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A simple guide to social media

27 July 2012 at 08:15
By: Yewtree
How to market your brand / book / website on social media:

Set up a Facebook page and/or group where you will post regular news items (from your site and those of other relevant sites). Attract attention to it by posting it in other related Facebook groups (search in Groups for related keywords for your topic). Keep it updated regularly.

Set up a Twitter feed where you will post regular news items (from your site and those of other relevant sites). Attract attention to it by following other similar Twitter accounts (search for related keywords for your topic) and retweet and reply to their tweets. Keep it updated regularly.

Set up a blog where you will post regular blogposts about topical items in your subject area. Attract attention to it by adding other similar blogs to your blogroll (search for related keywords for your topic) and post comments on their blogs. Keep it updated regularly.

If you don't "get" Twitter, there's a remarkably succinct and clear summary of what it is and how it works in today's verdict on the Twitter joke trial. (PDF)

Using HootSuite (a paid service), you can also automatically send your blogposts to Twitter and Facebook.

Introduction to social media

18 August 2011 at 05:48
By: Yewtree
Report by Sue Woolley

Lifespan Religious Education Conference 2011
Star Island, New Hampshire, 16 – 23 July 2011
Report on Social Media Workshop by Sue Woolley

Thanks to the generosity of the Manchester Academy Trust and the Hibbert Trust, I was able to attend this conference. The basic structure of our own Hucklow Summer School is based on this Unitarian Universalist conference, so many elements were familiar to me: the morning devotions, the daily theme talk, the compulsory morning workshops, optional afternoon activities, and lantern-lit procession to evening worship.

The morning workshop that I attended was led by the dynamic Peter Bowden, who is a “church growth consultant and Unitarian Universalist change agent” (to quote himself) who has dedicated his life to helping UU congregations to understand social media and to use them effectively. His blog (which is well worth looking at) is UU growth. I am writing the workshop up without much comment, as the things he was telling us are just as relevant to Unitarian congregations in the UK as to UU congregations in the US, if not more so.

Read the rest of the report →

How to promote your blog

27 April 2011 at 09:24
By: Yewtree
  1. Comment on other bloggers' posts - if your comment is interesting and polite, they might drop by to read your blog
  2. Add other blogs to your blogroll - they may return the favour (but never ask to be added to someone's blogroll, it's really tacky)
  3. Follow other bloggers and add them to your Google Reader
  4. Get yourself added to Unitarian Universalist and Unitarian blog aggregators
  5. Have a Twitter account, link it to HootSuite and have HootSuite update your Twitter and Facebook accounts automatically whenever you publish a new blog-post

UU It Gets Better video

7 December 2010 at 06:08
By: Yewtree
UUA Presents "It Gets Better" Video

The UUA Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries recently released a video in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, encouraging them to seek out UUism as a welcoming faith community that affirms each person's worth, regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation.

The "It Gets Better" project is a collection of videos produced by people across the globe aimed to offer hope and inspiration for LGBT teens.

Watch the video now.

How to create a blog

19 September 2010 at 14:53
By: Yewtree
Here's a video from Blogger about how to set up a blog.

What are they Twittering on about?

11 April 2010 at 15:23
By: Yewtree
My presentation from the GA Communications Commission session can now be viewed online.

An Open Letter to the UUA

13 February 2014 at 16:33
I read the UU World article on the new logo, branding, and outreach effort with great interest.  The article tapped into some things I've been frustrated about and some things I've been excited about.  A couple of points in the article really resonated with me (the italics are mine):
The Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley, the UUA’s Program and Strategy Officer, said the new initiative developed out of a growing realization that the UUA and its congregations have been sending “inconsistent” messages about Unitarian Universalism into the larger world.
“We want congregations to think about the messages their congregations are sending out to the world that doesn’t know anything about them,” she added. “That includes thinking about how their building looks to guests, the structure of their services, their programs, whether they’re inward-oriented or serving the community, and what their online presence is like.
And the UUA is developing other resources for congregations, regional groups, and the national association to use. This effort is about much more than a new logo and a new look for the website, Cooley said. “We have to figure out how we live out this faith of ours, not just how to sell it. We need to get clearer about the ways the culture is changing and the ways we serve that culture.” 
Bravo.  Thank you for your vision.  Here's what I need to start.

