Digging into Video Making/Sharing

General Assembly 2014 Event 408

This was part of the #UUsGetSocial series of workshops

Program Description

Proven methods to help both individuals and congregations promote Unitarian Universalist (UU) values, UU social action, and UU identity online. Straightforward tips from UU experts on Facebook, Twitter, and video-making and sharing.




PETER BOWDEN: You ready? How's everybody doing? All right. We have a hot crowd in here.

So my name is Peter Bowden. The last 10 years, I've been a bi-vocational children's television producer and Unitarian Universalist consultant, increasingly focusing on ministry and media as technology has become so critical and integral to what we're doing. Handouts related to what I'm talking about today, which I will pass on to the UUA, right now are on my website leadingcongregat ions.com/handouts. And there's some other handouts from other things, which feel free to take as well.

So I do consulting work through Leading Congregations. But I play with UU's social media and video, using the name UU Planet. SO on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, UU Planet, I am UU Planet. I sound like Iron Man or something. But since 2007, which is when I made my first Unitarian Universalist video, I've been just experimenting, playing, helping other Unitarian Universalists do things with video.

Tell me. Anyone ever see the video, You're a Uni What? OK. So we made that. My wife, Amy Freedman, the Reverend Amy Freedman and I made that video seven years ago this general assembly. We were so young and cute.

At that time, seven years ago, there's like no Unitarian Universalist videos online. YouTube didn't. It was such a baby. It was 2005, YouTube came out. All right. We had clam shell phones. Yeah. And a lot of us didn't have phones. Right?

2005, when YouTube came out, that's when decided I'm going to focus, instead of going to seminary and having two parish ministers in the family, because that sucks—

No, no. Co-ministries are wonderful.

—that I am going to help all of you in our congregations harness the communication powers and tools that we now have. 2005, you were the person that Time made the person of the year because now you have the power of television companies, networks. When I was growing up, we had three stations. And it was black and white. And it was square and small. And we sat, and we watched television. And we liked it, and we hated it, and we wished more was on. But we all sat on our couches with our family, and just watched and watched and listened. We were broadcast at, broadcast at for half hour, an hour, like church, a sermon, directed at you.


OK. We're just talking, like cultural shifts, broadcast versus a new world where we're all collaborating. So in church, we have lots of people, sitting in pews not nearly as comfortable as couches, with an organ or some source to make music, and usually a chalice.


All right. Broadcast. So we have the networks and clergy and lay leaders broadcasting at us. The world changed. We've got more than three networks now. It has grown and grown and grown. But we've taken their power away, the networks, because you, all of us have this power. What we've been doing with it collectively is crap.


In terms of an online audience now, that is watching all these Facebook things, and our attention spans are shorter and shorter, shorter, and watching it on phones like the iPhone—

2007, that's when the iPhone came out. Right after general assembly I think. And now you are all so plugged in. Who's using the GA app? Like everyone's showing me what you're eating for dinner. I love it. I found some great recommendations.

But this is like Star Trek technology. Jim Kirk's thing was so lame. It didn't even have any pictures. Our world has changed. And we have to change the way that we're using the technology. And I'm going to tell you what I think we should be doing with video.

Yes, we can record sermons. And it's great. That really does a fabulous job of reaching existing members, people who can't get to the service, and many people who have disabilities who love all of your sermons. Keep doing that.

There are people who want to get to know who we are. And being able to find sermons to see, oh, that's what it is, that's great.

I have a website I created in 2005—

I think it was in 2005.

—unitarianuniversalism.tv, which is collecting videos. It was a little later, like 2007. There's now like 2,000 UU videos on that site, mostly sermons. Each gets watched a tiny bit. But there's value there.

We now have people watching all of this content on their phones. What I want to focus on is yes, we can do things to connect and communicate with existing members, but I want to focus on what's my mission, which is helping the people who don't understand who you are or they think they know what it is or church is the scariest thing they could ever frickin' imagine form something magical with you, which is a relationship. For me, all the social media, all this stuff comes down to relationship. How can we reach out to people?

And if you knew that someone was searching, say, that's my home church, First Unitarian Church of Providence up the hill, and my mother's in the house! All right. GA, my hometown. If someone's wanting to connect with your congregation today, they don't just walk over and visit. Whatever's happening in your church is like it's in a wall. People do church shopping. People make decisions about their lives first by searching online.

Maybe they have a conversation with a friend. They go to a wedding, where they are like, oh that person's interesting, that minister, that atheist minister. But before they do anything, they want to know. Like I don't go anywhere or do anything without searching for it. I want to be informed.

Why? Because I'm an anxious human being. I grew up shy. I want to know everything about everything before I have to engage in person. And I think people who want to go to your church want to know what the heck you have in that box because a lot of our websites are horrible and do a horrible job communicating the beauty, the magic, the mystery, the wonder, the joy, the love that you can experience in Unitarian Universalist community.

