Scenario One: The phone rings one evening just as the dinner dishes are being put away. The number appearing on the caller ID doesn’t ring a bell, but it looks like a local number, so you answer. It’s a church member who cheerfully mentions that they are on the nominating committee and they’d like you to consider a position on the church’s media ministry team. You have some experience with running the audiovisual equipment, and you’ve written a couple news announcements for the church, so with a bit of confidence and a lot of nervousness you agree. Now what?
Scenario Two: Attendance at your church’s worship service has grown. In fact, the church is pretty much packed each Sabbath. The board recognizes the value in providing the service online and votes to start a robust media team, adding online video streaming and a Facebook page. There’s someone already putting the church’s weekly e-newsletter together, but more people and equipment will be needed to handle this growth. You’re the pastor, and you’ve been tasked with helping to find volunteers—and an economical and feasible way to cultivate your church’s media ministry. What’s the next step?
Role of Technology in Communication
According to Nickilos Wolfer, production director for the North American Division Office of Communication, the most important thing to remember is that “the technology supports the ministry. It doesn’t work the other way around.” His advice: “Focus on the ministry first.”
Fitzgerald Taylor, media director for the Miracle City Seventh-day Adventist Church in Baltimore, agrees. “Our media ministry is successful because our team understands and is committed to the mission of Miracle City church and the vision of Pastor David Franklin.”
Taylor says that his church’s 20-person media team is, first and foremost, a mission-centered ministry. “We believe that the skills necessary to operate our audiovisual technology can be taught. We believe that what is inherent to success is a heart for sharing the gospel, a willingness to learn, and a commitment to showing up and getting the job done.”
Beltsville Seventh-day Adventist Church operates two campuses—one an established church with two worship services and another young church plant meeting in a ballroom. Associate pastor Will Johns explains how each location has a media team: Both locations send out a weekly newsletter from the pastors; a copy of the church bulletin is also sent. And each campus encourages ministry leaders to send out e-mail messages on events, and share valuable church documents via Church Community Builder (CCB), an online, Web-based communication tool. One Beltsville worship service is streamed each week.
“Communication is essential to the health of any church,” says Johns. “People need to know what is going on if they are going to participate. At [Beltsville Tech Road] we are intentionally telling the stories of outreach and baptisms to encourage a mission mind-set in the church.”
In the two fictional scenarios above, both of these churches are ready for the next step.
Below are some guidelines and tips from several local church “media ministers” in North America on a variety of services and products a media ministry might set out to offer. This information should prove helpful once your church’s media ministry needs have been determined after careful, prayerful consideration.
Following this general overview of media ministry, be sure to read the three breakout articles on church newsletters, video ministry, and social media ministry.
Justin Diel, director of media for LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee, writes that “media ministry is an essential part of every church. No matter what your church size or demographics, effective use of media and technology plays an important role in communicating the gospel in a dynamic way.”[i]
Diel suggests that the first requirement is having a clearly defined leader. If your church will be videoing the weekly Sabbath service, for example, segmenting into areas such as audio, video, lighting, communications, etc., without one primary leader, the result is often inconsistency of work and no unity on the team. Diel writes, “One leader helps give consistent guidance and direction and keeps the team working toward one mission. The leader must have a passion for media along with proven experience in the field. Whether you have media staff or volunteers, you need a clearly defined leader.”
Other key strategies when starting and managing a media ministry are to develop a volunteer plan, allow team members to think creatively and execute those good ideas, and invest in stable equipment with a regular maintenance schedule. Smaller churches with little to no budget need to remember scale—e.g., the laser light show of a megachurch isn’t the reality for most churches.
In a recent article, Church Motion Graphics shares tips for smaller budget media ministries.[ii] They encourage church media teams to make the most of what the church already has—and empower the church community, a valuable resource. And while understanding that budget is a concern, they warn: “Stop wasting time trying to do everything for free. . . . If you are going to design your own installations,” “prepare for new technology in the way you build today.”
Most important, CMG says to make sure the team has “a good vision for why media is part of your worship. Then discover who has what skills or interests. Come up with a style guide and a road map for visual styles and execution. Get everyone comfortable with the kit you have and the sources you use. Stress the importance of honoring copyright.” “Learn to put functionality before artistry.” If you cannot read something on the screen or hear it properly from the speakers, it doesn’t matter how good it looks or sounds.
All for God’s Glory
Whether you are an experienced media person just starting to work with your church ministry, or a willing-to-learn newbie on the church media ministry scene, it is important to remember that God deserves all the glory for the use of media to change lives and save souls.
As Miracle City’s Taylor says: “Media ministry is not an addendum to any church, nor is it something that can be neglected. To neglect media ministry and treat it as an insignificant addendum to the church is to directly stifle the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the twenty-first century, . . . media ministry is the how of sharing the gospel.”
Kimberly Luste Maran is assistant director of communication for the North American Division.