I'm a minister who has been out in the field for over a decade, and is relatively technologically proficient for someone in the ministry with a liberal arts degree preceding that, but there are ways in which I was unprepared for the way ministry and church would change during my ministry.  And as a minister of a relatively small church, I see ways in which my church is unable to respond.  There are concrete things that the UUA could do that would make things easier.

In my situation, I'm a minister who is the person who creates our church webpage (and created our UUMA chapter webpage and the Ohio River Group webpage).  Nobody else in my church for a long period of time had the know-how (although this is starting to change).  A small, rural congregation, we had no money to pay a professional website developer.  The end result?  A webpage that is serviceable, but not a strong online presence.  It's been my opinion that there are a lot of small churches and even some larger ones with poor websites.  I can see two solutions to this.  One is churches grouping together.  But with our tendency to not collaborate well -- something I hope will change -- this kind of thing is hard to get going.  A simpler solution is for the UUA to provide a basic webpage template for congregations that is in keeping with UUA branding and customizable to some extent for our local congregation information, or for the UUA to create strong pieces -- graphics and videos, etc. -- that can be incorporated into our websites.

When you add to that the need to create church Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Google + pages, and more, this becomes even more impossible for many congregations -- small, rural, and aging ones, in particular -- to do well.  There's been a lot of good work from the UU Media Collaborative and UU Media Works and others online, but good-quality professional images that we can post and tweet are always needed.

When we were doing newspaper advertising, the UUA created professional advertisements, and congregations could buy the packet for customizing and using in our local newspapers. We still use print materials, and it would be easy to create all sorts of them to customize to a local setting and get printed.  I struggled this week with finding "Standing on the Side of Love" brochures that I could bring to a local event.  I had the choice of buying ones from the UUA Bookstore, which would leave anyone picking it up with no clue how to connect locally, or making my own from scratch.  SSL does have images that we can cut and paste, and thankfully tells us the hex code for the color and the font name (but not where to find Scala Sans for free), but whole brochures, business cards, etc., that we could then customize would be so easy to make available to us.  (By the way, could you provide the font name and color values for that new brand?  I also hope it's a font easily available.  I'm not finding what looks like an exact match.)  With no administrative staff in my small church, if I want to have a special SSL handout for our event Friday, it's up to me to make one, with hours that could be spent elsewhere if something was more grab-and-go online.  The end result will also likely be less professional.

Lastly, the biggest and most important issue I've struggled with.  To bring my 158-year-old congregation into the ability to podcast and post videos, we've encountered many barriers, from willing Sunday morning volunteers to people with the technological know-how to purchasing equipment.  We've been painstakingly putting the pieces in place -- ability to digitally record, a video camera -- but another barrier from the Association remains: our hymnal.  I know that I'm hearing that exciting, dynamic worship isn't always sermon-based, but the sermon is practically the only thing we have the copyright to.  The idea that we could at a local level track down the copyright permissions for any hymns we use is an obstacle we will never overcome.  I hear from my local Lutheran colleagues that they pay an annual fee to their denomination which covers use of anything in their hymnal for use in worship and using for videos, podcasts, etc.  What I hear from my UU colleagues is that they either ignore copyright or post only the sermon, or make the videos or audios only available to their members.  Having a hymnal where we know we can use anything in our worship service and still make that worship service accessible technologically is a must for our congregations going forward.  If we want to think about reaching out beyond our four walls, it would be great to be able to do so with music and worship.

In a nutshell, there are four technological obstacles that I see small congregations unable to conquer that our larger Association could help with:
  • Professional webpage templates
  • Professional graphics and videos
  • Professional downloads for customizable print materials
  • Copyrights for electronic transmission of worship
Conquer these, and you'll free us up to do that reaching out to our larger community and to the "nones." 

Thank you again for your vision.  I look forward to having the tools to address it.

Blogging for Beginners

19 July 2013 at 22:06
I'm leading a workshop at SUUSI this year on "Blogging for Beginners."  My mom (herself a former director for on-line learning for a university) pointed out to me that I should have handouts of my PowerPoint slides for the participants.  Handouts for a class about blogging?  That's so low-tech!  But I was trying to decide, indeed, how to share these -- whether to upload the file and share the URL or to e-mail them, or what.  Finally, I thought, "Why not just blog them?  The class is about blogging, after all!"  I remembered that I had found a way to do this once with some web-based application.  Turns out it's even easier now than it was before.

