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Lights! Cameras! Action!

Dwight Mix

The novice's guide to video production -- on any budget

The church must never change its message, however the methods we use to communicate the timeless gospel must change if we're going to reach today's kids. Why?

Because the world is rapidly changing and if we want to communicate, we must be on the cutting edge (or at least as close as our budgets allow us to be!). Consider these changes over the past 30 years. In 1968, regular color broadcasting was in its infancy. The national networks were only the Big Three and PBS. Every teenager wanted an 8-track tape player in their car (I know because I had one). We used vinyl records rather than CDs for music. Cable existed in a few towns, but there was no CNN or HBO. VCRs were experimental beasts, and instead of movie multiplexes, we went to one-screen theater houses on the town square.

Today's children are bombarded with multimedia. Many of them own a Nintendo or PlayStation game console, know how to surf the net, and watch Nickelodeon or the Disney channel almost daily. Culture-watchers have said that what people are seeking today is "an experience." This seems especially true of children, who also learn through experience. So how can you use multimedia to reach and teach the children in your church and community-no matter what budget you're working with?


Here are general guidelines to get you started on the right channel.

Low Cost -- The least expensive way you can add multimedia or video to your children's ministry is to purchase a television, VCR, and prerecorded Christian videotapes, such as Adventures in Odyssey (Focus on the Family) or the VeggieTales series (Big Idea). This costs less than $500 excluding the tapes.

Simply gather children in the largest classroom in your church for a special showing of these videos. Plan and facilitate a discussion time with questions about the video. For better discussions, have children meet in small groups. While this isn't the best method to use in teaching kids all the time, it's one inexpensive and effective way to use media with your children occasionally.

High Cost -- Turn your largest children's room into a theater or auditorium for children. If you're about to build new education space, consider a large room with a high ceiling as your children's theater, with enough space for around 75 to 150 people. Then purchase a sound and lighting system for that room.

Toss out chairs. Build a small stage and risers out of plywood, then cover them with carpet. You'll need a booth for your sound and lighting equipment. Get a sound board that can control the volume for at least two microphones, a CD player, a cassette player, and a VCR. This will cost around $1,000.

Use incandescent lighting that can be used independently of any florescent lighting in your room. Turn the fluorescent lights off. With a good light system, you can control light to the room, the seating areas, and the stage. Cost can range from $500 to $2000 depending on size. Good lighting is important to set the mood and help draw attention to the people on the stage. The final piece to the puzzle is to mount a large 32- to 36-inch television on the wall for video display. This costs about $900.


Many churches with a contemporary worship style don't use hymnals or overhead projectors. Instead they use computers to display the song lyrics and choruses on a large projection screen. Five years ago I decided to do the same thing for our children's worship time. Instead of having a live band, song leader, and computer projection, I simply put everything on videotape (except for the song leader!). Now we have a large library of prerecorded videos that play the music and display the song lyrics. The slides change as the song advances and our children worship and focus visually on the spiritual truth.

This is how I did it, and how you can do it, too, by following these four steps.

1. First I got the Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc.(CCLI) number for our church from our worship pastor. This permits the copyright permission needed for us to use prerecorded worship music and lyrics. You can write to CCLI at 17201 N.E. Sacramento St., Portland, OR 97230. Call 800-234-2446. Or e-mail

2. Next I selected the songs.

3. Using a program such as Microsoft Powerpoint ( or Gold Disk Astound (888-427-8686 or on a multimedia computer, I created slides with the words to the songs. Astound allows you to add something fun to the slides by adding animated characters that move across the screen. If you're hooked up to the Internet, type clip art into to your search engine. You'll find loads of free clip art and audio clips you can import into your slides.

To do this, you have to have a computer with RCA video outs. Special cards to do this on Macintosh or IBM compatible computers are available from ATI Technologies, Inc. (905-882-2600; or or Focus Enhancements (800-538-8866) for about $250.

4. I recorded the sound over the video. Connect the "audio output" from the cassette or CD player to the VCR "audio inputs." Connect the "video out" from the computer to the VCR "video input." Use the TV monitor to view all this. Start the videotape, and record the music as you record the visuals from the computer. Presto! You have a video you can use repeatedly for children's worship.


Use a camcorder to shoot footage of your children as they worship, as they move about, or as they're engaged in activities. Want to know the #1 mistake most amateur camcorder-users make? Overzooming! If you reign in your zoom finger, you'll produce top quality videos too.

The next time your children are all together, show parts of the tape to reinforce positive behavior, to encourage children to worship, or to illustrate a point from your lesson. Another thing you can do is to interview children and ask questions such as What do you think heaven is like? Who is your favorite Bible character and why? Later, show children's videotaped answers to help teach that subject.

If you want to get more advanced, consider purchasing editing equipment to create videos that explain your ministry to new volunteers or potential workers. We've found this to be an effective tool in casting the vision of children's ministry with adults. We usually shoot footage of our workers interacting with children and show the variety of ways people are engaged with our children on Sundays. This really helps people see that "if they can do that, then maybe I can do it too!"

Low cost -- The least expensive way to set up an editing suite is to purchase two VCRs (with a shuttle control and flying erase head), connect them and do hard-cut edits from your raw footage. The cost to do this would be about $600 for the two VCRs.

Average cost -- The next step would be to add editing equipment to your computer. You could add an entry level video editing card to your computer along with the VCR. A fast hard drive is also important. The approximate cost for these items is about $900 for the editing card, $500 to $1,000 for the hard drive, and another $300 for the VCR.

High cost -- If you have the budget to go first class and get a dedicated editing system, it can cost $20,000 or more.

Having a well-thought-out purpose for using media or video will help you communicate more effectively with children and adults. Children will learn and retain more, and more adults will be interested in ministry with children. If you have specific "how to" questions about using video in your children's ministry, e-mail me at

Dwight Mix is children's minister at Fellowship Bible Church in Lowell, Arkansas.


Another effective way to use video is showing short clips from videos or movies. Recently we taught on the life of Moses and used short clips from The Ten Commandments to reinforce learning (being careful to only show the clips that went along with the biblical narrative).The video provided a powerful illustration and made the story more real to children.

For a list of current movies and their connection to biblical principles, check out our Web site at on the Internet. Or send a self-addressed stamped envelope to "Top-10 Movies," Children's Ministry Magazine, P.O. Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539-0481 to receive the list. You can also find great current video programming in every "Keeping Current" section of our Children's Ministry Magazine.

Please note that if you show videos to children, consider purchasing the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) Umbrella License for the public performance of home videos. The license costs $95 per year, and it allows your church to show copyrighted videos legally. Their address is 5455 Centinela Ave., P.O. Box 66970, Los Angeles, CA 90066-6970. Or call 800-462-8855.

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