Preachers everywhere are deciding to robe or not when preaching from their living rooms. Consider this choice before you preach. You may choose to wear only the collar, or wear street clothes rather than an alb or robe and stole to better be in concert with your preaching environment. Or you may choose to robe with intention to visually create sacred associations.
Sitting to preach may not feel natural to some, but it is still proclamation. Now is the time to explore all the ways proclamation can bring Good News. Try standing and preaching to your laptop on top of a high dresser. You may find you speak with greater energy and intensity while standing. Or you may find relaxed posture in an armchair sends a message of hospitality and welcome. Experiment with using the spaces you have, inside and out, to use creative and engaging worship space wherever you are.
Some camera angles can exaggerate your facial features and distort your appearance. Whether you are using a USB webcam or the built-in webcam on your laptop, make sure that the camera lens sits at or above eye level, no higher than your hairline. Use all those commentaries you don’t need to raise your laptop or invest in a laptop stand.
Once your webcam is in place, find a comfortable distance from the camera where your facial expressions are easily read but you aren’t too close for comfort. Position your webcam far enough away to capture your shoulders and your entire face with some room to spare.
Be cognizant of what’s behind you. Your congregation will notice everything and it can distract or enhance your sermon. Try to keep the background simple by avoiding anything that looks busy or cluttered.
Videoconferencing makes nonverbal communication, facial expression, and eye contact more important than ever. It is much more difficult to attend to a remote speaker and grasp subtleties of meaning. Lighting matters more than you think. All cameras capture better-looking video when there is a good light source, and webcams are no exception.
Use your imagination to picture your congregation, not a vast, faceless horde, but actual individuals. Speak to them, THROUGH the camera. Unbroken, sustained eye contact with the camera, just as in real life, is unrealistic and can be off-putting. Remember we are hearing you preach communally, not in a one on one conversation. Imagine your congregation in the room with you, behind the camera. See actual faces in your mind’s eye, and talk to them.
Just as when preaching from a pulpit, eye contact matters. Be familiar enough with your sermon that you may deliver without reading. Consider taping your notes at eye level to better remain connected with your congregation. If using notes, consider arranging post-it notes with your main points in a “peacock” pattern around your webcam. Use a music stand just behind the camera to allow the illusion of sustained quality eye contact. Or you may want to consider using a teleprompter positioned just near your camera.
Sound matters more than you might think — people can watch an instructional recording with good audio and poor video and still understand what was being shared, but a similar recording with great video and poor audio won’t be possible to comprehend. If you intend to use the standard microphone that comes in most laptops or that may be built into your webcam, be sure to create a test recording to check quality. Use a USB microphone to better minimize background noise.
Think outside the desk chair. Feel free to experiment with different styles, locations, backdrops. You might find re-arranging a room gives you a better recording or better visual coherence. When recording in a new location, or with new equipment, it’s always a good idea to record a test video or two. And don’t get caught up with self-criticism, perfectionism, and self-doubt. You are called by the God who both created and transcends space and time to send out the all-powerful Word. Remember, your people are more interested in connecting with your pastoral presence more than hearing a perfect sermon. Only YOU can speak a personal word to your particular people in such a time as this.
Guide to Budget for creating a home studio: Carey Nieuwhof’s Home Studio Gear Guide