If you're not in the workshop, keep in mind that these are just slides for some basic information and URLs that I thought might be helpful.  It's not everything we'll cover.

Politics and Staying Friends

4 September 2012 at 14:53
One of the reasons I created my RevCyn Facebook page was so that I could post about religion and social justice issues without subjecting ALL my Facebook friends, which includes conservative relatives and high school chums, to the full extent of my politics and faith.  I then post such things less from my own account.  One exception, however, is that because I try to draw a fine line between partisan politics and my ministry, and because I see the RevCyn page, and this blog, as an extension of that ministry, I try to refrain from endorsing a candidate here, or making statements about Republican and Democratic candidates that could be seen as an endorsement.  But my personal Facebook account,  however, is where I do feel free to be political, just as I do in my front yard and the bumper of my car.  Thus, as the election draws near, I run into more and more occasions where I risk alienating the conservatives among my Facebook friends.  The liberals among my 754 Facebook friends vastly outnumber the conservatives, since the majority of UUs are liberal, and a large percent of that 754 is colleagues and church members.  Add to that the liberals in the Jackson community that I work with through various agencies, along with the fact that most of my college friends are liberal, and you've got a pretty big block.  And most of those people enjoy talking politics--the old rule that it's impolite to talk about religion and politics would eliminate the very things we're enjoying talking about the most.

Recently, one of my high school friends posted this picture:

It was picked up and posted by another high school friend.  I don't know either of their political leanings.  The picture speaks to the fact that with a hot election like this one, it truly has become harder and harder to be friends with people on the opposite side of the political spectrum.  I personally find it hard to let a post slamming Obama and repeating what I believe to be lies go by without comment. 

I personally don't think getting heated up and arguing with people on Facebook ever does much good, despite what, I am sure, is the 100% completely logical, persuasive, and, let's face it, correct nature of my arguments.  What it does is alienate my conservative friends and push me deeper into my liberal enclave where I'm less likely to encounter, much less transform, people of different thinking, and where my conservative friends are less likely to have their thoughts challenged.  From what I'm learning through such works as The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality, sharing facts and figures is not persuasive to those who have made their mind up on the right (and on the left, as well, although arguably to a lesser extent, according to that author).  And certainly re-posting snarky internet memes can't be the most effective way to change a mind.

To that end, I'm making an effort to let people know that I'm happy to block them from my political posts if they're in political fatigue or don't enjoy arguing.  What I won't do is pretend I'm not a liberal and don't have my views, but I'm willing to not constantly subject all those Facebook friends to my personal political beliefs.

On the other hand, I'm still left with the greater question, which is how to have the truly meaningful and transformational conversations with people on the other half of the spectrum from me.  I would love to have regular, deep, face-to-face conversations with conservatives who are willing to engage in these conversations with me, but I don't know where to find such a connection or event. I think if facts and figures and my wonderful logical arguments aren't what changes someone, and reposting Facebook memes is not the right tool, the answer has to lie in personal connections and personal, emotional content.  The only way to have those deep conversations is to build a relationship first.

So for right now, I'm trying to put relationship-building ahead of politics with my Facebook friends, while still being true to who I am at all times.  Not everyone will be willing to build relationships with a LGBT-friendly agnostic Unitarian Universalist minister.  So that's all the more reason to be gentle and kind with those conservatives who are.

Evolving Worship in the Social Networking Age - Part 3: Possibilities & Opportunities

9 July 2011 at 15:16
In Part 1 of this series I wrote about a proposal being generated through blog discussion about shorter sermons tied to social media in new ways.  In Part 2 I wrote about some of the limitations as I see it.  The main take-away there is that while some populations of some churches may be ready for this, others are not over the threshold yet.  The problem is that we're on a cusp right now, where some "digital natives" are ready for something different, not everyone is comfortable with the use of it.  As you go up by age/generation, a smaller percentage of people are using social networking. 

