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Monday, January 11, 2010

2nd Monday Discussion: Sermon Recordings

In our weekly Ask the Matriarch column, we publish questions that have been answered by members of the ring who have been in ordained ministry for ten or more years. But I would like to open a discussion today that might be better answered by people who are younger in ministry years, or any of us who have been involved in a search process in recent years.

Long ago I served on a search committee that requested sermon tapes from candidates as one of our screening tools. It was long enough ago that I remember our surprise when we received a VHS from one of th applicants! As a pastor who has worked in one geographic area, I've been able to invite prospective churches to hear me preach in person without worrying too much about recording sermons. Or at least that was true until my last search round, when I worried and wondered about whether to do an audio or a video and realized I just did not have the right technology available to me.

As an interim minister, I am engaged in searches fairly often, and as the mother of a young musician who needs to record auditions, I purchased (at after-Christmas prices) a Flip video camera. My plan is to have my son record this coming Sunday's sermon. I have heard some people say video may not be a great format for women preachers, while others suggested a video would be more dynamic than an audio recording for a woman with a more girlish voice (ahem, that's me).

In the comments, I invite you to share your experiences with recording sermons. What worked for you? What didn't?

(And yes, my own Flip is pink. Really.)


  1. i'm jealous! my flip is just white!

    in the umc ordination process you have to submit dvd's or other digitally formated videos of sermons and services. we bought a flip to record the services and submit to the ordination boards.

    i have a hard time watching my sermons. it's an ego thing (which i am working on!). i really hope that it can also be a tool for me to improve my preaching (once i watch them!).

    i would highly reccomend getting a tripod for the filming.

    i would love to download or watch via youtube other revgals if anyone is willing to post or share.

    that said, perhaps it would also be a way for us to help one another.

  2. The beauty of the pink one is that by 5 p.m. on Christmas Day it's price had been sharply reduced on Amazon. :-)

    We did get the tripod. My son made his audition recording in the sanctuary here, but he was playing on the floor level and had specific requirements about distance and height of the camera.

    Because our chancel is a high platform, I may have him positioned in the balcony.

    I love the idea of sharing on YouTube! Could we have a RevGalBlogPals YouTube channel?

  3. The last recording of one of my sermons was done the old fashioned way: VHS! I'm with revhipchick, watching myself is icky. I preach in the aisle, and tend to step forward, then back, then to one side. I learned this from that last video! It's unconscious movement and I'm not thrilled with it, but likewise no one has ever told me that my preaching made them seasick!

    That said, I really do think it's a good aid for working on our preaching skills. On the other hand, it might send me into a paralysis of an unhelpful kind!

  4. What a great insight you received! I know when I preach outside a pulpit I move more, but it's hard to imagine how others see it.

  5. Songbird,
    I don't do the video thing but I am one of those OLD revgals who is before all that stuff. But always remember that it is the PERSON in that pulpit, not the picture of the person in the pulpit or in the crossing that is important. People que in on the PERSON not the digital representation. It is the truth of your person that people are attracted to and listen to--not the digital photo.

    I hate myself on video too and basically ignore what any recording does. It is the message and the truth of our lives that convey the message, not the equipment.

  6. I (audio) record every service here. ANd when submitting application packages recently I have simply burned a CD copy of a recent service to include. One place requested a video recordiing so I got a friend in town to make a DVD of a service.

    Interestingly one place has asked for a typed sermon instead of a recording (which may well mean I withdraw my name since I don't write sermons). I wonder about that because text on a page is not a sermon IMO.

    OTOH, I know that some search committees intentionally don't aske for a sermon (at least in the UCCan context) because one single sermon out of its community context is of limited value to sense who the preson is as preacher.

  7. Interesting, Gord. In the United Church of Christ it's not uncommon to be asked for a printed sermon (it's part of our ordination packet, in fact), but the trend is toward recordings. I think we've become so visual that we expect to SEE someone before we meet them, in order to decide whether we WANT to meet them.

    Muthah+, I think I understand your point, but without that digital image, there may be no opportunity to be met in person.

  8. Hmmm...interesting discussion, as I have just returned from my annual meeting with my District Committee on Ordained Ministry - and had to submit to them a written copy of a recent sermon.
    I am a manuscript preacher (more or less, less as I get more practiced and confident) so it is not a problem for me to submit a manuscript. But I do wonder about video recordings - for this reason: what about discrimination based on appearance? What if someone doesn't like who the preacher is because he/she looks somehow different than them, or different than they may expect? I remember the story told to me by the Rev. Barbara Troxell, who was one of the first women Methodist pastors back in the 1950s - the search committee/staff parish was told her qualifications but NOT her gender. They approved "this person" enthusiastically. And so, she had the job. Not the best way to begin, but probably the only way for a woman to get in the door then.

