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Basic Guidelines for Building Visual Elements

Some practical considerations to think about before initiating a media ministry.

Let's get inside of the practical tactics that are used by a media minister, including examples of video techniques and the purpose of metaphor. Though the subject of metaphor might sound like the pursuit of a literary critic who reviews printed novels, it is actually the bedrock tactic for media ministry.

The metaphor

The metaphor is the single most important element of media ministry design.

The metaphor is not the theme. The theme is a functional description of the primary message that is to be told. For a Sunday morning it might be God's grace, or for a discipleship class it might be God's covenant. The metaphor is how the theme is to be communicated, so that it can be understood or at least embodied through experience.

The Bible depends upon metaphors. Every major theme represented in Scripture is communicated through a metaphor. The Holy Spirit is a dove or water, the call of God is heard in the ordinary burning bush, God's covenant is sealed in the rainbow. Metaphors abound in the Bible because they are the essence of oral communication. Prophets such as Jeremiah spoke of a potter and his clay to represent God's continued relationship with an unrepentant Israel, and Zechariah talked about a flying scroll in an apocalyptic vision, in which God sends out a curse rebuking the captive Israelites for not keeping the Law. Even in the early church, leaders realized the value of the metaphor. Clement of Alexandria advocated the use of symbols such as doves, fish, a musician's lyre, an anchor, or a "ship running in the wild."

The metaphor may be a phrase or an entire sentence, but it is often object-oriented, or at least a combination of the two. Metaphors are all around us, but we notice that a metaphor is "dead" when it is over-used (trite) or becomes a function of literal speech. In his parables Jesus used objects that people perceived each day, such as the staples of an agrarian society: a mustard seed, a woman with a broom, workers in a field, yeast, a banquet feast, and so on. In seeking the metaphor, ask the question. To what does the theme compare? Again, the theme is an analytical, prepositional, or functional description. You pursue the metaphor through the imagination of what and how it is to be told.

Don't give up on applying metaphors. It is not always easy, especially when working with persons who are conditioned to create themes in propositional and abstract form, which is the methodology of the print culture. But time and again I have seen that the effectiveness of a presentation is directly determined by the effectiveness of the metaphor that communicates the theme.

Examples of new media in worship

To get a taste of media ministry on a typical weekend, here I outline a number of possibilities for what a media ministry might pursue:

1. Film and video clips to set up a theme. Use, but don't abuse, film clips. Keep them fresh, and not typical. Avoid reuse. A well-placed film clip ignites many services, but like anything else, weekly use will kill its spark.

2. B-roll behind a speaker. This might be news footage from the local station, environmental shots establishing a locale or setting, or shots of a person, event, or place. ("B-roll": accompanying video footage depicting a voicetrack. B-roll comes from the B-reel, or the cutaway reel in editing suites)

3. Chroma-keying, or the combination of graphic images over live camera images. This is effective for reiterating a point or message during a sermon (Note: this requires a video mixer). This is also known as "supering," or "lower-thirding."

4. A speaker's points, which might be illustrated with still graphics or 2-D or 3-D animations.

5. A series of graphic images, such as a slide show, behind a song. For example, a song about outreach might include snapshots of a church group in mission.

6. Looping video behind song text, or prior to the event, or mixed with live shots, or graphics during a featured musical selection, to help establish a mood.

7. Video or animated transitions between event elements. During a worship service it is the transitions that most frequently lose people. One person finishes, and it takes an eternity for the next person to get up on the platform to start. Video transitions can fill the gap while reinforcing the message.

8. A series of stills in a sequence, to simulate motion.

9. Graphic illustrations and interpretations of Scripture readings. Scripture references, sermon illustrations, announcements, prayers, monologue, and dialogues.

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