So what can we do?  Well, there's still a lot.  I think for now it still means that for many congregations, having a physical space in which one holds worship is still necessary, and the cornerstone of that service is still the sermon.  And, at the same time, the UUA General Assembly changed the definition of congregation such that this is no longer the only way (except for CLF) to be a congregation. The possibilities of what that can look like are endless.  And social media is evolving so quickly that whatever one creates right now has to be dynamic and flexible.  This week, for example, I got on Google+ for the first time.  Will it make other social networks obsolete?  Will it be a big failure?  Only time will tell. 

What I can do, right now, is dependent upon what will be supported by my congregation and has the most ability to be attractive to newcomers, as well.  We don't have a critical mass on Twitter or MySpace, and responding to blog posts is sporadic but increasing.  Facebook conversation, however, is plentiful.  So what is possible is putting out, primarily through blog and Facebook, a conversation starter leading into the worship service that helps shape and inform it, and after the worship service putting out some summary that continues the conversation.  This could be tied into a way to also have this conversation in a physical space before and after, for those wanting the face-to-face connection.  We have no way to record audio or video digitally at the church--when we do, it's with borrowed equipment--so that remains in the future dreams list.  The degree to which social media shapes the worship, then, is the degree to which people participate in these types of forums.

What I think is that for a time, this is going to look like not much happening.  But eventually, it has the power to shape and transform worship.  What it amounts to now is just an opening up and demystifying of the process--less of me going into the office and shutting the door and emerging with a worship service like Athena coming fully-formed out of Zeus' head, and more like writing with a bunch of people chatting around me in a coffee shop and sometimes stopping by the table.  Can I write that way?  Time will tell.  I've gotten lots of practice by having a child popping in constantly -- about ten times while writing this blog post alone.  Having constructive adults popping into the conversation should be a welcome change.

Phil Lund suggested we turn the sermon inside-out.  I'm not doing that yet, but the first step to turning something inside-out is opening it up and showing the center.  That's where I propose starting for now.

Evolving Worship in the Social Networking Age - Part 2: Limitations & Expectations

8 July 2011 at 20:38
So in my last post I talked about a proposal being generated to look at worship, particularly the sermon, in a new way in the light of social networking.  I think it's worth noting that the authors of the three posts I cited are all people who are not full-time solo ministers with the corresponding preaching schedule that such demands, and that Dan Harper, who comes the closest to that role in his role as Associate Minister, is in a large church with presumably some staff, and in Silicon Valley, as well.  What he describes seems less doable in a small country church such as I serve.  So here's what I see as the limitations to the model he proposes:

1.  Podcasting/Live streaming/any audio or video component -- Much as I love the idea of it, I don't have the technology for it.  And should I have the technology, I still don't have the tech support that I personally would need.  I could acquire the know-how to do it all on my own, given the technology, but right now that's beyond me.

2.  Level of feedback/discussion -- right now, when I do post a sermon on my blog, or just on blog posts in general, I'm getting one or two comments, at most, and often times none, from members of my congregation.  I think that some would be interested in the types of discussions Harper suggests, but it'd be hit or miss on participation.  In a small church there just might not be the critical mass to have this kind of discussion going.

3.  Receptivity -- My cell phone has no bars at my church.  Now, I'm on the comparatively lousy Sprint network, and I know some church members have better coverage at my church, but not all of them.  So Twittering during the service is narrowed down from just the people with phones that can tweet to people with phones that can tweet who aren't on roaming.

3.  Accessibility -- I'm guessing about 75% of my church is on e-mail and Facebook, and another 10% are on e-mail but no other social media, but the other 15% (mostly seniors) are not online at all.  (All numbers pure guesses, although I could go person-by-person and get real stats later.)  If the entire nature of a sermon is changed such that it doesn't feel complete without online participation, what does that mean for the 15%?

This brings me to the expectations.  Both Lund & Wells talk about the changing expectations for a sermon.  Wells talks about thinking that if he were to give a 20-minute sermon that people would be fact-checking his data on their smart phones.  I regularly give 15-20 minute sermons (I think my average is more like 15 minutes, really), and have yet to have someone whipping out the phone and telling me my information was wrong.  Sure, I do occasionally get a fact wrong.  But that culture hasn't pervaded the sanctuary yet.  The assumption of both Lund and Wells is that people are wanting something different out of their sermon than the model we've been using for hundreds of years.  I think that they're right for the percentage of the culture that is digital natives, but the question is when has an individual church reached that point?  My church, I'm feeling, is not there yet.  People generally seem to like the longer sermons (to a point), and when the sermons are shorter and there are more other elements in the service, I get more complaints.  So my reality is not matching with what the new media guys are suggesting. Of course, and here's the rub: maybe the people who want something different are not coming, and our adherence to old forms is limiting growth.  Is it?  Quite possibly.

