Helping Students Own Justice, Part II

Using Student-Created Videos to Spur Action

Jesse Oakes | Apr 27, 2009

Note: Last month we invited Jesse to share about his church’s journey in leading students into acting justly. This month Jesse gives some hands-on advice for using technology to tell stories through the medium of video. But Jesse’s church is just one story. We invite you to share about what God and kids have been doing together in your ministry as you seek justice! Share stories, videos, and photos at our all-new [intlink id=“4250” type=“page”]Deep Justice Stories[/intlink] page!

Student-created videos originated as a small part of our publicity strategy for our very first Blackout a couple of years ago. After seeing the first one, another student volunteered to create a short film for the event itself, something that would sum up information about various injustices in a brief, effective way. From that, our use of videos was born.

Our students were well acclimated to video-as-didactic-tool by the time our first Blackout came around. Since then, it’s become something of a self-perpetuation phenomenon: students like videos, so students expect videos, so students create videos, on and on. Videos may or may not be right for your context, but if you think they’ll work, then please be encouraged by the power of film to tell a story, as well as the relative ease with which you can create your own, which is the premise of this article. First, here are a few samples of videos made by students.

This is the first video we ever made in our high school ministry, and it was done by a senior girl using Final Cut HD for Mac. She was by no means an expert on the software; in fact, she taught herself the basics the day before (students can do that sort of thing). I explained to her the idea of Blackout, sent her some statistics from the research other students had done, and gave her the song. She took it from there.

For our first real Blackout event, a sophomore boy took some stats, some pictures from the Internet, and a Switchfoot song and made a slideshow using iMovie for Mac. He and I met once ahead of time to cast a general vision for the video and determine its development. He showed it to me a couple of times along the way and we made edits. The final product was stunning.

This was made by the same student who made the Water video, using the same general process. By this time, our students had picked up on how easy and powerful it is to tell a story with a song, pictures, statistics, and Bible verses. In fact, this video marked a heightened effort on the part of the students to get into Scripture for themselves. They are far from expert exegetes - but they are reading the Bible a lot more than they were before.

This video was made by two junior boys - our third and fourth filmmakers - using the same stylistic blueprint as our first video. I think the song is from a movie soundtrack, and they found the pictures on Google Images. Again, the statistics and Scripture verses all came from the students’ personal study.


As you can see, our students have created lots of videos for our church’s justice projects. Promotional videos are not at all essential to justice work - but they sure can help tell stories and inspire action. They also tap into the creative energies and tech-savvy of those students who are already wandering around with video cameras and sitting at home at their computers for hours. Whether you are making something to show at a justice event, or maybe just creating a multimedia memento of highlights from a recent work project or mission trip, few things connect better than slideshows and short videos.

And the best part is that videos like this are actually pretty easy to make.

If someone in your community has a Mac purchased in the last five years, you have everything that we have (PC users, skip to next paragraph). iMovie is loaded with features and is extremely intuitive. For the most part, you can just drag and drop images and audio, and from there it is just a matter of deciding your preferred order.

If you are a PC user, be not ashamed. Microsoft Powerpoint is an amazing, uncomplicated slideshow maker. Under the Insert drop down menu, you can insert pictures, text boxes, and songs, and under the Slide Show drop down menu, you can set your slides to advance automatically. What that means is, after a little practice, you’ll be able to make a slideshow set to a song that plays by itself - like a movie. All you need to do from there is plug your computer into a projector and you’re set.

For those of you feeling a little more tech-savvy, did you know you can turn any Microsoft Powerpoint Presentation into a movie? You just click Save As and then select Powerpoint Movie (or, on some versions, a Powerpoint Show). On my machine, the Powerpoint show is saved in a format compatible with the Quicktime movie player, probably because Quicktime is what’s installed on my hard drive. From there, I can play it from my laptop, or burn it onto a DVD.

It may take some practice and timing to make it all come together, but believe me, you will be up and running in no time. A helpful resource comes from the makers of the software themselves, Microsoft. A tutorial for getting the most out of Powerpoint’s features can be found here:

Lastly - and this may be the best news of all - your students are probably better at tech stuff anyway, and if they aren’t, what a great chance to spend some time with a student learning something new.

Jesse Oakes

Since 2004 Jesse Oakes has served in the High School Ministries of Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, CA. He completed his MDiv with a concentration in Youth, Family, and Culture from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2010. He received a BA from UC San Diego in Communication in 2003, and worked in the music industry prior to vocational ministry. Jesse and his wife Megan live in Pasadena.

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