What to do about the Dilemma of CHURCH MEDIA

Media MinistryOne of the most misunderstood ministries inside churches today is MEDIA.

Put simply, media technology and creativity are seen by so many pastors and leaders as a gear-only endeavor. Let’s buy some cameras…then get some volunteers to run the equipment. How hard can it be?

Pretty hard.

Media – cameras, lights, sound, directing, editing, organization – is unlike any other ministry a church might have. Not like ushering. Comforting babies in the nursery. Shaking hands on Sunday morning as you greet visitors.

It’s an ability-based ministry…not availability-based.

The culprit? Usually the leader.

When I teach media workshops across the world there are virtually NO PASTORS in the audience. Young people galore – yes! Pastors are virtually nowhere to be found. They are uninterested in media, believing it’s a tech thing, so they send their staff members. Or no one comes at all.

Here’s what they don’t realize: Every single day YouTube visitors watch 2 billion videos. Facebook has 1 billion video views a day. Young people spend a minimum of 7 hours a day engaged in media!

In a media-saturated world our leadership is ignoring the vast power and potential of using the enormous creative techniques and digital media tools available to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Too often media is seen within the church as video clips for pastor’s sermon, church announcements and song lyrics. Nothing more.

(It’s like having a Formula One race car in your garage but you only use it to drive to the grocery store for milk once a week. The car was designed for so much more; yet you never drive it above 45 mph. And only take it out of the garage on Sunday morning for one hour. Maybe two. You are missing the car’s incredible potential. )

In addition, much of church media seems to be all about capturing the live service and is meant mostly for church goers only. Yes, I understand services are often live-streamed, seen by others across the world. But, to me, so much content today is for those already saved. (I won’t write about how so many of our church services have turned into stage shows with flashing lights & loud music. Am I here to meet Jesus – or hear a rock band?)

When I do talk to pastors about media I often hear: A) We don’t have TIME. B) We don’t have MONEY. C) We don’t have PEOPLE. D) How would we even USE MEDIA? There are many other ministries that are so much more important!

Some sage answers from a nearly 4 decade career in media:

1. Your church or ministry is filled with so many GREAT STORIES. People love stories. Tell them through media.

2. Telling your STORIES means going out into the MARKETPLACE with the Gospel. Just like the Apostle Paul did in Acts 17 when he spoke on Mars Hill. You need to have a solid vision and a good amount of savvy to engage a media-saturated world today. Answer? Let your stories do the heavy lifting. Now, if your stories feel and smell like a hokey church presentation, they might be laughed at and ridiculed by a secular audience. So bring your best stuff. Do something fresh & unique. Be honest. And real. Start a conversation. (We have enough pulpit preaching shows today. Ok?)

3. Pour as much training in media skills & strategy into your “Bezalels” (Exodus 31 & 35) as you can. I promise, there are probably a host of young, media-savvy people inside your church. Identify them, inspire them, use them. Remember, it’s not about camera gear or edit suites. A friend, award-winning TV producer-author, Phil Cooke, says “it’s better to have average equipment run by excellent people…than excellent equipment run by average people.” You can start with a good smart phone, video cam or tablet. You don’t need an expensive 3 camera setup to start a media outreach. Start small; build on skills. Put your emphasis on people. Gear comes & goes; people create programs, clips & stories.

4. Find a media platform you can start with. Make it Facebook. Or Twitter. I like Instagram myself for pics and short clips. Facebook & Instagram…start there. Add YouTube after a while. (You can create you own church channel.) They’re all FREE! Whatever platforms you choose, make them accessible to a few young people you trust. Let them post & upload media clips from church events and services. People talking, laughing, conversing – telling life stories. Make these pics & clips shareable & findable!

5. Make your church media-friendly. If you do have a camera…don’t park it in the back of the church by the sound equipment. Put the camera upfront, closer to the message or action. Closer shots are far more interesting, especially if viewed on a smart phone or tablet. Think of the camera as a visitor: Where you place the camera tells the visitor (who’s watching) their importance too. In the back? Wow, as a visitor, I only get to sit in back. That’s bad. Upfront? Place of honor. I like being in the front. Lots happening here.

And don’t buy into the oft-repeated argument that “we don’t want the cameras to get in the way of the people or ministry.” Yes, your media team needs to be respectful and quiet during a church service or event (unless it’s a crazy/loud kid or youth function). So let them shoot & record in the best places. It’ll make a BIG difference!

Question: During the feeding of the 5000 with loaves & fishes…would Jesus have asked the TV cameras to be on top of the hill faraway from the people? Or close to the miracle?

There’s your answer.

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4 thoughts on “What to do about the Dilemma of CHURCH MEDIA

  1. Craig, good article. I agree with you completely. Please keep up the good work, traveling around the world sharing your vision of excellent media coverage of Christ.

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