Creative Leadership

Too Many Christian Leaders Don’t Get The Media Revolution

There are five areas that have been significant stumbling blocks to the Christian community’s ability to impact the culture.  In today’s media-driven world, perception matters, and regardless of your theological persuasion, it’s time to realize that some of our efforts – even well intentioned efforts – can have damaging consequences.  From that perspective, this week I want to discuss a five statements that I’d like you to think about and then give me your response.  I’ll toss out the biggest issue and see if you agree:

1. Christian Leaders Don’t Get Today’s Media Revolution
There’s a huge upheaval happening out there, but for most Christian leaders it’s pretty much unnoticed.  The digital media revolution is far more than just social networks, watching comedy clips on mobile phones, or text messaging.  The fundamental transformation that will impact everything in the future is the word “open.”  It will have massive implications for culture, politics, education, business, and religion.

It will cause a massive shift in the way we find, process, and relate to information, and it’s impact will spill over into relationships, faith, business, family structures and more.  And if church and ministry leaders don’t understand and respond to this change, our impact will eventually slip away.

Think of a world that’s experiencing a two-way conversation instead of the traditional one-way model.   The next generation wants to communicate, and are using media that’s “always on.”  As a result, they want to participate – to have a voice.  After all, they grew up picking the next “American Idol” by texting into a cell phone.  They want a voice and they want it now.  And it will impact everything from media to how they experience worship.

Generation after generation pastors and Christian leaders got it wrong.  They believed our only responsibility was sharing the message.  But we also have a responsibility to make  sure that message is received.  In the open world of the future, those who simply preach or teach without regard to the way the audience understands and responds will be left in the dustbin of history.  You need to understand the technological changes that are happening today and the way those changes are transforming the way we communicate.

And this isn’t just about a few religious leaders being embarrassed because they don’t understand the media transformation.  It’s about churches and ministry organizations going out of business because they don’t know how to connect with the next generation.  It’s about a disconnect with the culture because we don’t know how to speak their language.  This media revolution is just as significant as the invention of the printing press, and it will change our world just as much as the press change the world of that era.  This is serious, and it’s time we got it.

What’s your reaction?  Do you think it’s an important?  Let me know.  In the meantime, stay tuned for my new book appearing later in January.  It’s the story of this media revolution and how we should respond.  Every person of religious faith needs to read it.

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10 Comments

  1. #2

    Ministries don't have media director Job defined

     

     I am sensing a trend of confusion in ministry which seems to be escalating so with the start of a new year, I'd like to "call out" this distressful trend. Ultimately my mission is to help ministries spend less money and reach more people. I hope you read my blog for this reason.  Ministries need a "Media Director" but what that individual does seems to me to be an area of great confusion.  First of all, let me say that having a graphic designer, web programmer or video editor on staff is does not fulfill the obligations of a media director's job description. In fact, an effective media director does not edit, design or write code. They manage projects and unify people to complete these projects! I would repeat this if we were in a meeting together, but since we are not, you can just read this line again.

    "A good media director is does not edit, design or write code".

    Here are the qualities of an effective media director. Great people skills, communicates early and often, understand great design, understands the visionaries goals, understands how to run a profitable ministry or business, must be able to network people together and build teams, and lastly he or she must be accountable. Accountable to meeting times and retuning phone calls, early and often – to the visionary, the team and vendors!

    My job description of Media Director:

    An effective Media Director is in charge of coordinating all media, video, web, graphics, audio production and helps define the ministry brand, and be a good steward of the the brand promise. They need to be accessible. They must understand the ministry goals, and objectives and be able put people in place to accomplish the goals and objective. A Communications degree is recommended but not required. The ability to multi-task and communication are essential to the success of this job.

    Why is your "Media Director" ineffective … see above.

  2. Phil, as this 60 year old man replies to you on his iPhone… I suppose that statement alone speaks volumes, doesn't it? Not a 16 year old, but 60. The world we live in is not simply the physical world around us but the ever increasing digital world around us; a world that has a language and a culture of its own. And just as a tourist can learn a few phrases in a foreign language, but always remain a tourist, the church, et al, must choose between being either tourist or native in the digital world. We must be/become "bilingual" or lose much in the way of communication in this digital world around us.

  3. Phil – in regards to your question, "Where Do You Spend the Most Time, and Why?" I can't respond to the choices you listed because I spend most of my time on Stumble Upon with about 5million plus other people.  Perhaps that might be a good one to add to your question?!

