Church Video Editing: Crucial, Not Controversial (Until Driscoll Does It)

Church Video Editing: Crucial, Not Controversial (Until Driscoll Does It)

June 4, 2014 by

There’s more Mark Driscoll controversy. This time it’s allegations that the communication team at Mars Hill Church has been editing Driscoll’s sermon videos before they’re posted online. Shock!

The article insinuates that editing is done on purpose in order to delete offensive or controversial content. We all take a large gasp… That seems a little ridiculous since Driscoll has made a career of controversial content. Plus there are no secrets in the Internet age, so why would they even try?

In the article Anthony Lanniciello, their executive pastor of media & communications says that “it is standard operating procedure at Mars Hill to take the first two sermons that Pastor Mark Driscoll preaches each week and edit the best possible version of the message for distribution to the other Mars Hill locations, and our online audience.”

I’m not going to wade further into this particular controversy, but it does raise several issues that church communicators need to be aware of.

So should we be editing sermon content? Let’s look at some facts:

People Love Video Online
Netflix and YouTube make up about half of peak web traffic in North America. Why? Because we’ve stopped liking to read online—we’d rather watch. If a picture is worth a thousand words, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words, right? About 100 million people watch online video each day! The average video watcher views 32.2 videos per month. People love video! Churches need to produce videos.

People decide if they’ll continue to watch a video within 10 seconds.

Video Needs to Be Like Good Poetry
Editing allows us to capture and compress ideas in video. It’s also easier to capture ambiance with editing. Viewers are more forgiving of coughs, errors and interruptions when watching live—but after the fact, not so much. We expect video to be corrected. Editing is necessary.

People Aren’t Watching Online Videos for Long
The most popular videos on YouTube? The median length is only 2 minutes and 1 second. And people decide if they’ll continue to watch a video within 10 seconds. We must make sure the first few seconds of the sermon video is captivating (think TED talk quality) and then quickly get to the points and finish with a call to action (either to another webpage or to another video).

So should videos be edited? Absolutely. If you want them watched.

Shorter Videos Are Shared More
I’m not talking a little editing—I’m talking a lot! Perhaps sermon summaries of the main points? Would you rather have long sermons with a few dozen watching or a one minute “big point” video that thousands will see? Less becomes more. In fact 15 second videos are the most shared videos (about 37% more than a one minute video).

I’m not talking about altering messages or twisting what is being said. That’s wrong. Just edit video so it’s more watchable and attracts a larger audience.

But Long Still Matters
And those short videos should point to the longer sermon (that’s still edited) for those who want to watch the entire thing. Because some people do want to watch more. People are binge watching Netflix, so the audience is there for long form video.

But compare the quality of what you’re producing against what Netflix is. Perhaps consider editing an entire sermon series into a 40 minute episode? Find ways to make your long form content available but still digestible.

Editing Content Without Controversy
The ideas are endless. Our purpose still needs to be communicating God’s message to as many people as possible. And that’s going to require re-purposing and, yes, editing content. It’s a challenge. But one we can rise to meet, hopefully without distracting controversy.

Photo by WCN 24/7.
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Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald is an author, speaker, and strategic communication catalyst with the Florida Baptist Convention. He’s also the author of Be Known For Something. Mark is also the executive director of our nonprofit parent, the Center for Church Communication.
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