Best Visual Preaching Tools for Bringing Sermons to Life
I’m not an artist, but I use visual tools to make my sermons more interesting. Let’s take a look at the best tools for Visual Preaching in order to bring your sermons to life and appeal to all ages while you preach.
Visual Preaching – What It Means?
In the Matthew visual Bible, actor Bruce Marciano portrayed Jesus as a smiling jovial Jesus. This seemed different from past actors’ portrayals.
In the Sermon on the Mount, he portrayed Jesus’ teaching about removing the log from your own eye before complaining that another person suffers from a speck in their eye. In other words, deal with your own struggles with righteousness which might look worse to onlookers, before judging people for their failures.
Bruce Marciano illustrated this by holding a large stick up to his eye and giggling as he said the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:5.
Hypocrite! First, take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.Matthew 7:5, CSB
The object lesson Jesus used exemplifies Visual Preaching. That’s something anyone can do regardless of technical skill or artistic ability. Preachers use these in children’s sermons all the time. My first “sermon” used an object lesson of a toy airplane. I talked about how Jesus lifts us up and helps us soar above our sin like wings on an airplane. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was Visual Preaching. I was nine years old.
Visual Preaching Made Easy
You can easily add visual elements to any sermon using the following:
- Object Lessons – an object lesson more powerfully illustrate ideas in a sermon because it’s more memorial than a photo or video.
- Items Handed Out to Listeners – I once passed out Hershey’s Kisses to illustrate the idea that something small, like a tongue, can have a big impact. Hershey’s had an ad campaign that said “Big things come in small packages.” I told the congregation not to open it or eat it till I instructed them to do so. Then we all ate it at the point in the sermon when I discussed the idea from James 3:5, which says, “So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest.” (CSB)
- Images or Video Shown On a Screen – Instead of quoting someone, find a photo that you can display. While talking about children, present videos or photos of kids playing or interacting. We’ll talk about where to find these photos or videos in the section below.
Can you think of other sources of visuals you can use in preaching? Comment below your ideas and share how you used any of the above examples.
Sources of Images for Visual Preaching
Copyright affects how we use photos and where we can find them. Using your own photos taken with your camera or smartphone will not infringe on anyone else’s copyright. We’ll discuss this below.
If you don’t take good photos, don’t have a photographer, or don’t plan early enough to assign a photo shot list, then you can find them online. I get photos for free using one of three sites.
- Google Image Search using creative commons or commercial license images
Using Google Image Search
Google Image Search returns thousands of photos on almost any topic you can find. However, you’ll face a few issues. First, search carefully. Some seemingly innocent search teams can return illicit pornography, violent imagery, or other offensive shots. You can restrict Google search to family-friendly search results. They call it SafeSearch, and you can learn how to turn this on in Google Support.
Click on the Settings link in the lower right corner of the Google search page on your computer and select Search settings in the popup menu or click this link. Then click on the Turn on SafeSearch check box on the resulting page. Now scroll down and click on the Save button. A box will pop up saying you’ve changed your settings. Click OK.
Next, go back to the Google search page and search for the image you want. For example, let’s search for a cross in order to find a photo of the cross. If you search from the main page, then Google will show a list of websites with some thumbnails on the right. Either click on the Images link below the search box (#1 in the screenshot above) or click on one of the thumbnails in the section to the right (#2 in the screenshot above).
Filter Image Search Results
Change the copyright and size of results by clicking on the Tools link below the right end of the Google search box. A menu pops up below the row that reads Size, Color, Type, and Usage Rights. You will change these, but we’ll first select Size. From the popup menu, choose Large so you’ll only get large enough images to display on a screen at church.
Next, choose Usage Rights. The popup menu has three options.
- All – the default that you’ll see if you don’t make changes to this filter.
- Creative Commons licenses – images that the copyright owner said others could use under Creative Commons so long as you don’t change the image.
- Commercial & other licenses – images that the copyright owner allows for use in business and nonprofits, like a church. Choose this option.
Right-click to save the image. Your browser will read something like Save image as or Save image to with a folder on your drive where you download files to. This changes depending on the browser you use.
How to Use Pixabay or Pexels in Visual Preaching
Find higher quality free images on services designed for sharing images to use in things like presentations. Two sites that offer these for free include Pixabay and Pexels. Both sites offer a large database of high-quality photos that users of the sites upload and generously let other users download and use in their work. They hope you’ll give attribution so that people might come and find their work.
- Vector images
- Sound Effects
They started sharing photos, which means the other categories of files include fewer files. You might still find good files for use in your preaching if you need some looping video with a sound effect and/or music. Photos usually grab attention more than computer generated illustrations, which look too much like the old clipart that sometimes looks less professional.
Pexels lists Photos and Videos as options. You won’t video as much here, but the filtering helps you limit your results to what you want. For example, you can limit photos by orientation from portrait to landscape. Landscape fits with presentations better most of the time.
Other Free and Paid Media Sites for Sermon Presentations
I don’t use stock photos that users pay for because they’re often too expensive. A preacher can usually find what they need using sites like Pixabay, Pexels, or Google Image Search. There are others we didn’t list. However, if you need an image you can’t find on free sites, then consider looking for them using services like…
Capterra offers a list of 20 great sources for images useful in the church. If found a few of the above using an article on the site.
Custom Photos and Videos
Why not create your own visual elements? Most of us carry a great camera with us everywhere we go. It’s part of our iPhone or Android phone. After studying your sermon, make a list in an app on your device of some pictures you could use in your sermon delivery. Take photos while out and around in order to supplement the content of the sermon.
Do you have a good photographer in your church or family? Ask them to help you out and send them a shot list at the beginning of each week or, better a week to two ahead of time. It will require some planning, but it’s worth it.
Let’s look at some examples. I’ll soon preach 2 Timothy 4:2, which says…
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and teaching.2 Timothy 4:2, CSB
The issue of preaching “in season and out of season” might inspire the preacher to use a sermon illustration about harvesting vegetables from a garden. If it’s the right time of the year, you could take a photo of your garden or someone else’s garden using your phone camera. To illustrate the idea of great teaching, you could take a photo of one of your Sunday school teachers standing in front of their youth or adult class. Only creativity limits the photographer.
Consider also using video. Video loops work great as backgrounds for verses, especially if the looping video illustrates the main idea of the verse. Below you will see a video tutorial on how to create a looping video.