Media Education in the Sermon and in Bible Studies

Nathan Krause (Cottage Grove, Wisconsin USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

An Evangelical Lutheran Synod pastor for over 35 years, Nathan Krause presently serves a multi-site congregation in Cottage Grove and Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Previously he served congregations in Gresham, Oregon, and in Fertile/Crookston, Minnesota. Of the three parishes two were home missions of the ELS. He and his wife Sheryl have three adult sons.


Media Education in the Sermon and in Bible Studies

I recognize that what I am about to share may be controversial for some. I acknowledge this reality because, in my own ministry, I have received a fair amount of criticism for introducing the use of multi-media into sermons and Bible studies. I do not intend to try and convince anyone to use multimedia in teaching God's Word if they, or the people they are called to teach, are uncomfortable with the idea. I would simply like to share my story and why using multimedia works for me.

"It's like the marshmallows and charcoal!"

I grew up as a PK and so my life was filled with home devotions, regular church attendance and parochial schooling. That said, I struggled for many years to appreciate fully the lessons taught to me and, even as a young Christian, to fully grasp and apply God's Word to my everyday life. To be honest, so much of what I was taught went over my head, or at least it felt that way. What I eventually came to understand about my learning struggles is that I am a predominantly visual learner. (I was also ignorant of the fact that research has concluded 65% of the general population falls into this learning style category).

As I followed in my father's footsteps and became a pastor, I promised myself that when God blessed my wife and me with children, I would do everything I could to make sure they did not have the same struggles. Added to this heartfelt desire was the in-depth education I received in the biblical languages during my college and seminary training. Before that training I had no idea just how visual the Hebrew and Greek languages really are. For example, our English word for dynamite comes from the Greek word DUNAMIS, meaning "power, force" and can even mean "violence." Every time I come across this word in a text study my mind immediately pictures dynamite.

Though I had on occasion previously made use of object lessons in my sermons, it was not until the Lord called me to my present ministry that I more fully developed the use of multimedia for teaching. It began with ordinary objects I could easily find to make the point of any given text visually.

The pivotal moment for me came one day as my family was driving somewhere and my wife and I were having a discussion with my eldest son, who was in fifth grade at the time. He wanted permission to go and spend time with a new friend he had made at school. My wife and I were a bit apprehensive because we knew our son's new friend struggled with behavior issues, mostly due to his unstable home life. And so we told our son we were willing to let him spend time with his friend, but we wanted them to do so at our house rather than at his house. My eldest son simply could not understand why things had to be this way. We explained our reasoning over and over, as delicately as possible, to try and help him understand that we wanted to be able to control the environment for their interaction. Frustratingly my son was not grasping our concerns. We were at an impasse until my middle son, who I thought had been otherwise preoccupied with his activity book, revealed that he had been listening to this entire conversation. From the back seat of the vehicle he simply exclaimed for everyone's benefit, "It's like the marshmallows and the charcoal!" I almost drove the vehicle into the ditch because I was simply dumbfounded by the wisdom of his statement.

What I had forgotten was that approximately four months earlier I had preached a sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:33 – "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.' " For the application of that sermon I had used the visual of taking marshmallows (representing good character) and put them in the same bag with charcoal (representing bad character). I shook the bag and when I opened it up and pulled out a marshmallow it was covered in black dust from the charcoal. Not only had my third-grade son understood the lesson perfectly, but perfectly recalled the application of that lesson months later.

The journey to multimedia

As the congregation grew and my pastoral duties increased, I had less time each week to find the objects I wanted to use to visually reinforce the points from the text. So I slowly transitioned to using PowerPoint and videos for sermons in place of actual objects. Here a special word of caution is merited because I have seen some people use presentation software in ways I think are less than helpful. One should not simply import the use of multimedia from the business world. Overly complicated visuals (i.e. charts with too much information) and corny sound effects (i.e. "swoosh" sound or the "boing" of a bouncing spring) distract rather than reinforce.

