Never Preach to an Empty Room

I never thought the day would come, that due to COVID-19 every pastor in America would be forced to do what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years. You see, early on when Grace Church decided to go multi-site, we also decided to take an unconventional approach to video preaching. We chose not to record the sermon at a Saturday night service in front of an audience, instead, I would preach on Wednesday mornings. And yes, aside from a small crew of one or two people, the room would be completely empty.  But, I learned an important lesson early on in this process. NEVER preach to an empty room. Instead, I always preach to the REAL PEOPLE on the other side of the camera.  I found it too frustrating and too fake to try to hold the illusion that I was preaching to imaginary people in a cavernous room.  Instead, week after week, I stare down the lens, looking into the camera and into the faces and souls of my congregation.  I also understand that each week there is an internet audience and individuals who will watch the archive version of the message months and maybe years after I deliver it.  Since we have a preaching team, I have developed a list over the years of 10 tips and tricks for preaching through the camera that serves as a resource for everyone who preaches at Grace.  Since all pastors across the country are now in the same boat, I thought I’d share it with you!

10 Tips for Preaching THROUGH the Camera:

  1. Talk faster than you think you should. A quicker delivery helps to hold people’s attention. 
  2. Voice inflection is particularly important. You can be more passionate and animated than feels natural. 
  3. Keep your eyes on the lens as much as possible – don’t look around at the imaginary crowd. 
  4. Utilize visual aids whenever possible. Pictures, video clips, full screen quotes all help break it up and keep it interesting. 
  5. Explain all personal/geographical references: ie. Instead of “Kim and Caleb,” say “my wife Kim and my son Caleb…” instead of “We went to 1201” say “we went to a local restaurant called 1201.” 
  6. Briefer is better.  There is a limit to how much preaching people will endure on screen.  The standard at Grace is a 30-minute video sermon. 
  7. If you are using notes on a podium or an iPad – the camera shot should be wide enough to include those things so that people can see what you’re looking down at.  The use of a teleprompter is preferred so that eye contact can be maintained with the camera. 
  8. Nervous gestures and body language are amplified on the screen. 
  9. Pause for expected laughter. It’s a little risky (especially if you aren’t as funny as you thought you were going to be), but when you keep chugging along with your next point while people are still laughing at your last one – it is a stark reminder that you’re on a screen. 
  10. Imagine specific people.  Both as you are preparing and as you are delivering your sermon to the camera it’s helpful to remember specific people and their anticipated reactions and questions to what you are saying. 

I’m praying that the word of God goes forward in unprecedented ways during these unprecedented times!

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