And so, with those limitations & expectations  in mind, next I will address what I think the evolving model could looks like, and what I think is currently possible in a small, low-tech church.

Evolving Worship in the Social Networking Age - Introduction

8 July 2011 at 17:18
An interesting conversation has been going on in the UU blogosphere starting with Scott Wells at Boy in the Bands, then with Dan Harper at Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, and finally Phil Lund at Phil's Little Blog on the Prairie.  All three are UU ministers--Scott Wells works for the Sunlight Foundation; Dan Harper is the Associate Minister for Religious Education at the UU Church of Palo Alto; Phil Lund is on staff at the Prairie Star District of the UUA. 

Diving in--the original notion that Scott Wells posted is that in a digital age, the sermon is too long.  He writes, "It made sense in a education- and resource-poor (and frankly, entertainment-poor) age, but if I held forth for twenty minutes or more every Sunday, I expect to be regularly challenged (perhaps mentally, and in an unspoken way) by people who would Google for facts during my oratory."  Phil Lund echoes this: "Thing one: settling into a cozy pew for an hour or so to listen to a ripping good sermon may once have been considered a relatively inexpensive way to be entertained on a Sunday morning, but nowadays if I want to listen to someone talk about something on Sunday (or any day), all I need to do is logon to the interwebs and visit TED.com…for free."

Scott Wells suggests a different model: "It might make sense for a minister to preach briefly — tightly, eloquently, perhaps around a single point — to the “live congregation” and have it spelled out later in another way. Not print necessarily, but perhaps a podcast or video, or forgoing these perhaps a live event more in common with an interview or discussion than fighting with hymns and prayers for attention."  Dan Harper spells out some concrete steps he's proposing in response: posting a reading on a sermon blog on Thursday; on Sunday before worship post the text of the sermon, along with links; give a hashtag for twitter conversation for during and after worship; stream the worship service live; continue conversation after on the blog.  Phil Lund shares these thoughts and suggests turning the sermon inside-out, a process he promises to describe soon in an upcoming post.

That's all by way of background.  I'll post my response soon, as well.

*amended 8:31pm 7/8/11 to reflect Harper's title correctly.  Sorry!

Blogging GA: Social Media

25 June 2011 at 22:51
There were only a couple of workshops on social media this year at General Assembly, and one of them was at the same time as another big lecture I wanted to attend the other day, so I happily grabbed the one today that was sandwiched between the plenary sections.  It was led by four ministers who talked about how they use social media.  What was really nice was that they all saw use of social media as a valid piece of ministry -- not just something they do on the side -- and they also talked about how it shows the congregation a different side of the minister, through seeing snarky blog posts or goofy cat videos or exposure to the different interests and social groups a minister interacts with.  And they all seemed to think this was largely positive for congregations to see this side of ministers.  As someone who has friended congregation members on Facebook, I have to agree.  My facebook friends see more of me than they would otherwise, and that's largely good.  (Although an amusing question came up about seeing the minister in online dating communities -- a question that's pretty touchy, considering the topics of discussion at UUMA these days.  For more on that, see my last few blog posts.) 

One fun thing about this workshop was seeing other people I know from social media and seeing them interact with each other, and then having our workshop itself interact with social media when one of the presenters took a picture of the crowd and posted it to Facebook.  The picture isn't wide enough to see me, but she tagged me anyway (I'm Facebook friends with 3/4 of the presenters), so if you're on Facebook with me, check it out.  We're all being flaming chalices for her.  (Please be aware that I don't friend UUs from other congregations unless I have a secondary connection with them in some way, like friends or relatives or working together on something where Facebook connection would facilitate things.)

Covid19: Prioritizing small groups, moving small group ministry online with ZOOM

11 March 2020 at 14:45

Subscribe here to listen via my Podcast.

Congregational leaders, this is another digital strategy session to support you as we work to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. For many of you, that means moving your ministry online.

