now, to submit the "canned sermons" made with the improvised teleprompter. I loved the( relatively) high quality of the audio and video on this tape, and I liked how the teleprompter enabled me to look at my notes without looking down at the podium. Did I make the right choice? At this writing, God knows (but I sure don't).

Update: A church kept me in the running for a clergy position after I sent them the video on this post, so score one for the DIY teleprompter!
Second update: I have since recorded a sermon while looking directly at the camera without reading, and a sermon delivered before a live audience.  While I don't believe either of these sermons represent me at my very best, the sermon delivered before a live audience is the best sermon recording I have done thus far, in terms of both quality of the sermon and quality of the recording.
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