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  10. Ten years ago I served on a call committee for the PCUSA. We only had audio (cassette) recordings.

    In my recent call process (on the other side) every place asked for a visual representation of a sermon if at all possible. Some even asked for more than one sermon.

    In addition to the sermon, I also included the bulletin so they could "see" the entire service and also tried to provide a context of the church it was preached at.

    I only had one church which had trouble viewing the DVD I sent them.

    One church videoed the sermon and it was so far was hard to view. Another one had audio in the long run I purchased my own camcorder to record my sermons for potential committees.

    Hope this helps.

  11. I had to be videotaped for my homiletics class and realized quickly that I need my own equipment. I'm thinking a Flip is a great idea.

    My video didn't turn out that well (including my daughter catching the camera as the tripod listed to one side.) We didn't re-tape and I just told my prof - "sorry... it's live."

    I haven't preached very much, so I only have a few sermons on CD to offer. There's only one on my church's website which is here. Please ignore the cheesy video and lick "audio" -- I had no control over the "creative" elements...


  12. our PNC asks FIRST for several sermons--manuscript (if available) AND recording (preferably video, but CD is okay).

    At least one of our worship services is videotaped every week. The DVDs are kept in the office. So...if I needed to send something away, I could either a) copy the DVD in its entirety and send the whole service, b) ask the video person for a copy of just the sermon, or c) ask the video person to pull out just the audio of the sermon onto a CD. I've done that when I entered a sermon competition one time and it worked well. (I didn't win, but the recording was really good!)

  13. I have had very little opportunity to preach, the more time that has passed, the less I want to do it. Does that sound strange even for an accidental seminarian?

    I think that a RevGal youtube channel would be a great idea but think that it would be enhanced for members to have their own channel also. It could facilitate connecting with other women in ministry/supporting women in ministry etc.

    I would certainly love to see examples of recordings done on the Flip as I have considered buying that (despite my still desperate financial situation) and would like to see examples. Any other advice on possible equipment would also be welcomed.

    BTW, I have a question on my blog about how social media is used in ministry. I would welcome feedback from anyone here on RevGals.

  14. I just hate being taped(audio/video). I don't tape well, i have chipmunk cheeks, and I should like a Red-neck heck, girl.
    It is difficult here as we do not have taping ability, so I have to have someone film me and i copy VHS.
    Triods are excellent. It is also good to have several done, rather than jsut one. I do this for several reasons, different sermons for different audiences and you gradually will get used to being filmed ( I never looked at the camera), also you run into time of year issues. I have a few Lent/Easter sermons, but none for fall/World Communion/Advent/Christmas.
    I still hate being filmed or taped

  15. being recorded isn't a problem for me. but... i've noticed that audio recordings seem to "present" me better than video recordings. i have a strong voice... and even the oldest audio systems can pick up my inflections. there's decent software available for free on the internet... to clear up any background noise... or to cut out the unexpected cough... and to drop the recording onto a cd.

    video is a different creature. with the person creating the video needs to be a good videographer... or there will be bumps and jerks in the video when the camera is panning. if the camera is fixed... then that restricts me to standing in a very small area... and I move around when I teach and preach. the third problem with video... is that most cameras don't have great audio capture capability... so the person watching the final video can't hear me very well. last gripe about video... if the lighting in the space isn't all that... then that too will reduce the quality of the video.

    another option that takes the poorer quality of video out of the picture (no pun intended)... is to overlay a powerpoint presentation appropriate to the topic with the audio.

    the best recordings... audio or video... especially if they are going to be viewed by others for a call... need to be done in a place with great equipment... so that the speaker will present well on the final cd/dvd.

  16. I got a Flip for Christmas (a little early actually), and my husband has been recording sermons for us. Right now they just go on the church's Facebook page, but soon they will be on our website. I've tried to load them up to my blog (well, the church's blog since mine is anonymous), but even after we shrink them with some video software we have they still jam up the blog when I try to upload them.

    My former church broadcast on local cable two times a week after Sunday morning.

    I cannot STAND to watch myself on TV. In fact, it is how my husband (somewhat jokingly) tortures me - - turns it on when I walk in the room. In seminary when they made us record our two sermons in the required preaching class I cried in the professors office when I had to watch them with him. I didn't take any other preaching classes in seminary because I couldn't stand the thought of watching myself any more.

