Movies in Church

copyrightwarningHow many times has this happened to you (sounds like the opening of a bad infomercial?) You have a youth group meeting and you are going to show a DVD movie to the group. You purchased the movie yourself, or someone else has loaned you their copy. No admission or entrance fee is being charged. No problem, everything is above board.

Actually there is a problem.  According to the law, this is considered a public showing of a copyrighted film. As such, it is subject to the Federal Copyright of 1976 which stipulates that violations can result in substantial fines.  How much? Even inadvertent infringement is subject to substantial civil damages, ranging from $750 to $30,000 for each work. In our current litigious society, do you really want to take that chance?

Fortunately, there are resources and options that can alleviate this concern.  Just like the licenses for music and print, which I have talked about earlier, there are licenses you can obtain for video.  CCLI offers church video licensing which will allow you to legally show movies for such things as sermons, Sunday school, classes and special events.  Other resources are:

Copyright Guidelines for Churches from Episcopal Church Foundation
Motion Picture Licensing Association
Church Publishing – Showing Movies in Church

Let’s see you at the movies, not see you in court!

Photo: Wikimedia

It’s Nice to be Validated

Since I first started here, I have talked to hundreds of people representing numerous churches.  Invariably, one of their questions is “how do we attract new people?”  There is obviously no magic bullet that will make it happen, but I tell them to keep their website current, be real and authentic about who you are, don’t talk in “church-ese” and make a safe place for people to experience worship.

Lo and behold, here is a blog post which pretty much echos what I have been saying.  Thank you Rachel Held Evans for the validation!

Holy Week Debrief – A Rant and a Rave

Holy Week, one of the busiest and most emotionally draining times of the church year has just completed and we have entered into the Easter season.  Before it gets too far out of our thoughts, I would like to offer a critique of how this week was offered online.

If you have been reading any of my blog postings or attended any of my workshops, you will know that I am a firm believer that digital media (websites, social media, email ) is the way that society is moving toward communicating, especially with the under 45 demographic.   Therefore, important events should be easy to find and prominent on your website and/or social media sites.  While a number of churches in the diocese did have their Holy Week schedule on their website, for many of them it was not prominent or easy to find.

People who are looking for service times or information on events expect it to be a simple and easy task.  Having to navigate a menu to find this, or open a document once the information is found may not seem like a big deal to existing members of a church, but these are extra steps that newcomers and visitors find distracting, frustrating and unfriendly.  Since you only have a few seconds once someone comes to your site to get their attention and give them the information they are seeking, it’s imperative to make it as smooth and painless as possible.

There are some churches in the diocese that did a great job of showing their Holy Week information in an easy and inviting way.  Here are some samples that can be used as ideas for next year’s Holy Week.

Good Shepherd, Vancouver has a carousel on their site which makes displaying this information easy to do.


Redeemer, Kenmore used video to help promote their Holy Week services


St. Hugh in Allyn simply put the information on the homepage. Nothing fancy, but it served the purpose of getting the information out there to visitors and seekers


Finally St. Paul in Bellingham put in a separate block underneath their welcome message for their Holy Week offerings.


These are just a few of the ideas that can be used to promote the important events in the life of your faith community.  Remember it doesn’t have to be fancy or artistic, but it makes a huge difference in being a welcoming place for visitors and newcomers.

Using Photos of Children

One of the most common questions that I am asked when I do workshops on website design and social media is “What about photos of children, what are the guidelines?”  I will talk about needing permissions, how to (or not) identify them and then go on to the broader topic of photos of people in general.  I was about to write something on this, but one of my Episcopal Communicator compadres at the Diocese of Newark, Nina Nicholson, has written a very good piece on this subject on her blog “Geeks for God“.  It has good, practical tips and even includes verbiage for crafting a release form!  Do check it out.  Thanks, Nina!

Is Your Church an Embezzler’s Dream?

Normally this blog site deals with technology issues and trends  that I think are worthwhile pieces of information for people doing digital technology for their faith communities.  However, our Canon for Finance, Chris Smith-Clark has brought to my attention some good tips on protecting your organization from “financial chicanery”.  I am posting her article here and hope you will take it to heart. Continue reading “Is Your Church an Embezzler’s Dream?”

How to Start a Communications Plan for Your Church

I love it when I find nuggets that will help churches with their mission.  Here is a nice little article from one of my favorite websites, Church Marketing Sucks (can I get an Amen!) that talks about how to get started with a communications strategy for your church.  With all of the tools and apps out there, it is possible to put together a really nice communications strategy for your church or faith community with little financial outlay and not get yourself overwhelmed.

What Can the Church Learn from Apple?

The Lead from Episcopal Cafe posted an interesting set of videos from Apple and posed the question, “What can the church learn from these Apple ads?”  It is a very thought provoking question that has caused me to comment on it.

One of the things that struck me about the ads was the attention to detail. I have a very dear friend who used to work for Apple and he would tell stories of how obsessed the engineers could be about getting the interface just right.  “Slap and Dash” was not their philosophy.  They worked very hard to make sure that the user experience was just right.  You don’t have to be technically savvy to use their devices or products.  Many non-technical people have talked about how they like Apple products because they are so intuitive, so user friendly.  So how does this relate to the church? Continue reading “What Can the Church Learn from Apple?”

The Episcopal Church Welcomes You (21st Century Edition)

We have seen the signs for years, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You”.  While this is nice to have in front of your church or down the street with an arrow pointing the way, is this the only way that people will know about your church?  Are you counting on people finding you in the Yellow Pages?  If these are your two major advertising methods, expect few visitors to your church door this summer.

As we begin to enter summer, vacations and traveling will be the order of the day for many people.  This brings the opportunity to update your website and local listing information targeted toward newcomers & visitors.  Is your church ready to help potential visitors this summer?

On your website, there are three things you should look at on your homepage and make sure are correct.

  1. Do you have your correct service times posted (you may have summer hours)?
  2. Do you have a map showing where your church is along with its address?
  3. Do you have a contact link, contact phone number or email address listed?

All three of these should be on your homepage and accessible without having to scroll.  If these cannot be readily found or are outdated, people will go elsewhere.

People search for churches the same way they search for restaurants and shopping, therefore the location listings on search engines are very powerful.  Take advantage of these.  You can claim your local listings and manage them for search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, SuperPages, etc.  Another thing that will help you be found is  Signup is free and you can add your church quite easily.

Writing reviews is a very popular function of the web and social media.  34% of bloggers write reviews and 90% of customers trust peer recommendations over direct advertising.  Don’t be surprised if you find reviews of a visitor’s experience at your church on one of these local listing sites or other sites like ChurchRater , Ship of Fools or ChurchPick.  The reviewers may want to link to your website, Facebook page or other social media platform.  Be ready and as my grandmother would say “put your best foot forward”.  Use the tools and technologies available to show that in the 21st century, just as we have done for years, the Episcopal Church truly DOES welcome you!

What do you mean by authenticity?

As I travel around the diocese talking about websites and social media, one thing that comes up is “how to attract younger people.”  My short answer is “be authentic.”  What do I mean by that and how does one apply this, you might ask.  This posting by the United Methodist Church explains it pretty well.  The next time someone asks the question, this is a good answer to start.