How are you going to put that in a website? That's hard copy to write. The still images don't capture. If you could reach out to that anxious person who is searching online—

Do I go to church for the first time or what are they like? Who are they? They might frown at me. Will they care that I'm there? They have questions about Unitarian Universalism, like who are you? So many questions.

And what do they want to do? They want to get all the information they can online without stepping foot in your congregations so they can decide, yes, I want that and prequalify themselves as a member of your community before they show up. Membership is no longer—

People don't come and say oh, now I'm going to hang out and get to know you and decide. They've made the preliminary decision online, and they're coming to verify. You have three visits with them to make a real personal connection, get to know them, and introduce them to others, and make them feel like they belong. Huge obstacle!

So they're searching for Unitarian Universalism. Maybe they find you on their websites. But one of the top search engines on the planet, YouTube, 1.1 billion active monthly users. So a lot of people, if they're looking for information about something that is going to—

I want to know who these people are like. What are their churches? What things do they do? That's the type of stuff that gets to very visual kind of interactive things.

So they're going to search for video. Some people will do the text, but many will just type Unitarian Universalism in on just YouTube directly. This is what you get if you search, the first things that come up.

Now, number one, my video! All right, Peter and Amy, baby! Now, that video, I should say, is Amy and I doing some goofy shtick in front of a slide projector screen intercut with my just asking you, seven years ago, what are common misconceptions about Unitarian Universalist? Just what are they?

I didn't hear what you said. We'll talk later.


And then sermons.


PETER BOWDEN: Unis. Oh, yeah one of the misconceptions. Uni, uni, there's so many unis. I hate unis. They're scary.

The other thing is if you look at the third video down, this person who I don't know, young adult, just making videos with like zero production value. I have gone to a Unitarian Universalist church, and I connected with it for this reason. She's telling her story, the value, the meaning. YouTube is filled with people just sitting in front of their laptop, and sticking the camera up their nose and just telling you what they're feeling.


And I tell you, my friends, that's what they want you to do, just not so close enough and not up the nose.


There are a lot of ways we can do this. Now, the nice thing is all of this amounts to, and these are my big video tips, you can save people's lives, you can grow your congregation, increase membership, increase the number of visitors and the number of people who actually stay, by putting the human beings in your congregation, who care what you're about, care about your mission, who love your church, people who are paid staff, all these people, to take simple videos about them, explaining the most basic things.

Do we have interfaith families here? Do any of you have any interfaith families? Anyone? You're all like, I'm not raising my hand because that's a stupid ass question! Oops, sorry.


I'm an independent. I don't work for the UU. You can edit that all out.

That's a dumb question, Peter, because we all have interfaith questions. To which, I say, where's the video, losers?


There's no videos, like your congregation or even just UUs at large talking about that issue. There's so many things we could say about what we care about. Every new member is a potential video testimonial. How'd you come to connect?

Now, we haven't done a lot of that. So the culture isn't there. So at first, we might have to do a little more work to get people to share. But if you can get, a lot of times we have people stand up in front of the congregation during the newcomer welcome, the seven people, and they start saying a little bit. But we don't hear too much about them because we don't want it to go too long.

Imagine if each of those was just a simple recorded video. Maybe not everyone wants to share that publicly, but some will. Maybe you could put that in a private area. Some congregations have private areas of the websites, but where we're really helping. I think we should just put it out there. We can say, hey. Part of joining this congregation is we share the stories. Share the stories. You can opt out.

Top left, there's some great videos out there about, this is what you can expect when you come to worship. And it's just a few simple shots of what it looks like and people explaining. I love that because it reduces the anxiety. Have children? Want children? Who's your religious educator? What are you teaching about?

There's hardly any videos about what we teach our children. And we teach so many different things. There's some good stuff about OWL, but there's not much.

So my challenge for you is take anything you think someone's going to care about, that's going to be one of their questions about your congregation, take the person who knows about that in your congregation, and share a short little video. We're not making big videos because we want to be able to share little things that are like a minute long or so and just share them through your social media stream.

If you have a religious education program, put your religious educator on the top of that page with an introduction. Hey, here's an overview of our program for the coming year. Click go to the youth group page. Oh, meet our youth advisors. You can do all of this with just a cellphone.

Over the past few years, I've been doing work for the UU world. I'm not doing it now because I'm focusing on my shameless self-promotion. But if you have an iPhone, Android phone, any kind of a smartphone, they all come with video cameras now, beautiful HD video. You have the power, my friends.

Raise your hand if you have a video camera in your pocket right now. Almost everyone—

No, it's like 2/3. So now one of the reasons why we don't have very many videos of this nature out there is because taking good video is hard because we've been trained to make crappy videos.—

I've already said crap. So now I'm going to say crappy because I'm all in.

All right. So how do we move to not have horrible—

Where is my time?

