There are a myriad of reasons why a church considers beginning a television or video ministry: outreach, increasing community awareness, evangelism, worship support and more. For this series of articles the reason is not particularly relevant except for the purpose of examining the process. Whether your church is considering a television ministry or has already committed to launch one, we will assume the motivation is Christ centered and ministry minded.
What is important for a television ministry to be successful is a clear vision in direct support of the churches overall mission. From the congregation at large, to staff members, to volunteers and to financial supporters it is imperative that the goal or mission of the television ministry be clearly stated and supported. A television ministry is very similar to a building campaign. Rarely do either come without significant expense. Can you imagine announcing to a congregation, “We are going to build a new building. We don’t know why yet, but we’re sure we need one.”
Once a clear purpose has been established it is time to consider the format for your television ministry. A television ministry can support many other ministries. Worship can be enhanced in a number of ways through video. Specific programs such as youth or singles bible study may utilize video programs in a large group setting. Of course, delivering video through broadcast or cable outlets is a traditional form of television ministry. Others include videotape distribution, and today video on CD; DVD and even Internet streaming are possible video distribution methods.
In congregations that already utilize large screen projection within the worship time for congregational singing and scripture support, video can provide an enhanced worship experience. One of our clients, Pantego Bible Church, (Arlington, TX) produces a regular segment for the worship time that features a different aspect of the churches ministry in a 3 to 7 minute video. Marty Hill, the Minister of Media says, “This segment lets the entire congregation see different ministries and people within the church in a close-up way that they would otherwise never see. It really creates interest and support for our various ministries and it has become a powerful testimony time.”
Of course where large screen projection exists, image magnification may be appropriate. In a large auditorium, video image magnification greatly increases the sense of intimacy and connection with the speaker. Facial expressions and emotion when viewed close-up communicate a message with impact that can be lost without video enhancement.
In some circumstances, the next logical step from image magnification is to broadcast the worship service either live or tape delayed. (The subject of buying media time will be discussed in detail in the third part of this series). In mid-size to smaller markets it is often very easy and affordable to find a commercial outlet for religious programming. In large markets media time can be very competitive and quite expensive.
Many churches have been on local television for years, for them and for those just starting, the challenge is to create other programs that make the broadcast meaningful and relevant to viewers. Another client of ours, Sagamore Hill Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX maintains a well-staffed prayer and counseling center throughout the broadcast and often for several hours after. They have numerous stories of lives being changed not just from the TV program, but because the broadcast influenced someone to call and receive concerned prayer and counseling.
For some small communities a church based television ministry may even provide local news and community based programming. A church I worked with in Arkansas years ago provided the broadcast of the local high school football games. Your church might consider a ‘good-newscast’ or talk show featuring positive people and stories from your neighborhood or city.
Some pastors possess a particularly strong gift for preaching and teaching. In rare cases a television ministry achieves widespread distribution and becomes self-sufficient and may even create financial support for the local church. However, most television ministries will be supported by the local church and not the other way around. Be very wary of entering into TV expecting a financial return.
Be creative; assess the talent available to you from the congregation. Form a ministry from the gifts God has provided. No individual can operate a successful TV or video ministry alone. You might be surprised at who could be a successful newscaster or host. Technical help can come from surprising places. Many young people have serious computer talent and could easily master non-linear editing or graphics production.
You need not produce the same programming as others do. The key to a successful television ministry, besides the technical issues which we will cover in future articles, is to work diligently to keep the program relevant, interesting, and tied closely to the ministry of the Church.