Preaching to a Camera?
10 tips because 10 is the traditional number to use! 
by David Christensen

How do you preach to a camera? Don’t! The first rule of thumb is that you must not preach to a camera. Mentally, you must get to the point where you forget the camera to preach well on camera. The learning curve may be frustrating but stay with it. I have often recorded multiple “takes” before getting one right. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect as much as it needs to be real. Here are some tips to help you improve your video preaching skills without breaking the bank to purchase equipment or hire a videographer.

#1. Turn off the picture that you see. You will be distracted when all you see is your face staring back at you. If you are using a smartphone, just turn the camera in the other direction. It is hard enough to preach with no people in front of you without having to look at yourself while you preach. Seeing yourself will make you more self-conscious.
#2. Use a stand and a good camera. Most smartphones have excellent cameras. Better yet, invest in a GoPro. The critical issue is to use a stand. A gimbal is best because of its versatility, but if not, a tripod will work well. There is nothing worse than watching a shaky, moving picture, so don’t hold it. Viewer vertigo is not your goal! Get a good stationary shot and stick with it.
#3. Look into the camera and not at the screen. Have you ever watched a news anchor looking at the wrong camera? That’s how you look when you look at the screen. It’s hard not to look at the screen since that is what you see, but looking into the camera is the way to have eye contact with the viewer. Having said that, don’t stare into the camera. You can look away or at notes because that is natural in public speaking, but come back to make eye contact regularly just like you would in person.
#4. Preach dialogically. Preach to people, not a camera. Visualize the people in your church. Take mental snapshots of the people and think about them and their needs as you preach. Some preachers even set up pictures (off-camera) of the people in their church to remind them of their audience. Imagine that you are having a dialogue with some of the people in your church. You can’t see them, but you know them. You can imagine their reactions/questions to what you are saying and factor those into your message.
#5. Be aware of your background and watch the camera angle. On many cameras, you can create a digital background if you want. However, the background can be either creative or neutral as long as nothing is distracting. The camera angle is critical too. The best pictures are probably about 6-10 feet away and relatively level with your height. Looking up or down at you will create an odd feeling for the viewer.
#6. Be more casual and personal. Some pastors are trying to continue to preach from the pulpit in a jacket and tie because they want to create a sense of “church.” I think it creates a sense of disconnect with the listener. When the viewer is sitting on the couch in sweats or pajamas with a cup of coffee, it seems strange to watch the pastor deliver a formal message. This is a good time to get casual and talk more personally with people since they are already in that mindset. The same holds true for your inflection, tone, and volume. Talking to a camera calls for avoiding that pulpit voice and using a normal conversational style of speech.
#7. Avoid complex content and long quotes. Keep it simple and straightforward. A simple outline that follows the text will be easier to remember as you speak. Long quotes should generally be avoided anyway, but especially on camera. Reading your material is a killer on camera. Focus more than ever on talking to the people with clarity and simplicity. You can set up your notes like a teleprompter off-camera (either below the camera line or beside it, so you don’t have to look far to see it).
#8. Shorten the sermon. If you are used to preaching 45-minute sermons, this is not the time. Generally, keep the sermons no longer than 30 minutes. Remember, there are far more distractions for people in their homes. They can just get up and go to the refrigerator for a snack if you start to lose them. Keep it short and sharp. They can talk or laugh about something, and you will never know that you lost them.
#9. Be passionate about the message and show your love for the people. You are not an actor putting on a dramatic show. Two factors drive our real passion: people and the Word. 1) Feel the needs of your people. The better you know them, the better you will preach with passion. 2) Get excited about the fresh, spiritual lessons you learned for yourself from the Bible. Your passion comes from fresh insights that excite you. Share those with your people, and your passion will naturally develop.
#10. Focus on messages of hope, faith, encouragement, love, and grace. When people are fearful and stressed, they need to know that God’s got this. They need a fresh encounter with God, and they need to experience His grace in new measure. People are drowning in information from the talking heads debating medical, political, and economic solutions. They need to leave all that stuff behind and come to God. They need Jesus more than ever, so give them Jesus!