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Six Ways to Grow a Media Ministry From Scratch, Part 2

This is the second of a four part series on strategies for developing a viable congregational media ministry. This series is designed for anyone who uses media in worship and/or the life of a local church. We have identified a number of ways to grow a local church media ministry that apply regardless if the ministry is long-established or simply the vision of a single, passionate individual.

Within this strategic directive there are five areas of emphasis. These are technology, creativity and design, team development, ministry leadership, and visioning. Each of the five, in our opinion, is equally important to a high quality ministry, so we are addressing them within each phase of development.

Phase 2: Using Pre-Made Media

With the fear of starting in the rearview mirror, the real fun of media ministry can begin. It’s also the real challenge: coming up with something creative each week of worship. Here are six more action steps for the second phase of ministry development: navigating the weekly demands of media ministry.?Ä®

First, get a state of the art computer. As with the projector from phase one, this may seem obvious. But we have seen many churches try to get by with donated or older systems. The price of current and effective digital technology (one of our five areas of emphasis) is simply the cost of doing business in media ministry. Throughout our ministry, we have tried to balance low overhead and frugality with a simple rule: Always buy state of the art. It is more expensive up front, but lifetime costs are less. Recently at Midnight Oil, we replaced our primary Apple laptop computers. The old ones, at five years of age, are still operational. Although we needed newer systems to keep up with the higher demands of new software, we still use the older systems for secondary tasks. So our upfront costs of ownership are high, but our lifetime costs of ownership are low. (As for whether to buy a Macintosh or PC-compatible system, we’ll leave that up to you. The playing field is fairly leveled and both systems can accomplish the same results.)

Second, become familiar with the worship media market. It has exploded with the creative efforts of numerous churches and para-church ministries. There are two free magazines dedicated to the media ministry market: Technologies for Worship [1] and Church Production [2]. Both contain insightful articles, product reviews, and ads highlighting various products used in technology-driven worship.

Also, pre-produced short films and background elements are available through websites such as Worshiphouse Media [3], Faithvisuals.com [4], Midnight Oil [5], and more. Clips and still images from these enable you to take a quantum leap over a short period of time in the quality of your productions.

With new projection systems in place, most churches quickly discover the ability to put type on the screen, such as song lyrics, scripture, and sermon points. Although this is a natural transition from a reliance on printed material, try not to stay here creatively. We call this the “giant piece of paper” approach. Look for small creative victories. Try to think of at least one creative element each week for worship. Begin to brainstorm ways to connect visuals to the message. How can a concept be represented visually? This kind of thinking is not screen dependant, either; look for non-screen visual metaphors to communicate abstract ideas.

Creating a viable congregational media ministry is surprisingly NOT about technology. What it is about is creating a culture in worship that is creative; one in which the tools of technology are simply means to an end. Although playing with those tools can be lots of fun, success in this new style of worship comes when the focus is on inspiring creative communication, not technology.

Remember, don’t do this alone. Find and train at least one or two computer-literate persons to assist with weekly live worship production. Communicate regularly with this budding team. If possible, begin to develop a schedule rotation for worship. Utilize services such as Yahoo groups or blog boards to let the team members maintain their own schedules. Strive to have four established, technically oriented people who are capable of leading the weekly live operation of media in worship.

Although technical proficiency might seem like a strict requirement for team members, we’ve often experienced that finding individuals who have a true servant’s heart and are willing to learn is better than finding individuals who “know it all.” Sometimes, those who have extensive technical knowledge have a tendency to want to hoard that knowledge or to impress others with what they know. Whether on purpose or not, this attitude can belittle novice volunteers and make working as a team difficult. Be careful about the choices you make during the selection process, and remember that teaching someone from scratch can be a great and sometimes better option.

At this stage of development, ministry leadership is paramount. Continue to cast vision, even in the midst of production. Always answer “Why” to your team, even if they aren’t asking the question. Talk about production choices while they’re happening in worship, such as the statement, “We’re using this video behind the lyrics because it reinforces this idea.”

Disciple your technicians. Reinforce that the ministry is about effective communication of the gospel, not about digital technology. Spend much time developing relationships with your volunteer core. The temptation is to let relationships slide because of the demands of production. Don’t do this: Your team is your most valuable asset. Nurture it as you recruit and expand it through church-wide awareness of media ministry, graphics, videos, etc.

Last, build relationships with others involved in worship planning. Set up a worship design and development meeting to begin to discuss ways to collaborate and coordinate your efforts. Use the team meeting for more than just plugging ideas into a template; use it for visioning. For example, ask the music leader, what images would help communicate the main idea of a particular song? At the same time, while helping media to better support music in worship, demonstrate ways in which media is not only a support mechanism but also part of a larger, more creative approach to worship design, for example, through the effective use of one the clips downloaded from a site mentioned above.