In this session, we’re talking small group ministry.

Specifically, why I want you to prioritize moving your small group ministry program online — I recommend using ZOOM video for group meetings.

If you don’t have an existing small group ministry program, that’s okay! You can simply focus on launching a digital small group ministry now.

Doing so will help with present social distancing and will likely lead to an interest in participation when you’re promoting group-based ministry at a later time.

I know how much work and energy it takes to embrace and learn new models. Many of you are accelerating your learning and experimenting at lightning speed. You can do it!

Peter Bowden

Peter Bowden Covid19 Digital Ministry Strategy


What if we have to cancel church because of the Covid19 Coronavirus?

5 March 2020 at 13:33

On covid19, social distancing, limiting large gatherings, and your digital ministry strategy.

This is a strategy session to get your congregation thinking about the Covid19 coronavirus and your digital strategy should you face community spread and required “social distancing” such as limiting large gatherings and quarantines.

Specifically, how can we use social media, live video, and other tools to accomplish the work and ministry of your congregation without gathering face-to-face? This is something we need to be preparing for and I have strategy ideas to get you thinking.

Listen via my Podcast – subscribe here.



Text the word PETER to 1 (833) 306-0201 

This will connect us via my text platform.  Once we’re connected, whenever you have questions related to podcast episodes, videos, or other content, you can send me a message directly.  This is NOT a group chat. It is a way for you to share questions with me one-on-one. I also send out low volume updates about live recording sessions and other opportunities to connect.


I work with nonprofit and congregational leaders across the United States on community building, digital leadership, and other connecting strategies. For private executive and team strategy sessions, please email me. Once I verify we’re a match to work together, I’ll send you a scheduling link.


Social Video Strategy for Clergy and Congregations

16 January 2020 at 15:11

The New Year is a great time to try new strategies! This year I’d love for you to work on harnessing the power of video. In this session I share an overview of how we can use social media video to…

• Engage with your community
• Facilitate conversation and spiritual exploration online
• Advance your justice work
• Increase attendance
• and grow your membership as a result

We’ve Entered a “Video First” World 

In 2016 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “Ten years ago, most of what we shared and consumed online was text. Now it’s photos, and soon most of it will be video. We see a world that is video first with video at the heart of all our apps and services.”  Facebook / Fast Company

“The vast majority of Americans – 95% – now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 77%…” Pew Research Center

Video is estimated to be 80% of all Internet traffic. Wordstream.com

According to Forbes “90% of customers say video helps them make buying decisions and 64% of customers say that seeing a video makes them more likely to buy.” Adding a video to marketing emails has been shown to double to triple click-through rates. Website landing pages with videos see significant increases in their conversion rates.

Video is now expected. Use it to accompany and lead people from their first interaction with your congregation through their ongoing participation as members.

Using Video to Connect, Engage, Inspire

Through video your leaders are able to show up and be present online. Why is that important? Imagine not having any of your leaders present at the primary gatherings where people are trying to learn about your congregation? That’s what your online presence has become – the go to place to learn and connect with your congregation.

You are working to build relationships with your online community, to share your story, to inform, educate, and inspire them to take action. That action includes newcomers visiting for the first time, as well as inspiring existing members and friends to fully participate in congregational life.

Don’t let the simplicity fool you. We’re talking about using the tools of our time to be fully present and engaged with your community. The video format may be simple, but at the heart of this strategy is relationship, leadership, and trust.

Face to Face Videos

Start using the camera from your smartphone, laptop, or desktop to film messages (you or other leaders) speaking directly to your online audience. Messages may be focused on newcomers, existing members and friends, or other audience as needed.

The best way to make great videos is to film many, many mediocre videos. Don’t aim for perfection, aim for continued improvement.

As my child’s 1st grade teacher always said, “Practice makes progress.”

Show Up Consistently

Worship leaders: Share a weekly message telling people about the upcoming service(s) but not just logistics, not just an invitation. Share what you are exploring, why you are exploring, why this matters, and invite discussion and sharing on the topic.

The Goal As a leader you are communicating why the topic matters, and why your congregation is taking time to explore it. With your members and friends surrounded by thousand of options for new learning, entertainment, and distraction on-demand, you are inspiring them to participate. 