As part of the journey into multimedia I was careful to do my research. Even I, as a visual learner, was surprised to discover that when an audio message is reinforced with visuals, the rate of retention increases to 90%. Several pragmatic factors also urged me on. Members with teenagers told me the multimedia sermons were now being discussed between them and their teens as they drove home. Previously silent teenagers were now asking questions of their parents and discussing the day's lesson. I also noticed that amongst our younger members (think preschool and elementary school age) who seemed otherwise distracted, whenever I played a video they would stop whatever they were doing and watch as though transfixed. Parents of these younger members related to me that though their youngsters seemed to be distracted, they were getting the point of the lesson as it was reinforced through the videos.

Pros and Cons

So now my typical sermon, delivered through a narrative enhanced via PowerPoint, helps me to explain the text in detail. With each lesson I tend to make use of three videos (not always, but often). PowerPoint affords me the ability to talk about biblical places and then show the congregation with a picture or a map. Or when there are difficult grammatical points to the text I love that I can put the actual word on the screen and walk the congregation through the thought process — e.g. last week's text from Acts 2:42 had a verb in the passive Imperative, a rarely used form which, properly understood, perfectly portrays both the Holy Spirit's and our role in sanctification.

All this said, and since visual lessons can be quite powerful, great responsibility is demanded of us when we use multimedia. For instance, choosing graphics can be tricky, not only because we want to honor the fourth commandment and properly adhere to copyright laws, but we have to be careful to not overly influence peoples' visual perception and take their imagination out of the equation. But then this has always been true. How many of us have a picture of Jesus in our minds based on the stained glass windows of our church or the flannel graph pictures of our Sunday School years?

Caution is even more necessary in choosing videos, and this is where the main point of my article comes to bear. Though multimedia is useful for our biblical teaching, it is not for everyone. I have been fine-tuning my process for twenty plus years now. So, if you are thinking of introducing or increasing your teaching through the use of multimedia, especially in sermons or Bible studies, let me offer a few insights especially when using video.

As with graphics many videos are governed by copyright laws. In using such videos we must follow the Godly principle of paying for the work of others (we actually have a line item to help cover these cost in our church budget). There are several religious sites where membership, usually $15 to $20 dollars, provides affordable videos. There are also many non-copyright videos available on Youtube and Vimeo. Most of these have been produced by other churches and, unfortunately, include aspects of decision theology. Time and effort is needed to edit them appropriately. My personal wish is that we could have more video options from Lutheran sources.

There is also the matter of how to use videos because there is the risk of having too much multimedia content or incorrect visual content. As I mentioned, I tend to use three videos per sermon: one as part of the introduction, one as part of the conclusion, and one about half-way through the sermon as a means to reinforce a specific point of the overall lesson. The middle video also helps the listeners to "catch their breath" mentally. One of the challenges I find with today's members, especially the younger members, is that attention spans are growing shorter (we can thank TicTok and Youtube for this new challenge). But properly used, a video can either reinforce or re-educate something in the text much in the same way the liturgy reinforces and re-educates us each week in the truths we glean directly from God's Word in the sermon. A video should never be used just to be cute or trendy.

Teach like Jesus

My final point about using multimedia in the sermon or Bible class is to remember that none of these things enhance the power of God's Word, just as the sound of a pastor's voice does not make Scripture more effective because his voice is nice sounding. But in our sinfulness we can get in the way of the Word of God if we are not careful. Caution is necessary no matter which teaching techniques we use so that we do not distract from the inherent truth. Multimedia cannot replace proper text study and a well written sermon or Bible study. But since God Himself knows the design of the human mind He has created, it only seems sensible that we take a page out of His book as to how He Himself chose to teach. Besides the very visual aspect of the biblical languages, Jesus Himself made use of visuals in so many lessons He taught. He didn't do so to be cute or trendy. He did so to help the people understand the deeper truths of His Word — e.g., "The kingdom of God is like a fishnet, I am the gate, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle…". We also see the wisdom of God in delivering to us two-thirds of the means of grace with a visual component as well.

