We’ve all heard the phrase in Hollywood that “Content is King,” but not many use that term when it comes to churches or faith-based media. Instead we try to attract people through external means – video clips, music, lighting, great marketing, strong design, and more. The truth is – all these techniques are important, but without good content, it’s like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
In my new book, “Branding Faith: Why Some Churches and Non-Profits Impact Culture and Others Don’t” I share that frankly, my task as a branding and media strategist is to get butts in the seats. Likewise, your job as a church or ministry media professional is to get your pastor’s message heard. There’s no question that we need to get rid of all the filters and obstacles that keep people from hearing that message.
So we fix the lighting, create a welcoming atmosphere, produce media that connects with the congregation or audience, design a good sound system, and more. But at some point, the people in the seats need to encounter life-changing content if they’re going to actually engage and change their lives.
So how do we make that happen? How do we get past shallow, entertainment-driven exercises, and help people encounter a message that can transform their future? Take a look at this list, and give a copy to the pastor. It might just help you break through the barrier that’s keeping you from reaching the next level:
First – make sure the pastor delivers a powerful message. Today, too many pastors are “chasing relevance.” They’re trying to be cool and hip. But I’ve discovered that when you chase relevance, you just become more and more irrelevant. I encourage pastors and ministry leaders to focus on the eternal issues that never go out of style. You can do this is a contemporary way – but never confuse “compelling and interesting” with “shallow and empty.”
Second – rethink the series concept. I know this is heresy to many pastors these days, but few people can attend church every single week – and on television, some information reveals that most of your audience only watches 1-2 programs a month. At my media consulting and production company, Cooke Media Group, we discovered that when you do a series on television, most of the audience hasn’t seen the week before, so they assume they won’t be able to catch up or understand. So what do they do? They change the channel and watch something else. If you absolutely must teach a series, make sure every individual sermon or TV episode can stand on it’s own. And don’t make a big deal about it being a series, so people won’t get discouraged if they miss a Sunday here or there. Every week should be a full and complete message and worship experience.
Next – a Power Point presentation isn’t a compelling message. Power Point or Key Note presentations can be excellent, but there are far too many pastors who use them like a crutch. If your content isn’t powerful, or your presentation engaging, a slide show from your laptop won’t help. Always remember that Power Point presentations are there to supplement your message, not be the message.
Finally, understand the power of stories. Sure, you’ve heard it before, but we need to be reminded over and over again. Never forget that Jesus risked just three years of public ministry on telling stories – most of which he didn’t even explain. During Jesus’ short life, he didn’t write a book on systematic theology, church doctrine, or a pastor’s manual. He simply told stories – compelling, personal stories of everyday people, things, and places. But they were stories that his audience identified with, related to, and understood. They were stories that were so powerful, they ignited the anger of the religious leaders of his day, which led to his arrest and execution by the occupying government.
Are your pastor’s stories that powerful? Do your stories cause people to gasp, re-think their lives, and change their future?
It’s been said that “Hollywood is great at making fake things look real, but Christians are great at making real things look fake.” The difference, is our view of content. When the church understands that our single greatest challenge is delivering the kind of content and information that can change people’s lives, we will once again start to re-establish a place of real authority in the culture.