When simple is best

Simple is often best. Of course, that’s easier said than done. One of my tech colleagues at MIT used to keep a quote on his office white board: “Nothing is simple by accident.” We have to work at simplicity, whether it is good liturgy, good communications, good architecture, good food, or even good relationships.

Take communications, for example. To tell a story simply, you have to know the narrative really well. The best teachers and most compelling speakers have thorough mastery of their material and can speak on it effortlessly. A “simple” sermon requires very careful preparation and organization. (Most unprepared preachers will ramble — the opposite of simple elegance.)

So let’s apply this principal to videos about our church. Wannabepriest drew my attention to this awful, yet typical, video about the Church of England. This is just the sort of thing we usually see when someone is asked to make a video about a congregation or church. It has all the hallmarks of committee work, and it buries you in statistics that will hold no interest for the inquirer. This example happens to pick on the C of E, but 30 seconds on Youtube search would have yielded lots of examples from the Episcopal Church and its congregations.

Now, contrast that with this compelling video about Islam. Few people really care much about the number of adherents or how many congregations there are. Almost no one cares a wit about committee structures or wants a polity lesson. Instead, people want to know the why and the who of faith. Watch this one:

I cannot say enough good things about this. The music tells us a story with a tune that pulls you in. Who knew that there was acoustic folk-style music about Islam? No you do. And I’ll bet you want to listen to more, right?

There is hope. A parish in Minnesota has prepared a video to introduce you to their church. They made it for clergy who might be discerning whether they could be called to serve there. But the video will serve the parish well in introducing their church to the community. It will even help parishioners get WHO they are — and WHY they are. It’s a very simple video, but the thoughtfulness of it represents considerable depth. (The audio in the intro is a bit soft, so power on through that to the “meat” of the video.)

Have you made videos about your congregation? Got any good ones or bad ones to share?

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2 Responses

  1. Meaghan says:

    Love the video on Islam Scott, thanks for sharing it. We haven’t made a video here yet, but we’re thinking about using a young couple in Durham who make videos for all kinds of occasions and groups. This website has one of their videos: http://realityministriesinc.org/

    And you can find their other videos – weddings, etc. on http://www.inkspotcrow.com

    I love their work, and I feel like they really capture the essence of a place.

  2. Laura says:

    Simple–and short! Of these three, I lasted longest (at 1:31) watching the Trinity Excelsior video, and at that point I found myself thinking, “I got the point.” But of course that means I never found out where they are or when they meet or how I can find out more about them.

    I understand your point about the statistics in video number 1, but I don’t think that video is any worse than the others. In fact, I liked the pictures (the ones I saw) best of the three. I didn’t find any of them compelling enough to watch all the way through.

    The moment I see that a video is 4 or 5 minutes, I think, “ugh.” It was only wanting to see what was good or bad about each of these that made me press “play” at all. I’m afraid I can’t give a thumbs up on any of them, not because they are good or bad, but because I, as a typical audience, would need to be convinced I wanted to see them, and I wasn’t.