Out of sight can very quickly mean out of mind so regular communication is vital to a healthy partnership. Today, more than at any point in history, the options for how to share updates from the field are vast: WhatsApp, Twitter, email, snail mail, Facebook, Zoom – between them, Crosslinks mission partners cover most options.
I've been Crosslinks' content producer for a little under a year and already I've seen the power of video to help mission partners engage their partners in the work God is doing. If you want to go and do the same, read on for my top tips for creating great videos.
One of my most exciting moments at Crosslinks was when we encouraged a camera-shy couple to put together their first video. Once we sent it out, they were overwhelmed with positive responses from churches and partners back in the UK. Since then, they’ve sent regular videos and we continue to hear comments back (For example, 'It’s been wonderful getting video updates and we’ve shared them with the church every time we’ve heard from them' and 'Thanks for this video – it's lovely to see our friends looking so well.')
The simplest option is to speak directly to the camera. It's a format similar to how it would be if you were with them in the room speaking from the front. Photos, maps or other video footage can be added in, to help paint a picture of your context.
The next option is a vlog – similar to what you might see on YouTube. It’s shot using selfie mode while walking or out of the home somewhere. It’s a great way to give a snapshot into family and ministry life and adds a little flair without needing any extra equipment. The informal format mean it’s easy to record and share regularly across social media.
Tell your partners about yourself, how you’re doing and what it's like in the culture you’re serving in. Even if the mundane, everyday stuff doesn't seem that exciting, it’ll be really interesting to friends and churches back home because it's different and unknown. Speak about your commute, what food shopping is like, or where you go to relax. The medium of video means that you can visually show these things and give people a much clearer view of your context than words in a prayer letter ever could.
The best strategy is to be intentional about capturing photos or videos during your working week – these snapshots into your life are a great way to make your partners feel much closer to you, without needing to board a plane. They say that the best camera is the one you always have so take advantage of the phone in your pocket to capture snippets throughout your day. Aim to do this regularly, taking a few video clips every month.
Share about your ministry and don't be afraid to be honest (although remember this is being shared publicly). Trust us, your partners aren't only interested in the big impressive wins, they care about you and what you're going through. If life is tough and there is little visible gospel fruit, tell it that way. Aim to include a story about someone or something that happened recently, to get your partner engaged and eager to keep watching.
You can also use your video update to raise funds. Asking for financial support via video will draw your partners into the need and show them what you're speaking about.
There are so many stats out there about how short our attention spans are – the most recent one I heard said that the camera angle or scene needs to change every 10-seconds! But you don’t need to hold rigidly to this in your video updates – after all, you’re talking to a warm audience that cares about what you have to say. I recommend aiming for three to four minutes – perfect for sharing in a church service or for someone to quickly watch as they flick through their emails.
I'd recommend you feed in regular video updates between your three-times-a-year written prayer letters. Use once a month as a target but it's always better to start small and build up to it than not do anything. And remember, we're not looking for studio quality videos here!
Hopefully, you're now with me on the importance of making video updates and what to include in them but you still might be feeling like you don’t actually know how. When it comes to filmmaking there is a ridiculous amount of gear, technology and jargon out there but don't let it overwhelm you. I learnt quickly in my journey into video production that you can always make something great with the tools you already have. So don't fret about the kit and always remember, we're here to support you. I thoroughly enjoy taking your seemingly random clips and turning them into something which will encourage churches in their gospel partnership. If you shoot the footage, I'll edit it all together for you.
These tips will give you a little knowledge and some idea on the basic equipment you need to get you recording video updates today.
After reading this you may now be feeling slightly overwhelmed! I've tried to cover a lot of bases in one article but I want to encourage you not to worry too much about the camera, lighting or background. Your partners want to hear from you, see how you're doing and find out how they can pray for you. A quick, simple video, shot on selfie mode on your phone will go a long way to engage your partners, so just start recording.
Crosslinks is here to support you, so don't feel you need to get it right the first time. We can edit videos for you so if you mess up or think you can say something different, take a breath and start that line again. Try to have fun with it, the most important thing is that you look natural.
And lastly, remember you're sharing about how God is at work in your ministry, so relax and smile!
We've put together a series of videos to introduce you and your church to six things that we think are essential to gospel partnerships.
Find out more
Joel runs Crosslinks' social channels and creates videos and online media to help connect you with our people and projects. He lives in Sussex with his wife, Alexa, and their four children.
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