You can move—or distract—your audience with video. The motion picture can help you drive home a point, or drive aimlessly into oblivion.

I’ve seen churches make good use of video, and not so good use. I’ve watched the searing story of a faith-filled church member who was dying from a terminal illness. And I’ve sat though a pointless screening of a clip from a Hollywood sequel.

So, how can you use film and video to enhance a sermon, talk, lesson or seminar? Here a few tips.

 1.      Use the medium for its strengths. Film and video combine pictures and sound to draw in the audience. So, use video to depict a scenario that adds visual and audio meaning, or evokes an emotion, or provides context. Don’t use video just to add a video component.

2.      Show the right length. What’s the right running time? Just enough to tell the story, make a point, or evoke the emotion. Then stop. Sometimes that means 30 seconds. Sometimes it means 30 minutes.

3.      Let the film speak for itself. Resist the temptation to translate it or interpret it for your audience. Let your people think. Let the Holy Spirit work in them. Jesus rarely interpreted his parables. He usually let them stand on their own. Sometimes a film’s message and impact are all you need, without sermonizing at all.

4.      Invite your audience to unpack the film. Show a clip, then pose a good question for people to discuss with someone next to them. This allows everyone to reflect, talk and find individual meaning. These “pair share” conversations work with any size group, from two to 2,000 and more.

5.      Use good stuff. “Good” means it’s captivating, surprising, related to your message, and memorable. Hollywood movie clips, though slick, are often overworked, predictable and forgettable. And on-line Christian stuff is all-too-often hokey, stilted and just embarrassing. So, choose carefully. Create your own videos, using the true stories of people in your community. And try the powerful true stories in Group’s new Lifetree Film Clips.

6.      Stay legal. Most pre-recorded DVDs are generally restricted to home use only.  Know and abide by copyright laws for public exhibition in venues such as churches. Read details here for permitted uses. Many churches also buy a license from CVLI.

Move your people. Use film carefully.