Of course, Jesus is perfect and used visuals perfectly. We can only hope to emulate His teaching techniques. But with great care and discretion we can help students of God's Word to see more clearly exactly what the Holy Spirit inspired biblical authors to record for us, both for our salvation as well as our lives of sanctification.


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Phil W ( 2022-10-20 4:59:44pm
Nathan, thank you. You did a very good job explaining the benefits and cautions for using this approach. (Personally, I think if they had PowerPoint back when Jesus walked the earth he would have used it on occasion.) Using the right visuals in the right context really is key. But to hear the visuals were encouraging conversation and engagement after the service is really awesome to hear.

Would you encourage other pastors/churches to experiment with using visuals? And if so, how would you suggest starting? Not every church can (or should) have a screen in the front. Are there perhaps... um... less intrusive ways to include visuals?

And if I'm allowed to add a quick plug, I'm the webmaster for which currently has over 2100 public domain images for churches and schools to use. (Are there specific types of images you'd like to see users add to the site for future visual usage?)
Nathan K 2022-10-21 2:57:58pm
Phil, thank you so much for your reply.

To answer your interesting questions... I would certainly encourage others to explore the use of visuals. As for how to begin, I would suggest two things: first, the presenter needs to consider their own comfort zone (though it helps to be a visual learner it is not a prerequisite for using visuals). If using visuals feels natural than go for it. But if it is outside one's comfort zone, then I would suggest starting by doing research to discover the benefits from and techniques for using visuals. The presenter has to have "buy-in" before the students will. Secondly, test and experiment. Before using visuals in the sermon/service it might be best to practice on a test audience, like confirmation class or a bible study group. A presenter new to using visuals has much to learn, and will make mistakes along the way. So, as the old adage says "practice makes perfect".
As far as less intrusive ways to include visuals... I've seen churches mount TV monitors along the walls of the sanctuary instead of using a big screen up front. I like that look, especially if the front of the church does not lend itself well to mounting a screen. The other option would be to first use object lesson items or hands-on visuals (like the marshmallow and charcoal) and then eventually work toward a more visual presentation. Also, depending on the church, introducing visuals may require conversations first with the council or elders. If they are not open to the idea the time may not yet be right.

Phil, thanks for the plug on the photos - every added resource is a blessing!
Mike Hartman (WELS World Missions) 2022-10-20 8:29:18pm
Nathan, Thank you for your presentation. I enjoyed reading about your journey. As soon as I began reading, I guessed, "He's gotta be a visual learner." As one visual learner to another, I understand completely. People learn in different ways. Oral learners are famous for memorizing thousands of poems, stories and songs that take hours to recite. Today, certain demographics spend 20% of their lives watching videos. It makes sense to use video and images in your teaching and communicating. In Latin America we created a Bible Institute level training program that includes teaching videos for each lesson. Recognizing that the average person in Latin America only reads half a book a year, we adapted our teaching style to to how people learn and consume information.

At the same time, my brother-in-law's church in Texas is one of my favorite to visit. They use no screens and keep the service simple. His theory is that people are so overloaded with screens that they appreciate a break. Many agree with him. I know I enjoy the break.

I guess it comes back to one of the great things about being a confessional Lutheran is that we understand the freedom God has given us in this area. Thanks again for sharing your story! God bless.

Phil W ( 2022-10-20 10:41:37pm
Mike, this almost makes me think some churches could very easily have "visual services" and "distraction free" services, in the same way some churches have a contemporary services. Maybe the 8am service has no screens and the late service has all the screens. :p
Nathan K 2022-10-21 3:11:05pm
Mike, your comments are very well said. I always found it interesting that when we do mission work in America we begin with the assumption that the people we hope to meet and help must learn/convert to our teaching style. But often when we do foreign mission work we are more willing to adapt to the style of the culture where we are working. While I appreciate the consistency of our Confessional Lutheran Liturgical service (and would never want to lose it), it only seems reasonable to consider tweaks and variations depending on our mission field. Simply put, it pays to read the room.
I think that is exactly what your brother-in-law's church has done, considered their community and context and made the wise decision to not become an overtly visual church. I say overtly because even a spoken sermon and the liturgy itself are "painting pictures" with the words.