  4. Do you think this willful ignorance is based in fear?

     For example…

    Fear of losing control of the message? I hear about churches using texting during the message, and posting the comments on the screens… and that scares the snot out of me. I wonder how any pastor would allow attention to his message to be divided like that? But I understand it happens.  Of course, attention is divided anyway and this way a greater number of people can share in the conversation, rather than just between two friends texting in the service. 

     

    Fear of not being an expert? fear of failure? Fear of Mistakes? hey, we've been told good is the enemy of great, and excellence is key… which can translate into an unwillingness to try new things we don't know will succeed and meet our standards.

  5. Amen and amen!

    Weekend worship services, church leaders, etc. need to become more interactive and more conversational, and it's not even about copying culture – it's about speaking to the culture!

    We tell church leaders that they're being thrust into a new mission field. If you were to go overseas to minister to people, you'd learn the culture: customs, norms, traditions, and the language – if you knew you'd be there for a while. It's the same with a generation raised digitally: we can't keep "doing church" the same!

  6. Phil, I’m in total agreement with the premise of your piece but I’m not sure that the solution isn’t already blowing in the wind. As you say, the next generation of leadership is very familiar with the open media and are already making judicious use of it.

    One of the best examples of the new wind is a church in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. You probably know of Bruxy Cavey and ‘The Meeting Place’, the church for people who aren’t into church. His use of satellite and web media have enabled him not only to expand his church to branches all over the Toronto area but, through his use of iTunes podcasting, all over the world. His church and message appeal to the milennia generation due in some part to his use of these media but also because of his message. This is where the real emphasis on change needs to take place.

    The church of the past properly placed importance on the need for evangelism but unfortunately some have corrupted the message. On one end of the spectrum were the threats of hellfire and brimstone and on the other end the use of gimmicky, prosperity based giveaways. Secular media sources have seen through these hypocritical and fear based tactics and made a joke of Christianity. Bruxy and his like have, by my account, seen the truth of Christ’s gospel as the main attraction and in their research based teaching of His message of rebellion against religion have brought life back into the equation as opposed to threats and trickery.

    In short, the new open media is hugely important but equally so the real message of the rebellious Christ who came to bring freedom and abundant life.

  7. Thanks for the definition and the clarity for this position in churches. This is an excellent definition. But ultimately the way church is done has changed far more than any of us can fathom (and for the better) especially with the leadership which find it hard to let go and handover to this generation and just remain in the background. I think we need to become more relational and as Phil has identified more conversational (two-way possibly three way)using the technology to enable this more.

  8. Bravo. And I very much agree with Dave Jones on the Media Director job description. It's always tricky to do so much with so little, as most ministry directors find themselves doing. Many argue, "Well, how am I supposed to compete with brands like Apple or Amazon when we have a smidgen of their budget?" True, but anymore, being successful or using the NEW media doesn't require much, if any, financial resources. It simply requires a great idea (translation: creativity and time). Sadly, many ministries don't value creativity or don't understand what brainstorming looks like; and the vortex of unnending crisis that usually comes with a people-based organization can kill time before you know it's dead.

    Glad I'm working in a ministry that values both creativity and time. We need fresh ideas and leaders who are willing to take the risk to do them.

  9. The media group I'm involved with is sharing the love of our Father with Muslims. For us it's a dialogue. It's bridge-building.

    However, most media ministries work on the 'proclamation' model. As a result of broadcasting the Gospel, they then have 'follow up' procedures to help enquirers. From those follow up activities they aim to get into dialogue with those people and eventually, they hope, lead them into a relationship with the Messiah.

    At that stage you have an individual follower, separated from others. A loner. The task then is to bring together these loners into groups or communities. We sometimes call these communities churches. The task is difficult.

    We start from the other end of the rope. We bring together people from the Middle East in dialogue – in community. Within that group we communicate the love of our Father. As members of the group respond, they become followers. But they remain part of a group, part of a community. They remain in dialogue with those who are in their community.

    In researching a book I am writing I was struck by the fact that Jesus rarely 'proclaimed' [in the sense we use it today]. More often than not he was in dialogue. Frequently that dialogue was within a community. So I feel that we, in the so called 'Christian media', have got the picture upside down – we proclaim and then need followup rather than start with dialogue and so create interactive communities. 

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