—not have horrible videos? We just have to stop doing the things that make them stink, which is actually really easy. OK. So I am going to teach you right now. And here's my challenge to you. If you care enough about what we're doing here in your congregation to come all the way to Providence and especially to put on one of those yellow shirts, like I don't do yellow, but some of you are like going all yellow,—


I would challenge you to let someone take your phone or help each other, take turns recording yourself saying why you're here or here's a little something about what's going on that you can share with your congregation. You can actually take the video, and then when you go someplace with WIFI, upload it to your Facebook page or save it to do something at home when you go back.

Tools that I use. The app that comes with a camera. We're not talking about doing fancy editing. We're just saying, one person. You're filming them from like the belly button up to the head, OK, and holding it still and recording. You don't need any fancy software for that. You don't need Photoshop or editing stuff.

If you want to do fancy editing, my friends, for free you can get the YouTube Capture app. I know that works for Apple devices. I'm not sure if they've released the Android yet. You can actually take a video, press record, then stop, move your camera, take another one, record, record, get a whole bunch of clips, and then right there go, I'm going to slide them around, change the order, trim this one and boom! I just published an amazing video about love reaches out at WaterFire in Providence, Rhode Island. And it's just going to be like we're going to take in the scenery.

And I'm not working for the UU world this year so maybe it'd be good for you all to take videos of WaterFire and our witness event. Hint, hint, hint, hint, hint. But so someone should play with that.

The third one I use, and I think this is where some of you could start having some real fun, if you're on Twitter especially, Vine. This is the video program tool that Twitter put out. You record with this six second videos. You pull out your phone, when you're using that app you press the screen, and it records. If you lift your thumb up, it stops. So you can do some little bursts of things. So you can make some fun movement.

Or I shared one the other day showing there's a wall of hope or something near the WaterFire basin. These are great because you're just sharing a moment. Anyone ever go to a rally? Rallies? Oh my god. You've got to go to some rallies, people.

But whether it's something in congregational life—

And I do think we should let people know if we're going to film them, permissions. I'm TV background. Public events, though, if you're at a big public event, especially with a witness focus, fair game. So to just take a six second thing and share it when you publish these vines, you can have it go out to Facebook and Twitter, and they loop the videos. So you're just capturing a moment.

So the other day I walked by my home church because hey, I'm in my hometown. I'm just showing you I have a big, awesome beautiful steeple on my home church. All right. La, la, la. That's fun. But interesting for some people. Maybe somebody wants to go check out the steeple because, oh that's interesting.

I'm at the Peace Parade in Boston. That's the biggest rainbow flag I ever saw. And I want all the people following me to know that I love rainbow flags. I'm going to put on hashtag rainbows and hashtag marriage equality.

I also love divestment. I hope we divest. So here. I'll go to rallies about divestment at Harvard and elsewhere and just share short little bursts. So that what does this do? It's rich media that is giving people a sense. And it's so short.

I watch my language.

So short they can't even make the decision to not watch it because it's only six seconds, which is great. So what we're doing is communicating via the stream. So here is, for those of you who are going to try this video, my crash course. I've got three pages of tips on that.

Number one, treat it like a still camera. Hold it still. As soon as you start going like this, where's the kid? Where's, what's happening? People are going to stop watching. So just. That's it. OK. Just focus on people. Don't get fancy. You're not ready for that. So focus on people.

And when you're having people share their stories, it's just like you're replicating. The viewer is standing having a normal conversation, not awkward up close conversation, not so far back that you can't see the person's face and the eyes. Record with the sunlight or a bright light behind you so that it's shining on their beautiful faces, and it doesn't make the whole thing go dark, like if you film into the light.

And since we all use the mobile devices, if you press and hold the screen on your mobile devices, like iPhones and such, it'll focus, it'll adjust the exposure on whatever you're holding on, and it'll adjust the color to look real nice. And five, when you can—

Well, I don't know what device you're using. We'll do tech after.

And five, when you can, if you can use a tripod, if you're doing something a little longer, that's great. But just doing those things can massively reduce the horribleness of your videos. And I think we can really reach out to more people in a way that can bring them into our communities.

So for, I already told you, the handouts leadingcongregations.com. I just want to close by saying, we talk a lot about the interdependent web of all existence. And you know what, actually we're given one. This is an image of Facebook connections. We are all connected. And so my wish for all of you is that we start playing with this technology and use it to help people move through that wall.


SUSANNE SKUBIK INTRILIGATOR:: Thank you, Peter. Questions. Please rise to the question mic.

Slides and Resources

About the Author

Peter Bowden

Peter Bowden is a Unitarian Universalist speaker, trainer, and coach specializing in congregational growth, outreach, and media. Learn more about his work and projects at Peter Bowden—Helping Unitarian Universalists lead and grow amazing congregations.

For more information contact .