Mike, on last thought... what do we do with the kinetic learner? I'm asking tongue in cheek as I already know. But if you or others would like to dig deeper into the variety of learning styles, I strongly recommend a book by Cynthia Tobias entitled "The Way They Learn". Very eye-opening. Thanks for the comments!
Maida Jaspersen (Bethany Lutheran College) 2022-10-24 11:50:31pm
Nathan, it's so wonderful to read about your work! Thank you for engaging visual learners. I appreciate the attention you've given to your teaching methods, and I am curious about what you think about the concept of hands-on learning in the church. Is this the wrong setting, should that be reserved for classrooms? Or could it find a place in formal worship? I know that I retain information well when I've somehow physically interacted with it.
Nathan K 2022-10-25 1:25:15pm
Maida, I appreciate your comments as well as your idea about hands-on learning. Your tendency to learn well by physical interaction might suggest you are a kinesthetic learner. Usually such learners are often pegged as disruptors, but all they need is to get moving to help learn/retain the lesson. While I would not rule it out, I think it would be a challenge to introduce hands-on learning in formal worship. I do personally know it is possible, though not easy to do. Once, while teaching the lesson on the adulterous woman in John 8 I had placed a stone under each chair in the sanctuary, and when the appropriate time came in the lesson, I had each worshipper find and hold their stone. Afterwards some of the worshippers mentioned how that act made them feel as if they were part of the lesson itself. So I know it can be done.
However, I think the hands-on learning, in our circles, will continue to be more the exception than the rule. With about 5% of the population being kinesthetic learners the majority of worshippers might not appreciate the hands-on approach if it were to be overdone. That said, I see no reason why the classroom setting would not lend itself well to more hands-on illustrations and lessons.
Wenda (Stoney) Liu (Martin Luther College (MLC)) 2022-10-26 4:07:27pm
Pastor Krause,

It was truly an “A-ha” moment reading your presentation. From time to time I found myself sitting in the pews staring blankly at the pastor, pretending that I am paying attention to the words that he is saying. I couldn’t figure out why the message just won’t enter my brain until this moment when I realize the fact that I am a visual learner. Maybe that is why I remember the children’s message better than the sermon message —— because there’s almost always an object for comparison in the children’s message. I appreciate the effort that you are making to make sermon and bible class lessons memorable and easy to retain for visual learners.

In the introduction of your article, you mentioned that you have received criticism for using multimedia in sermons and Bible studies. I know, as Lutherans, that we are used to a traditional style of worship service and it is hard for us to accept new additions. So I am wondering where these opposite voices came from? Are they coming from your own congregation —— people that don't enjoy multimedia in their Sunday worship? Or are they coming from other places —— people that have never experienced worshiping with multimedia? How would you accommodate those in your congregation that do not enjoy worship with videos? I am curious about how you would respond to these voices.

Thanks again for your effort to make sermons and bible studies more enjoyable to learners of different kinds.
Nathan K 2022-10-27 3:30:41pm
Wenda, thanks for sharing your a-ha moment. It is encouraging when more and more people come to appreciate the unique ways in which God has wired each of us, and how He provides His powerful word which can delivered specifically for each of us learners.
Thanks also for asking your question about the criticism I generically cite as it helps me clarify this point. In a way you already answer the questions - Lutherans who are used to a traditional style of worship and do not like new additions. That was my experience. When some fellow pastors discovered I was using a screen and videos during the worship service, since it was new and new to them, several of them immediately equated it with church growth philosophy. However, my development and use of multi-media predates most other churches and denominations which regularly make use of screens, projectors and multimedia (i.e. one of my earliest attempts was to use a slide projector and a boom box for a Christmas Eve presentation). Over time, and with careful explanation, I was able to assure other pastors that my use of such things was quite different than most other denominations. It is ironic that many of the pastors who were suspicious early on are serving churches which now have installed video screens or TV monitors.
Your question also allows me to offer one piece of information I did not specifically emphasize in the article - developing the use of multi-media was easier for me since I was serving a home mission church. There was no push back from members since the church was in its infancy and we were developing many of our own unique styles for various aspects of the church, not just worship. Honestly, if I had tried this approach in a well-established or older congregation I am not sure I would have had the flexibility to develop the multi-media style as efficiently as I have.
Paul Wang (Martin Luther College (MLC)) 2022-10-26 4:33:32pm
Hello Pastor Krause,

