One of the most important, but often overlooked, components of filmmaking is transitions.
Four years ago, I wrote and directed the feature film “Summer Snow.” The first time I watched the rough cut of the movie, I was horrified. The film was a disaster. It was incredibly slow-moving and, therefore, incredibly long and boring. I was confused. The script was solid. The acting was great. The lighting was beautiful. Why was the film so slow-moving?
I showed the film to Christian filmmaker, Stephen Kendrick, and he immediately pinpointed the problem. The film had terrible transitions. Scenes dragged on far longer than needed. Scenes did not flow together smoothly. No thought was given to how scenes would transition together. We then spent months re-editing the movie to tighten our transitions.
Sadly, transitions are also one of the most overlooked elements in church services. When I first started in children’s ministry, I gave little thought to how the service would transition from element to element. Sure, I had an order of service, but little time was given to how these elements would actually piece together.
Children will pay attention to anything as long as they are engaged. As soon as something ceases to be engaging, children will stop paying attention. Not only is it impossible for a disengaged child to learn, but they can quickly become a distraction themselves and cause other children to disengage from the lesson as well.
After realizing the importance of transitions in a movie, I decided to begin focusing on transitions in our services as well. I began filming my services so I could watch our transitions. What I saw was embarrassing.
Our services began with all the children coming into the room. The room was electric. There was a ton of energy. Unfortunately, I immediately killed the energy in the room when I told the children to bow their heads and join me in prayer. Children squirmed through the prayer as I said a blessing over the day.
Next up was praise and worship. This too was a disaster. As soon as the first song finished, there was a three second gap before the next song began.
After our high-energy praise songs came announcements. Sadly, our announcements had no energy and seemed to fall flat.
Next came a story. While we did a good job telling the Bible story, the music underneath the storyteller kept starting and stopping abruptly rather than fading in and out smoothly. This distracted the students and caused them to disengage from the story being told.
Finally, as we dismissed students to small groups, they walked away in silence. No music was added to help facilitate this transition time. This caused our small groups to start out with a lack of energy.
I realized I had my work cut out for me.
I immediately began making changes to our service. First, I moved our prayer time to a different part of the service that was more appropriate. This allowed the children to release penned up energy immediately upon arriving. Second, we tightened our worship transitions so that while one song is finishing the next song is already beginning. Third, we added an energetic music underneath our announcements. This livened up a very dead element of our service. Next, we smoothed out the music levels underneath our storytellers so it flowed flawlessly. Finally, we added music while the students transitioned out of the room. This gave our students a boost of adrenaline as they headed to small groups.
These changes drastically improved our services and have helped keep our students engaged with the day’s message.