The Making of a Media Ministry

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

As I write this, many of you are still cleaning up after the largest Christmas program you have ever attempted. As you read this, many of you are preparing for the biggest Easter special you have ever produced. We are all pushing and pulling our resources in every direction trying to make sure that the presentation we create is worthy of the One who gave us the gifts we utilize.

I often wonder which one of the followers of Christ was His media guru. Was one of the 12 disciples charged with writing the press release that announced that He would be giving a sermon on the mount? Or did they farm out the promotion to a fledgling up-start advertising firm in Galilee? No one can doubt that Jesus knew how to reach the masses. Was it that He was so contemporary that people locked on to Him like we now do with a best selling recording artist or a blockbuster movie star?

Let’s take a quick look at the word contemporary. According to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, our old friend Webster defines the word this way: “happening, existing, living, or coming into being during the same period of time.” Isn’t it interesting that we see so many traditional churches adding contemporary worship services? Many others are blending their services. Think about it.

If your service cannot be described as the definition states, you shouldn’t be doing it. Wow, now that was of the flesh wasn’t it! Happening, existing, living to whom is the question. If the vast majority of your church body is made up of folks older than 60, then the standard hymns and strict order of worship are in fact contemporary. If your target market is young families, then 7-11 music (praise songs with seven words sung 11 times) is probably more living to them.

No matter what format your church uses or what your target growth area may be, you must strive to make the presentation of the Gospel contemporary to those who will hear, see, and feel it. It should be the vision of the Media Ministry of your church to hold dear the content that they have been asked, by the Lord himself, to spread to the entire world. The department must use the technologies available today, as I’m sure the successful media types of His day did, to their fullest potential. They had the guiding force right there in front of them to give direction. We have His representative, the Holy Sprit, to guide us. The first step to a successful ministry is prayer, lots and lots of prayer. Other steps are included in this article, but never forget the first one.

The Nuts and Bolts

In this series of articles, I will attempt to share with you my theories on how to manage the content, tools and resources of the converging world of media. These theories are just that: ideas that need to be tested, processes that are based on facts, but when put together, make up a method that is not proven. I have spent only the last two years testing these theories. However, considering the speed that our world of technology changes, the time period of this practice could be related in dog years.

Convergence is the buzzword in secular and non-secular media worlds. We see it written about and spoken about all the time in trade magazines. Most of us are aware that the pipes of media technology are merging into one huge culvert. As the tools we use begin to blend into one box (your guess is a good as mine as to what the box will be), we must learn how to administer areas of creativity that are not normally considered the responsibility of the Media Department. Traditionally we think of the media folks handling the audio and video roles of our churches. Like the converging of the technologies the media department uses, our job descriptions are also converging with those who now do similar tasks.

Many of you were hired or volunteered to only do one or two things; operate a video camera and maybe run the house sound console every once and a while. Now that you are on the team, you have learned to operate the projection system, fix the copy machine in the main office, wire the pastors office for Internet access, edit video on a non-liner system, mow the grass and take out the trash. Do you see the reason to learn to set limits and manage resources?

It is my opinion that the Pile On Theory is alive and well in churches of all sizes. Under staffed and under paid are claims I hear often at peer meetings. We all have more work than time. There is another issue that bothers me more however. How many of us get to participate in worship with our own families? I know I am guilty of ignoring the fact that I too need to join in corporate worship, especially in leading my family as an example in worship.

In order to help this situation and to begin to manage the department, there needs to be a vision, yes even a vision statement, set in place very early in the development of your ministry that helps you and others know of your ministry’s purpose and responsibility. Once the vision is cast, the team needs to be reminded about it often, until they are repeating it to others. My team and I wrote our vision statement together. We refer to it as our translation of the Great Commission:

The purpose of the Olive Baptist Church Media Ministry is:

To conceptualize and create progressive, culturally accurate media that: enhance worship; act as an instrument for evangelism; support discipleship; and serve ministry.

We will accomplish the task by providing and maintaining an infrastructure that allows the processing of information and by acting as a communication conduit between the staff, church members, our community and the world.

This vision statement refers to an infrastructure. This is the foundation on which the linking of all our resources takes place. More than a foundation, it acts as a filter that helps stop the aforementioned Pile On Theory to happen. It does this by setting limits to the type of work we do and the number of projects we have going at once.

Here is an example of how this works: Olive Baptist Church is a rapidly growing Southern Baptist Church in Northwest Florida. The current membership is 7800. It can be described as one of the smaller mega churches in North America. It is however much larger than 90% of the churches in the same area. Three years ago there were only 17 PCs in the building. They were networked using the Microsoft peer-to-peer protocol. Today there are over 75 systems on an NT network maintained by a full time Information Services Manager. Like other high technology tasks, the overhaul of the computer system was given to the media department. The foundation, as it was three years ago, did not allow room for this project to proceed. It was used to raise bright red flags that were shown to the church administrator and then to the budget and finance committee. Because the limits had been put in place in advance, the committee was able to realize the need for additional funding and therefore the foundational infrastructure was increased.

It does not matter whether your church has 200 members or 20,000; or if the media staff’s only responsibility is sound and lights. The Media Ministry must have a stable and noticeable infrastructure. As this new convergent world progresses, you can be assured, they will call on your department to do more than just mix sound and edit videotape. Don’t tell them no! Show them your current structure and ask that they help you increase the foundation. If you don’t, they may make a new department to perform the task. Before you know it, the new guys will have taken over the media department because they read and tried the concepts in this article.

Next time we will review what I call the big three areas of a media ministry: Visual Arts, Real Time Media and Interactive Media. Although each one is very different in regard to the toys… I mean tools they use, the way they can seamlessly work together is very cool to those of us who eat, drink and live this stuff.

Till then check out: to get a head start on the next article.