I understand that modern-day people use all kinds of media all the time, but I did not expect that as many as 65% people learn best in that space. You talked about the experience you had with learning Greek and Hebrew, with each letter image that has multiple meanings. When you read a certain character, the meanings come to your mind right away. This experience affirms your to push for using media to spread the gospel.

I appreciated when you admitted challenges too: “There is also the matter of how to use videos because there is the risk of having too much multimedia content or incorrect visual content.” You also noted the expenses, for instance paying content creators on youtube, and the risk of being sued by these producers if you fail to take proper steps first. Clearly you understand the factors involved in using media resources in worship.

How would you recommend people start choosing the "right" or best content? Where would you suggest especially a Christian Educator start their survey of online worship or Scriptural teaching resources as we work to integrate your ideas in the best ways?

I appreciated the effort you put into sharing this paper!
Nathan K 2022-10-27 4:00:28pm
Hi Paul,
Thanks for taking the time to highlight some of the "ups and downs" of using multi-media. I hope my experience helps others avoid potential problems which could otherwise derail an effective form of teaching/preaching.

To answer your question about recommendations for choosing the right or best content... I wish I could give you a simple and straightforward answer, but sadly it is not that easy. However, that does not make it impossible. There are two factors which I always consider as I choose my pictures and videos. 1> What is the content? Depending on the sermon text as well as the specific words the Holy Spirit chose, that will help determine content. I cited the example of a picture of dynamite for the Greek word DUNAMIS, but I also listed other meanings. So, depending on the context and usage, that determines what picture I use. The same is true for video selection. It has to relate to the text and context, otherwise it becomes counterproductive. 2> Who is the audience? I serve a multi-site congregation. The two sites are about 20 miles apart and in two different counties with very different demographic factors. While most pictures I use can serve well in both locations, when it comes to the applications I need to take greater care in considering the hearers. The same would also apply to age groups. For sermons I try to choose media which speaks well to every age. But for adult Bible studies I know I can lean in the direction of more mature and seasoned participants while in a youth class I would tend to chose media that speaks to the younger generation.

To answer your question about finding good resources for online worship or teaching, to be honest I don't have a really good answer for you. I didn't go that route but found my way via trial and error. And, as I mentioned in the article, there are so very few good Lutheran resources (though slowly it is getting better). Maybe the best way is by word of mouth checking with others who have the same interest in multi-media. Have they found a particularly good resource (like maybe their home church)? If you want to see what we are doing, we archive our sermons so you can watch them later (we also live-stream on Sunday mornings). I have a co-pastor who also uses multi-media, but he tends to use less videos than I do. But sermons by either one of us should give you a good idea of just one way to use multi-media. You can go to and get an idea what I mean. Another option would be for you to go to YouTube or Vimeo and simply type in a theological concept like "God's faithfulness", then you can see what is out there. By the way, use the filter tools if you follow this last suggestion. Limit your search results to short videos (less than 5 minutes), otherwise you will get sermons on the subject rather than videos.
Paul Wang (Martin Luther College ) 2022-10-27 8:47:58pm
Hello, Poster Krause
Thank you for spending time on replying to me questions, and the effort you put toward explaining. I really found it helpful.
Randy Higgins (MLC) 2022-10-28 10:33:31am
Hello Nathan,

I really enjoyed your piece on "Media Education in Sermons and in Bible Studies." There was a lot said that I simply can't argue with. As a student at MLC, I would like to use multimedia as a way to help students understand the tools and lessons better. I am one of those students who learn best with visual examples and objects, somewhat like you. I think that, growing up, I would have been more successful in church and school if both used different media more often. I think that is probably true of many others my age.

