share icon

Video and the Web

Sharing video shorts for evangelism

“The soul never thinks without a picture” – Aristotle

Since its launch in 2005 (history), YouTube has grown to be the definitive place to find and share video shorts. By 2012, 60 minutes of new video content were being posted to YouTube every minute, with over 2 billion videos viewed worldwide each day. It’s the default place to post short clips, with Vimeo as a distant second for longer videos. YouTube is now the world’s second-largest search interface, after Google.

Understanding our new digital culture

The ‘print communication culture’ that lasted since the invention of the printing press is being rapidly superceded by the new ‘digital communication culture’. The differences are far-reaching and transformative, because not only are digital media a different means to communicate, but they are transforming the way our culture thinks. For a detailed unpacking of this ongoing change, read Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival by Len Sweet.

Print culture was, naturally, text-based, but also tended to be ‘left-brain’ and analytical. Digital culture is visual, ‘right-brain’ intuitive, and story-based. In many ways, it is nearer to the oral communication cultures of many countries outside the West. Indeed Christians, being generally bookish people, do not realise the extent to which many even in the West read little, especially books, and have always learned orally via TV and film.

Video shorts are therefore a natural expression of digital culture, and hugely significant for both evangelism and discipleship. (So too are longer films, up to feature length.)

Video sharing for evangelism

This is a God-given opportunity, as the Our Chance video explains ▸

People usually find YouTube videos they’d maybe watch, by recommendations of friends through Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking sites. Facebook users can post a YouTube clip onto their Wall with one click, or a simple copy/paste of the URL. Bloggers and website owners can easily embed videos onto their pages using the customizable code that YouTube offers.

Sharing resources and discussion on social networking sites is important because:

The significance of mobile phones

mobile phone In many countries, mobile phones represent more than 50% of web access. In the Majority World, a mobile may be the only electronic device many people will own. Increasingly, people access email, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube clips on their phones, in short bursts of activity. There is therefore great synergy between video shorts and mobile phones.

There’s a further mobile opportunity – Jesus-followers can keep a selction of varied video shorts (and longer films on their smartphones). Videos can be shared one-to-one when appropriate and also transferred by Bluetooth to a friend’s phone): watch this story of video sharing in India. The Talking About Jesus app takes this a step further by offering a ready-made set of video shorts that once downloaded do not need a data link.

Where to find videos

As with every part of the Internet, the problem is knowing where to find the good stuff. This is why online curation is so important. If someone else has done the work for you, and created lists of useful video clips, the rest is easy! And happily, this is the case. is a multi-language directory of conversation-starting video clips that you can post to your Facebook page, Twitter, etc with one click. Other sources of video shorts include GlobalShortFilmNetwork and for science/apologetics God: New Evidence. Most can be downloaded to a mobile phone.

You can also download clips or trailers from current movie releases. Many films contain embedded spiritual parallels that are great conversation starters. The Damaris ministry resources Culturewatch and Viewfinder will help you use movies as a starting point and offer resources including video downloads.

Making videos

It has never been easier to create videos and post them to YouTube. High-end smartphones and many digital cameras take video in reasonable definition – you don’t necessarily need a camcorder. (It is preferable to use a camera with a socket for an external microphone to give better sound quality.) Free or cheap editing software makes video creation very practical.

Of course, the more you can learn about film-making, the better. There are many online introductory resources (eg. Video Production Guide), and the book How to Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck: Advice to Make Any Amateur Look Like a Pro is widely praised. See also the free ebook, newsletter and other resources offered by No Film School. Local colleges may also offer evening classes in film-making.

As well as straight filming, there are other fun ways to create short videos. These include claymation and other forms of stop motion storytelling (eg. Aardman’s Wallace and Gromit) and hand-drawn or computer animation.

Because animation is not photo-realism, it draws us into a magic parallel world of our imagination where anything is possible, and it can uniquely communicate spiritual truth. Watch these animations ▸ Invention of Love and Alma which (though not positioned as ‘Christian’ animation) could be great conversation-starters, in a youth group or posted online. In stories like these, their value is to find parallels and start discussion. Note that line-drawn or stop-motion animations at 4 frames per second or less can still work well.

A line-drawn animation can also function as a direct gospel presentation – here are two: God Stuff Explained and iPad Drawing  ▸

James Cheung also discusses in this video his use of line drawings face-to-face for a gospel presentation.

There is a big need for Christian animators – if you feel called to this ministry there are opportunities for training including YWAM’s School of Cartooning and  Animation. Check the links at Animax35. (More reading: our blog posts about animation.)

Video shorts, whether filmed or animated, can be an excellent evangelism project for a youth group.

What works best for video shorts content?

If you watch the best secular video clips on YouTube, you’ll see hugely creative ideas for communication. Here are ideas to consider:

Opportunities for creativity

Video creation is an area where Christian drama groups, artists, film-makers, writers and others with creative gifts can use their skills. Sometimes Christian film-makers have stuck to safe, predictable, formulaic, and sometimes cheesy, material, and it has been non-Christians who have displayed breath-taking leaps of imagination and creativity. In the world of film, it is often supposedly secular films which effectively reveal embedded themes of longing, seeking and redemption. In fact, the question has even been posed and debated:
Why do heathens make the best Christian films?

Video clips in church meetings

It is of course now commonplace for video shorts to be integrated into church services. There are many opportunities to do this, both for teaching believers, and for evangelism.

A further church-based opportunity: an introductory video about the fellowship, which can be embedded on the church website: read more and watch Coton Green Church’s video ▸