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Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Extra: Recording sermons

A ring member is preparing materials for her ordination interview, and one of the new requirements in our United Church of Christ Association is a sermon DVD. I'm going to help her with the loan of both a sanctuary and a Flip video camera. It made me wonder about the range of technical capabilities available around the ring.

If you needed to provide someone with a video sermon, would you be able to do it?
And what if you needed to do it without making things completely obvious to your congregation?
Anyone podcasting sermons, using either audio or video?
Any suggestions for adding technology at church on a limited budget?

Please use the comments to share what you're doing.


  1. I was asked to provide a recording of a sermon for a course I was going on. A friend has a good digital camera that can record visuals. He just put it on a little tripod at the "technical area" at the back of the church (where we run the mikes and also already make audio recordings.)

    The audio wasn't great, but I was able to use VLAN (which is free) to dub the separate audio recording over the top. Recording was completely un-obtrusive. The pastor and the technical team knew - I don't think anyone else even noticed.

    (We currently record audio of the whole service, for people who are unable to be there. We burn CDs on request, and just ask people to pay for the cost of the CD - which is about 1Euro as we buy in bulk from a wholesaler. Incremental effort for the person running the sound desk is almost 0. My parent's church streams their whole service live on the Internet - apparently quite a few of their housebound members are able to listen and appreciate it. I don't know what technology they use, but their minister is an ex-software engineer, so I suspect that a bit of geekery is involved.)

  2. This has been a question of mine for some time--especially as churches that are thinking about calling a pastor always want to see a video. To say, "I'm sorry, but I just don't have that technology at the church where I serve" seems to you into a category of not making a good potential pastor. I serve a very rural and aging congregation, with a limited budget and very few technologically saavy people. However, I discovered that I can record my sermons through my ipad, by keeping it on the pulpit beside me. It's not obvious and the recording is decent, just not professional. I can then take my recording and edit it in garageband and get it to a format that will work with my website. It's not a video, but it is a cheap way (uh...if you don't count the initial cost of the ipad) to podcast-- which meets the basic need of an interested church to be able to hear a preacher. And several folks tell me that they either listen when they are unable to attend, or the re-listen to a sermon throughout the week. I also would be curious about suggestions to video, with limited technology and not wanting to be particularly obvious.

  3. we videotape one service (out of three) each week, and they're on DVDs in the office. I have finally learned how to rip the DVD onto my laptop and edit it down to just the sermon. A few of them are on youtube, which is particularly handy. In theory I could burn them onto a new DVD, but I haven't learned how to do that yet.
    We are looking into whether we can record directly to a cheap laptop instead of directly to DVD, thus eliminating the middle step. But I suspect that will be expensive (we would probably need a newer camera) and time consuming in terms of training the volunteers that currently do the videotaping, so....yeah.

    If I needed just audio, I would be in trouble. I have no idea how to take the audio off a DVD!

  4. I wonder what kind of quality you can get with a flip. Where do you put the camara?

    At my new call the services are played on public access cable so I need to find a way to record off my TV into my computer.

  5. At my last call, we taped all sermons so they could be shared with those who could not come to church. I always got a copy. It's also a good learning process to review your "performance" and see what could be improved. I would suggest if one is considering a new call, that these are good reasons to give to a congregation for taping sermons. And, then you have several to choose from when the time comes.

  6. In my last interim position, I had one of my kids use the Flip camera from the church balcony. It was hard to get an angle that was both close enough to show my face but not so close that the other end was the focus, if you know what I mean, in the side view. I ended up going with the more distant view.
    In my current setting, the way I've helped friends who are borrowing the pulpit is by setting up the Flip tripod on the organ--on a stack of hymnals--, which gives a looking slightly upward from the side view. I's not ideal, but it gives a lot better sense of how the persons face looks while preaching than a more distant view.
    I would like to experiment with getting some of my sermons on video, because I know people in my congregation are sharing paper copies and also emailing them to friends. It feels like a video would be even more invitational, though of course an audio podcast is something you can listen to anywhere rather than having to sit and watch. It's all very tricky!
    Our technical set-up is pretty minimal. There is a sound system, but our capacities are mostly in the area of turn it on and turn it off. If I want more, I'll have to figure it out myself.