I know you said the videos showed in your sermon usually appear at the beginning, middle, and end, but I wondered if you thought using videos as part of a sermon changed how you needed to keep the congregation's attention between those segments? How do you think the "preaching" parts of your sermon might have been influenced or changed because they're now sitting between these video segments?
Nathan K 2022-10-28 2:14:05pm
Hi Randy,
I'm really glad you enjoyed the article, and that it made sense to you. I agree with your conclusion that us visual learners would have benefitted more in our educational systems if multi-media had been incorporated. I'm quite a bit older than you so "back in my day" multi-media was an overhead projector and slide projector (by the way, for some of my earliest attempts at multi-media usage I used those ancient devices). My point is that multi-media usage is evolving and future generations of visual learners will be the beneficiaries.

Your question about holding the congregation's attention between video segments is intriguing, and one that I honestly had never considered before. But I think the reason why it has never crossed my mind is because of how the rest of the sermon is constructed. I described using a PowerPoint narrative. What that means is for each and every point of the sermon I have a corresponding PP slide. Typical sermons can have anywhere from 20 to 40 PP slides depending on the text. As an example, this coming Sunday's sermon has five PP slides just for the introduction which then leads up to the first video. Since the purpose of the sermon introduction is to take the listener from concrete concepts into the abstract concepts of the lesson, those five slides walk the listener through that process. The introductory video then acts as the springboard into the major study of the lesson. The point I wish to make is that I am using visuals throughout the sermon and there is little to no loss of attention between the video segments. That is why the middle video serves as a bit of a mental break and reinforces the point or points made up to that part of the sermon. And so the end result is not that the preaching parts are influenced by the video segments, but rather the video segments are influenced by the preaching parts.

It might also be helpful if I offer a brief explanation of how the sermon is assembled throughout the week... Monday is text study day where I work through the lesson in the original languages. This in depth study not only helps me to "own" the text, but to start formulating a theme both for the sermon as well as the overall service. Based on my study I choose scripture lessons and hymns/songs for the service. Tuesday is outlining day where I take the results of my text study, material from the study of any other resources relating to the text, and the formulation of my own thoughts as to how I want to teach the lesson and I put them all into a rough outline. Wednesday is the day I choose which videos I will probably use, meaning I already have in mind an introduction, application and conclusion as to where I expect the lesson to lead the listener, Thursday is sermon "writing" day. Working from my rough outline I produce the initial draft of my PowerPoint narrative, installing the pictures and points for each PP slide. I write what I plan to preach in the notes section of each slide. Friday is editing day where I go over the rough draft. I have to make sure it flows the way I want, that it makes logical sense, and that the pictures match the point I am trying to make from the text, and finally I double check that the videos are appropriate and properly placed within the PowerPoint. Saturday is final edit day where all the finishing touches are put on the PP presentation. Sunday morning I read go through my slides and review my commentary 3 or 4 times and then I am ready to preach the lesson. Since I preach from memory you can see how this week long process makes memorizing the sermon/presentation much easier than memorizing a 4 or 5 page lecture sermon. I hope this description helps to better present how a multi-media sermon is put together and you might have already concluded that a multi-media sermon is actually more work than a traditional sermon, though the steps are similar. In an average week I probably have about 20 hours preparation time into the sermon, but well worth the effort to help people understand and grasp the lesson.

Hopefully I've communicated well enough to answer your question, but since this is about multi-media the best answer might be for you to simply check out one of my sermons on our website In a previous post I mentioned I have a copastor who also uses PowerPoint but less videos than i tend to use. He also uses PP in a narrative fashion. But there is enough variation between our two styles to show you that there is no one perfect way to do a multi-media sermon.

I should also mention that the multi-media method is used for Sundays lessons or holiday services. For funerals and weddings I still use the more traditional lecture style sermon. And you can probably guess that weeks where I have more than one service to prepare for will have an impact on the sermon prep schedule as wells as the amount of time I can put into each sermon.

Randy, please do ask any follow-up questions if any of these points need further clarification.