It may be the most commonly voiced complaint we hear. At some point, a lost and alone media minister will make a plea for help. He or she will acknowledge the power of digital media to create transformative experiences of God, pledge an undying devotion to proclaiming the Gospel through powerful images, and read, train and work to become proficient at their craft. Yet, they are powerless to actually do anything because the boss leaves sermon notes an hour before worship.
What does one do when stuck with a pastor/boss who has no interest in pre-planning, no understanding of the power of team development, and seemingly no respect for the work that goes into creating media for worship?
Following are a few suggestions for overcoming this problem. Some of these come from our personal experience, some from other people who have been in the same situation, and some are just theoretical. Quitting is not one of them.
1. Demonstrate don’t debate. Or, show don’t tell.
We talk about this in Digital Storytellers but it is worth saying again here.
Many pastors aren’t antagonistic to the power of media in worship; they’re ignorant. Pastors simply want to communicate the Gospel, as one reiterated to us recently during a seminar. Most have been trained to believe in seminary that communicating the Gospel in worship is only done through the spoken or written word. Many have never had a personal experience of God’s presence with images as the primary medium, so they don’t understand the power of visuals to communicate the Word of God. If they were to be made to understand that it is possible to communicate the Gospel through visual media, then most would jump at the chance to utilize an additional medium in their stockpile.
This means as an advocate of digital media it is your responsibility to provide an opportunity through which your pastor, and anyone else that needs to know, can experience God through visual media. One effective demonstration will do more than untold amounts of describing. It must be seen to be understood.
There are a few ways to get this demonstration going:
First, consider using a youth-led worship Sunday. Often youth pastors are very open to the use of media to present their messages, and will be more than happy to plan ahead to incorporate it into the service. This gives you and your youth minister a chance to make a lasting impression on the church and staff and a leadership opportunity for your youth.
Adults love to see their children and grandchildren excited about their faith, so it’s a good bet that they’d happily receive a youth-led media service. If your church doesn’t do this on a regular basis, start taking steps to make it happen.
Another opportunity is the twice a year, big holiday or “special” Christmas/Easter service, which are statistically the two highest attended services annually. Many churches are aware of the large numbers of “C/E” people (attendees that only come twice a year) and do some degree of pre-planning to take advantage. Consider incorporating visual elements into these services, both because to take advantage of existing pre-planning and because the services are a good ministry opportunity to infrequent attendees and to demonstrate media to those who would support reaching them.
During the pre-planning stages for these “event” services, infuse every meeting with discussions of how visuals and metaphors might be incorporated into the service. Use holiday weekends as an opportunity to raise the bar. Once you’ve set a new standard, it will be hard to go back.
In addition to Easter and Christmas, try doing something special for Mother’s day (statistically the third biggest attendance week of the year), Father’s day, Memorial day, baptism Sunday, September 11th, Graduation Sunday and more. Just seeing how media adds to these special Sundays can help bring about change on the rest of the weeks of the year.
Last, if your church participates in a pulpit exchange program with other churches in the area, you might try working with the visiting pastor in the weeks leading up to their sermon at your church. Pulpit exchange weeks create an environment to experiment with the way worship is done.
2. Request that your pastor meet with you and others in a creative team environment.
Pastors have also been trained to design worship by themselves. Many have an alone (and lonely) understanding that God’s word is only revealed to writers in quiet rooms surrounded by books and that to proclaim God’s Word, one must go into isolation. In fact, the early church as outlined in Acts was a riotous atmosphere of interchange?Ãƒâ€žÃƒÂ®quite different than the traditions we’ve been handed down from monasteries and writers. Others are simply very busy and don’t place a high value on sacrificing time to do in a team what they think they can accomplish just as well, and with less time, on their own.
As with the use of media itself, many pastors are ignorant, not antagonistic, about the power of teams. If a pastor knew designing in teams would communicate gospel more clearly he or she would be all for it. One pastor Len has worked with, Joe, had had a prior, failed attempt at team before Len came on the scene. As Joe states, “My earlier attempt was to put together what I called a message ?Ãƒâ€žÃƒÂ²research’ team. The goal was to design worship with a visual theme, or metaphor, connected throughout. However, I did not make time for face-to-face interaction, but instead tried to operate via email. It didn’t work. Eventually only one person was shooting me ideas.”