  7. How well does the flip pick up sound?

  8. Thanks for this discussion! I used to work at a large urban Mennonite church (not necessarily an oxymoron!) where the sermon was tape-recorded every week and copies could be checked out from the library. Tape recorders were so affordable and the technology was so accessible...I feel a bit stymied, now, by the gap between cheaper, almost obsolete, analog technology and all the high-cost digital options currently available.

    Again, this discussion is appreciated!

  9. I second Joan's suggestion.

    The church I serve is so in the dark ages...even email is a challenge for most.

    However, I did purchase a video camera when I was in the call process so I have that capability and I am sure I could use a colleague's church to do the videoing.

  10. Flip video does a pretty good job with audio, if it isn't too far away.

    Our congregation audio records the service each week and puts them on the website ( or has them available on cd.

    We haven't videotaped regularly because our web hosting did not used to have the capacity. It does now, but let's face it, I am vain enough to hate seeing video of my preaching.

    Actually, we are talking about making the switch to video podcasting worship soon.

    If you need to make a video of your preaching, but don't want to tip off a congregation that you might be looking elsewhere, I would recommend setting it up and preaching in an empty room one day when nobody is around. Or possibly try having someone sit in the front row with an iphone that can record video and see how that goes.

    We have also skyped a baptism. The baby's grandparents live in England, so we got them online and were able to have the congregation see them on the video screen. It was great. The family abroad was able to join in the celebration and see the congregation that was making the vows to raise their grandchild in the faith. Well worth all of the hassles.

  11. I am facing this dilemma, too. I serve two small rural churches. Since I am supply, they would not be unhappy that I'm recording sermons for committees, I just don't have the equipment and neither do they. And I don't have the money to buy it. I could go to another church who has offered to let me preach/record it in their sanctuary, but a sermon is a living thing, so that seems sort of artificial to me. I do need to do SOMETHING, tho!

  12. I did a FLIP video of a sermon--sound not bad, but didn't have a tripod, so it was shaky. Not the best.

    I think if you have to do it "not live" because that's your only option, I wonder if you could ask a few people to be your "congregation" so it feels more "live".

    Am cracking up because Im remember the Vicar of Dibley episode when they were recording her sermon for a piece on T.V. and they kept saying "cut" and she had to keep starting from the beginning. It was hilarious!

  13. We have a tech-savvy member who gives of his "time and talent" by recording the sermon on a flip camera and uploading it to youtube each week. He does a great job, and we really appreciate his taking on this ministry!

  14. interesting, interesting.

    For those seeking audio recording, "recorder pro" is an iphone app that makes a really good quality recording (I think) for a 0 intrusion factor.

    I hate video taping sermons. It seems so artificial. It's also a good way for a congregation to get a handle on what you look like (age, for example) and make some decisions based on that--HOWEVER, with how easy it is to find a photo of someone on line, this is less of a concern than it first was.

    In my work at a seminary, I strongly discourage students from making sermon DVDs to an empty room. We just preach differently that way. If you can't find a way to record it live, do a fake recording, gathering up all the friends you can talk into it. You need some human sounds in that recording, and some human faces to react to.

    My .02 FWIW.

  15. When I was in the call process, I had a friend video a couple of sermons that I essentially preached to an empty sanctuary. Not the best way to do it, but it was the only one I could come up with at that time.

    I later purchased a video camera. When I was doing pulpit supply, my then-boyfriend (now my husband) would video my sermons (with the congregation's prior permission). The camera does not have a way to plug into a sound system, so audio can be a problem; we would try to place the camera in line with a speaker to pick up the audio.

    I would upload the videos to a website (no longer available) and refer search committees to that site if they wanted to see a sermon video. Saved a lot of trips to the post office. One or two committees asked for the DVDs anyway, but most were happy to go to the site.

    Now, in my present call (yes, there is life after the call process!), he videos my sermons and I upload them to Vimeo (unless they have changed their rules, YouTube won't accept videos over ten minutes long). I then link the Vimeo sermon file to our church website and people can watch the sermons from the website. Don't know yet about podcasting. But Vimeo stores all the video files on their site so they can be accessed at any time.

    Long answer...hope this is helpful.

  16. I have a digital SLR which has a movie capability. When I needed a DVD of my preaching, we set it up on a monopod and my husband held it. It was great... until part way through the sermon, he had to separate our kids from fighting. There is a very indiscreet "shut the H-ll up!! Your mother is preaching!" right in the middle of the sermon.

    I sent it anyway with a note. They hired me.
    We still laugh.


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