    I needed recordings of sermons for both of the call processes I have been through. In my first process (8 years ago) it was still pretty common that a "recording" was an audio tape. I knew from my work assisting other churches in the process, that by the time I was searching for my current call (3 years ago) most were video - still a lot of VHS, but some DVD. That was the church with a TV broadcast so I was able to easily get DVD copies of any sermon I needed. I was searching secretly so my little white lie was that my mom in FL wanted to see some sermons.

    The few sermons I have posted from this church have had interesting feedback - - good, but not what I expected. Folks from our church who are on vacation will view them either from vacation or when they get home to see what they have missed.

    I hope when they are on our webpage and not just FB that maybe our snowbirds might check in some or even folks who stay home because their sick or something. Mostly, I hope they will spark some conversation back and forth in a way that a written blog of the sermon doesn't seem to be doing.

    I'd be a part of a YouTube group, I think. The problem we have in trying to use it right now is the 10 minute limit. I definitely preach longer than that. I haven't looked into what I think would probably be a paid membership to get more time per video. I don't know if a channel would accomplish that, too.

  17. I also did the same as Purple in my more recent search. Since, for me, getting copies was so easy, even if they asked for "a" sermon I sent a DVD that had two or three - two in different seasons (an ordinary time and a holiday time) and one that was also a communion/baptism Sunday to show how I connect the sacraments to my sermon directly. I also sent bulletin copies with them, too. I don't think anyone asked for any of that, but I liked being able to send it.

    When I did help congregations in their searches I realized how silly the sermon request is. Actually, I realized it after the church I was in called the person whose sermon we liked the best as the senior pastor I was to work with. The rest of his sermons were NOTHING like the one he sent. No where NEAR as good! :) When you send a sermon you know you will send your absolute best, so it seems like it's not really representative to me.

  18. Like SheRev, I also encouraged our PNC to take sermons with a grain of salt. I told them about one pastor I know who was a completely amazing preacher and worship leader...and then when someone went to the pastor with a problem/need/to talk (the one story that stands out is someone going to the pastor to say "my dad is dying and I'm not sure what to do..."), the "pastor" said "what do you want me to do about it?"

    I suspect most search committees would rather have an okay preacher who'll care when they have a need, than that pastor. (just a hunch...) And you can't find out about that on a recording!

  19. We record all sermons here and my secretary can make a transcript if someone requires a copy - not that I'm thinking of going anywhere else.
    As a search consultant for the Diocese, candidates are asked for 1-3 sermons on cd or tape. A few submitted their parish website. It is not our policy to ask for a video/dvd, perhaps because those are not so readily available in parishes and our clergy do not advertise the fact that they are looking for another congregation until they have one and resign. So suddenly having someone video a sermon on a Sunday morning would raise eyebrows and curiosity.

  20. I love my Flip! I got the UltraHD and I can't believe the quality of the recordings, even compared to more expensive cameras. I'm not in a search process, but this conversation is making me think it might be nice to add some video on our church website (of sermons or even just personal messages from the pastors).

    I once heard Barbara Brown Taylor say that 5% of a sermon is communicated through the actual content, 10% is communicated through the voice (i.e., modulation, inflection, etc.) and 85% is communicated through the body (how we move, how we use our hands, our facial expressions, etc.). [This was based on communications research that was not specific to sermons but to any verbal communications.] If this is true, then it seems like video would definitely be the best option for submitting sermons to search committees.

  21. I just have to laugh when I think about recording sermons. Last year this time when I was in the search process a church (actually the one that ended up callling me) asked for a recording of a sermon. They wanted video but there was just no way that was going to happen in my parish; I did manage to set up a workable set up to do an audio recording.

    Well, the day I was going to record myself preaching turned out to be the Sunday that we had to evacuate the church at the 8:00 am service because of carbon monoxide! We at the later service at the public library, and no recording. So I ended up preaching to an empty church a few days later and recording it. Not ideal but it must've been okay.

    I know lots of places make mp3 recordings and post them on their websites, but neither church I've served has been tech savvy enough to want to do that. Maybe something to work on later.

    Good luck SB!

  22. FWIW, I applied to a bunch of places last year and only one church asked for a recording but they ALL asked for a copy of a sermon. I usually sent more than one, or directed them to our website where all my sermons were b/c ONE sermon cannot possibly represent one as a preacher.


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