As a congregation, as religious leaders, use video to be online where people are spending their time, engage with your community, and inspire them to participate in congregational life — weekly!

Sounds like sales, but I call it leadership. You are leading them in the exploration of the theme by sharing the why, sharing stories, highlighting how it connects to what is happening in the larger world, inviting people to share thoughts via social media (online participation), encouraging people to invite interested friends (outreach), and inviting people to attend the actual service. It is digital leadership.

The Win People following your congregation via social media not only know what’s going on, but they feel the importance, the value, the connection, and choose to participate over all other options!

Overwhelmed? Consider starting by sharing a message once per month featuring a service that is of particular interest to you. You can build up to weekly.

 Video Message Production Tips

The following are tips to help improve your video messages. I encourage you to join me in being an ALL STAR IMPERFECTIONIST!™ Don’t try to be perfect. You’ll improve over time.

1. Identify a Standard Location
It takes energy and thought to share a video message. Not knowing where you are going to film is inhibiting. Whether it is an office, a living room, a space in your congregation, or out in nature, determine your default location, figure out how to film there (position, lighting, etc..) and stick with that location unless otherwise inspired.

2. Place Camera at Eye Level (Don’t Film Up the Nose)
If you are using a laptop, place it on books to raise the camera to eye level. If using a smartphone, use a tripod to raise it to eye level. Invest in a smartphone mount and tripod. For Under $50 you can have a tripod and mount you can quickly attach your smartphone to. It is worth it if you are making video messages!

3. Increase Lighting for Increased Clarity
Film with lots of light. This can be natural light, lights in the room you are using, and extra lights you have purchased for filming. I have four LED light panels on stands in my office. I use them fill the room with light when filming, including Zoom meetings. More light = greater clarity. If you have extra office lights around, directing the lights at the ceiling or surrounding walls can add extra diffuse light while maintaining a natural look.

4. Keep Brightest Light In Front of You and BEHIND the Camera
If bright lights are behind you (included light on a wall) most cameras will auto-adjust to that brightness and you’ll look like you are an anonymous witness being interviewed by the FBI. The camera adjusting to the bright light will make you darker. Having the brightest light in front of you and behind the camera will help you look fabulous.

5. Press Smartphone Screen to Auto Focus and Auto Adjust Lighting
On most smartphones, if you press and hold your face on the screen it will auto-focus and auto adjust the lighting. Holding for several seconds usually auto-focus locks on the subject.

6. Know Your Camera Orientation Before You Start
Different social media platforms orient video horizontally, vertically, and square. The norms are shifting with Instagram and Facebook pushing vertical video. Look at videos on the platform where you’re planning to post. Notice what looks best, especially when viewed via mobile (majority of views). However the camera is oriented, keep it that way.

7. Check Background for Distractions
Before you start filming, check to make sure there is nothing distracting in the background. Make sure your environment represents you and your congregation appropriately.

8. Frame Your Shot – the Rule of Thirds
Where you are in the camera frame is important. Whether you are filming horizontally, vertically or with a square orientation, have your eyes floating just over the line between the middle and upper third of the screen.  No matter how far away you are from the camera, still aim for that same line. See next page for framing examples.

In Western photography and film “an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject would.” Source: Wikipedia / Rule of Thirds.

9. Authenticity over other parameters
How long should videos be? Is vertical better than square or horizontal. Do whatever works for you to show up, be authenitic – be yourself, make videos consistently, and share your enthusiasm.

If you can share a great video that feels good and covers everything you want in 60 seconds, great! If you need 3-5 minutes, do that.

10. You Can Do It!
Have fun. Know it is important for your congregation. Don’t give up. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your videos improve, especially if you keep at it and reference this list of tips.

When you make and post video messages, I’d love to see them. You can tag me via social media @PeterBowdenLive on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to notify me of your posts, or email me links to videos you want to show off. Thanks!    

Simple, But Challenging

Having been experimenting with this for a long time, I know this is challenging.

If you want help, I work with staff one-on-one as well as with teams and professional chapter groups. Whether individually or in groups, we can map out your video message strategy for a given span of time, figure out your video recording set up, and get you comfortable on camera.

I’m working on a related course right now. Will be taking new video coaching clients starting February 1st. If you’d like to be first in line, contact me and I’ll send you the registration link before I make it public.

In cooperation,