NASHVILLE (NRB) — Church media experts were among those who shared nuts and bolts ideas for best practices during several industry sessions at the award-winning Exposition of Proclaim 18, the National Religious Broadcasters’ (NRB) International Christian Media Convention.
Radio, film, television, and international ministry were also represented during the sessions, held February 28-March 2 in Nashville, Tennessee.
During the first church media session, Yvonne Carlson, director of digital strategy at Moody Radio Network, spoke about launching an online church campus, which she helped do at First Baptist Church in Dallas. One of the first questions people have about online campuses, she said, is whether it will hurt attendance at the physical church.
“It does not. In fact, it brings people to your physical church because we live in a consumer age,” Carlson said. “People like to try before they buy, especially people who are unchurched or unfamiliar with what it looks like at church on Sunday. They can get a sense of who you are and what you stand for, and when they hear the message of love and transformation, it piques their curiosity.”
Churches should identify who they hope to reach when they launch an online campus, she said.
“You can reach different populations, but I would tell you to focus on a couple of groups,” she said.
For the first group – young adults/Millennials – “this is how they live their lives,” Carlson said. “They live their lives online, so it would be very natural for a young adult to attend an online church service.”
Then, there are people who are homebound.
“If you have a lot of aging church members, they would benefit from coming to church,” Carlson said. “They can’t physically do it, but they can actually experience your church and be part of the fellowship online.”
At First Baptist Dallas, a group of military men joined in every Sunday for online church services even though they were in a war zone and wanted to remain anonymous, she said. “They were hearing the truth.”
Another category to reach is seekers, Carlson said. “You could completely launch an online presence just to reach the unchurched. Business travelers. We have a lot of people who travel for business, maybe even travel over the weekend. What if you’re on vacation? Take your iPhone out while you’re driving down the road and enjoy a church service.”
An online campus always should work at moving people from the internet to a physical church building, Carlson said, because fellowship is meant to be face to face. One way to do that is in the chat component of the online service.
“You’re chatting while you’re watching the service. People ask questions. But you’re also feeding them information: ‘We encourage you to be in a body in your local congregation. If you have any questions about finding a new church, we’d love to talk to you about what to look for in a good church,’” Carlson said.
Craig Harper, national manager of faith for Sony North America, talked about equipping the church media department. A deacon at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, Harper serves as a volunteer in its church media department and underscored the eternal impact the quality of the cameras and simply the drive to honor Christ can have.
“One of the things I love to use as an example at Prestonwood is that about two years ago we had a family baptized on a Sunday morning and they were saved watching us on Facebook Live in Iraq,” Harper said. “Friends gave them money so they could fly to Plano, Texas, so they could be baptized at the church. We don’t really know the people who are watching online.”
Harper went through specifics of camera and other equipment options for achieving goals on a budget.
Joshua Weiss, vice president of business development at Edge Spectrum, said there are many ways to communicate the Gospel in the modern world.
“Is the Word of God a printed book? Yes, but it’s also in many other forms. The Word of God exists on my cell phone. I see it as a phone first, and the Bible is on it,” Weiss said. “A video communicates the Gospel if it’s a word-for-word representation of the Bible. An audio Bible is a word-for-word version of the Bible.
“It’s no less holy than the print version. It’s just a different medium, and we have to flip that switch in our minds in the church world to help people engage the Bible more because the trends suggest that if we want to engage, we have to be where they’re at,” Weiss said.
Missionaries wouldn’t give an English Bible to a person in China who only speaks Chinese, and technology is no different, he said.
“If we want to see greater engagement in the Bible, we have to communicate in the language that people are using,” Weiss said.
Statistics show people are communicating on mobile devices, in apps. If churches want to use video to communicate, it needs to be in short form, he said, adding, “Produce for the platform. If you’re going to put it on a blog, write it for a blog.”
“I strongly encourage us to migrate past the mentality that says in order to be holy we’ve got to use a printed Bible, and start thinking in terms of communicating the Gospel in the language they speak, both technologically and vernacularly,” Weiss said.
Bryan Bailey, director of media at Prestonwood in Plano, emphasized pursuing excellence in church media.
“When we’re dealing with church media, we tend to focus on the technology. We tend to focus on the execution. We tend to focus on what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s very easy to get away from the spiritual aspects,” Bailey said.
He uses passages such as Philippians 4:8-9 to focus attention on the goal.
“While we should never let the idea of perfection in production overrun our spiritual aims, we should also not allow a guise of spirituality to excuse us from achieving the excellence that the Bible so clearly calls us to pursue,” Bailey said.
By Erin Roach
Published: March 7, 2018