Some have discovered “IT”. Some aren’t even aware “IT” exists. Some only imagine “IT” while others naively attempt to explain why “IT” is simply impossible or “wouldn’t work” for them and their ministry.
A growing number among the body of Christ have known and benefited from “IT”, and realize that “IT” produces an amazing impact in the life of their congregation and/or specific ministry within their church. We shall humbly refer to these folks as “The Digitally Enlightened”.
The “IT” is simply this: using today’s digital media/video technology (such as camcorders, computer-based editing systems along with related programs and accessories) to produce original, relevant and creative video productions to multiply the impact, more effectively communicate the message and greatly expand the vision of their unique ministry.
Although our awareness of today’s media/video technology continues to expand, many congregations must face this cold, hard, fact: their present use of media technology and video projection in ministry can best be described as an “electronic overhead”. Endless screens “overfilled” with hymn text, choruses, scriptures and sermon notes.
Some congregations have avoided this pitfall by incorporating video programs into their services and ministries, including graphics and clips produced by someone else- be it Hollywood, a nationally known minister/ministry, or the church down the street. Embracing this “pre-fab” (the content came to you pre-produced from someone outside your own ministry) aspect of media in ministry is certainly an improvement, but hardly “the last frontier” or even the most powerful application available to today’s Christian church. As good as these applications of media in the church may be, the unique issue we’re looking at in the next 1199 words or so is truly ALIVE with new possibilities, potential and power.
TAPPING THE POWER OF TAPING THE PEOPLE
So what’s all the fuss about? What could possibly be so exciting about this “home-grown” media-for-ministry frontier? Here are a few of my favorite reasons to get us started.
1) NONE OF YOUR PEOPLE WILL BE “LEFT BEHIND”!!
Get this: Tim LaHaye, Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Rick Warren and Steven Spielberg all have something in common- they don’t have your students and adults on their production teams! When you begin using your own people to create and “star” in your original video productions, it’s a whole new world of impact, involvement and connection; all the way from the “point and shoot” to the “project and show”.
Several years ago, for our young adult Christmas Banquet’s after-dinner entertainment in the church fellowship hall, some of the more creative (imbalanced?) members of the class created an original video featuring class members playing the characters of Forest Gump, Rain Man and Kramer (from the Seinfeld sitcom).
It took place, you guessed it, on a park bench in front of tarp (spray painted by one of the cast) and shot in the main church entranceway. The “narrator/host” for the show was another “character” portraying the host of TV’s Unsolved Mysteries”.
The three characters on the park bench met to find out how to find this King they had heard was just born in Bethlehem. You can imagine the rest. The result was a very funny, very effective, highly memorable, and totally engaging production/presentation.
Sure, they could have easily gone to the local Christian bookstore or even Blockbuster and picked up a good “pre-fab” video production of some kind but few if any could have matched the results of their own original video production. Mystery solved.
Now, be careful not to put words in my mouth here. Putting words into people’s mouths is bad hygiene. I am NOT saying (and will never say) media and video resources from the above-mentioned Christian leaders and ministries (and a whole bunch of other great pre-fab Christian media resources) should not be used and are not effective. We should use them regularly. They’re fantastic. I use them. They meet a tremendous need. But they do not come close to the PERSONAL involvement and POWERFUL impact potential of creating your own video/media productions for your unique purposes and ministries.
Nuff said. Here’s #2…
2) NO ONE KNOWS EXACTLY THE MESSAGE YOU WANT/NEED BUT YOU.
You have your own individual “slant”, perspective and application of God’s word. We all do. This is a good thing. You can produce the precise video program that communicates this unique message for your purposes. The exact “feel” you want, the exact emphasis (and/or de-emphasis) you need and even the exact length you want. By the way, when it comes to “production lengths” I’d like to suggest short or shorter!
A ministry wanted to open a session for their youth conference with a short video clip introducing the theme from Mark 12:30 of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The result was a fast-paced, short (45 sec.) video featuring high energy music, images of things students are tempted to give their hearts to (relationships, possessions, thrills, status, appearance, etc.) and ending with the simple text of the verse. Powerful. Personal. Poignant. Perfect.
On to number 3…
3) YOU’LL INVOLVE YOUNG PEOPLE AND ADULTS WHO OTHERWISE WOULD NEVER BE INVOLVED!
We’re not just talking about the “technoids” of the congregation. Nor just the “gadget geeks” or “trekkies”. Sure, they’re invited to this “digital video bonanza” but there are probably several people in your church who would not only agree to “fill a position”, but excitedly embrace opportunities to contribute their skills for ministry. Home-grown media/video production for ministry swings the doors wide open (perhaps for the first time) for graphic designers, camera operators, music composers, dramatic arts directors, audio mixers, “drama queens”, comedians, weekend warrior video editors, kids-who-make-wacky-sound-effects- with-their-mouths and a host of other “gifted” people. A lot of these folks had been “pew sitters” up-until-now. It’s beyond the scope of this little article to identify the multitude of methods for discovering these folks, so keep your eyes on future Home-Grown Media for Ministry columns in this magazine for more ideas. Here comes number 4…
4) YOU DON’T NEED TO PRODUCE ‘BROADCAST QUALITY’ TO BE EFFECTIVE
This is definitely one of those fine-line walkin’ times. I’m all for raising the bar on the production value of Christian art in any and all forms. Unfortunately, the phrase “Christian Quality” has become an oxymoron, especially in the eyes of the un-churched. Hopefully this is changing.
Of course we need to make any original art and media we produce within the Church as high a quality as possible. Too often folks believe that unless our video productions equal the broadcast quality of Hollywood’s mega- million dollar budgets, we shouldn’t produce anything.
I’m not one of these folks. The proper use of today’s digital media tools produces amazing results considering their relatively low cost. Proper training in the technologies your ministry embraces is essential and once again, we’ll be attempting to assist you in that training right here in future Home-Grown Media -For-Ministry columns. This isn’t Disney. This isn’t the Oscars. This is the church of Jesus Christ. The tools for high quality video production are available (and affordable) for your ministry desktop right now. Meet number 5…
5) NEARLY EVERY ASPECT OF EVERY MINISTRY IN EVERY CHURCH CAN BENEFIT
Before clarifying this 5th reason why the church should be pursuing the technology and training for producing their own media, I’d like to make this qualifying statement: Just because you CAN do something (like produce a video on a particular topic or issue) doesn’t mean you SHOULD produce it. I feel much better now, and will continue enthusiastically.
The children’s ministry needs more publicity. The worship team needs training. The pastor’s sermons in general and illustrations in particular need a lot more impact. The youth ministry worship service is flat. The Vacation Bible School needs volunteers. And the list goes on and on for all the different needs of all the different ministries. Not only can an original video production (a short production, remember?) help address and meet specific ministry needs like the ones just mentioned, it is also a great way to involve several people in the solution and have a blast at the same time. Did I mention the same video could be reused for years to come depending on the nature of the need and the video created to meet that need?
My digital friends, this article’s word count is rapidly inflating and the editor is yelling, “CUT, CUT!!”. We have much more to discuss together in the weeks ahead, such as what you need, how to use it and a church bus load of ideas each step of the way- so I’ll meet you back here in approximately 60 days.
Until then: go for “IT”!