Tips for Your Summer Movie-Based Sermon Series


Over the past couple of decades, it’s become extremely popular for churches to lean into summer blockbuster season by creating whole sermon series in which their pastor uses clips from popular movies to connect people’s hearts with scriptural and spiritual truths. For most churches, this is seen as an easy outreach invitation opportunity for church attenders. It also gives a reason for folks to deepen relationships by having a movie night with family, small groups, or even unchurched friends.

While this can be an amazing outreach strategy, there are some key considerations as you plan it, both from a practical and philosophical standpoint. Let’s look at a few things to keep in mind.

Make Sure You’re Licensed to Show Movie Clips

Copyright law can be a overwhelming and confusing world to dive into, but it’s important to make sure that you’re properly licensed for everything you show from your stage. Most churches purchase a license for all of the music played on stage from CCLI. You may or may not realize that CCLI has a license available for video as well. CVLI covers you for the movie clips you show in your services. They have agreements with all of the major production studios that allow you to screen clips or entire movies at your church.

There are a few limitations on this, however. CVLI does not license your livestream or recorded service, it covers your church to show the clips in person in a church context. You also may not charge admission or monetize the screening of any of these movies. Having a church-wide movie night to screen the film you’re using for an upcoming Sunday is a great idea, but under the terms of the license, it must be a free event.

Keep in mind, the CVLI license only covers you for legally obtained media. You’ll still need purchase the films you use, either digitally or on DVD.

You’ll also want to be wary about using copyrighted material such as logos and movie posters in your promotional material. Typically speaking, posting trademarked or copyrighted content to your own social media would be a copyright violation, so you’ll want to make sure that any content you choose to use is used legally.

**It’s worth noting that this blog is not legal advice, and for clarity and questions, reaching out directly to CVLI about your license is the best course of action.

Get Your Clips Edited Early

If you’ve ever tried to pull movie clips for any reason, you’ve probably noticed that it can be a complicated and difficult process. Most digital movie files have built in protections to prevent people from ripping, editing, or otherwise altering the original movie. The last thing you want is to leave this until the last minute, in case there are issues to troubleshoot.

If you’re the pastor who is preaching the sermon, plan to have the clips you’ll use finalized with plenty of time, and give your tech team a chance to acquire the clips and test them out robustly. If you’re the tech director, make sure you’ve got your clips cut and shown to the preacher days in advance so you can make any necessary tweaks.

As far as the process for editing these clips, there are several methods, depending on what kind of video file you have to start with. This article is a great starting point, but a quick YouTube search will give lots of other tips and tricks.

Avoid Faith-Based Films

This may fall more into the realm of personal preference, but I would suggest staying away from Christian films and movies. While they can be meaningful and impactful to believers and non-believers alike, faith based films tend to make invitations to non-churchgoers more difficult and less appealing. If the goal of your series is to connect with the broader community and offer easy outreach opportunities, use this series to meet culture on their turf – don’t expect those who are not believers to be interested in a Christian film.

Beyond the the outreach potential, using popular movies is a great way to find commonality with culture. It’s far too easy to point out all of the ways in which we think the world around us get’s it wrong, but it’s also important to affirm and encourage the ways in which our culture is in line with the heart of God.

Have Fun with Music

Using movie clips makes for a fun-filled sermon series, but why let the fun stop there? Get your band in on the action by incorporating some movie themed music to your service. Consider opening your service with the band playing iconic movie soundtrack songs. If you’re not comfortable with “secular” lyrics, consider arrangements of instrumental soundtrack music that your congregation will recognize.

Part of the draw of doing a series like this is the fun you and your church can have with it, so go all out!

A movie-themed sermon series has huge potential to build community in your church and bolster outreach in your neighborhood. Tap into that potential by being prepared. Don’t let planning or production be the thing that holds you back!

Josh Tarp, Author

About the Author

Josh Tarp is a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and worship leader from Minneapolis with over 15 years of experience in church & worship leadership. Josh serves as the Director of Marketing at Motion Worship, helping to write various blog posts, managing social media, designing graphics, and handling customer service.

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