The good news is that a growing number of churches are creating digital media on a very high level, including producing short films, live streaming, and even broadcast television. The bad news is that for some reason, they often divide up the departments – usually into the “video team” and the “broadcast team.” The video team does short films, testimony videos, small group resources, and in-service video announcements.
The broadcast team on the other hand, focuses on the TV program and/or the live stream. The problem is that when it’s divided into two different departments, the most creative people gravitate toward the video team, because they can more easily express their creativity, produce a wider range of projects, and in some cases, just have more fun – usually because they’re less supervised or have more flexible deadlines.
As a result, the “broadcast team” – which is helping the pastor create a broadcast television program (and/or live stream) gets the B-team (or less people), even though the TV outreach is, in most cases, reaching far more people with the gospel and the message of the church.
When I ask church leaders why they’ve allowed this division to happen, I usually get the response that it’s because the most contemporary and fastest growing media-oriented churches like Hillsong are doing it.
“The Hillsong Film and TV department was created to serve our local & global church through the vision of our Senior Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston. That looks like many things these days from in-service media to worship events, conferences, campaigns, promotions and in recent years a global TV channel. I believe one of the strengths we’ve had which has enabled us to grow over the years has been a unified team under a unified vision.
As we all grow, the temptation to split teams and create autonomous silos under different leadership presents itself. Sometimes this can sound like a logical option to manage, but I remember someone saying to me in my early years that multiple visions create division and I’ve certainly seen moments over the years where that had an opportunity to be birthed if we weren’t paying attention.
I love the fact that Christ is building His Church and He would use us to be a part of it. We have to never forget that EVERYTHING we do must be in line with that and the vision of the leadership we serve.”
That simply means that Ben is the leader of all electronic media at Hillsong, whether it be short videos, the live stream, outside films, or broadcast TV. All of those crews and creative leaders report to him.
That’s not to say Hillsong is the only viable model, but after working with hundreds of churches and ministries doing all levels of media, I can tell you this:
Creatives often forget that in a church setting, the task is to use their creative skills in the service of the church’s vision – and the point of that spear is the pastor. As Ben put it, “Everything we do must be in line with the vision of the leadership we serve.” By considering the pastor’s broadcast ministry a secondary or B-team outreach, you’re crippling the greatest potential outreach you can possibly create.
In my experience, there’s only one exception to this rule, and that’s when the media ministry is an entirely separate legal entity from the church. If the media ministry is funded, budgeted, and legally a different organization than the church and that media ministry has their own employees, then it’s impossible to remove that wall. That was more common in years past than it is today.
But otherwise, when it comes to media, my suggestion is to unify the media under a single vision, and make that person an experienced and creative media leader, not a non-media person. Today, the role of media (especially TV) for sharing your story is far too important to consider it a secondary outreach.
In a media-driven culture, to reach this generation for Christ, the stakes are too high to get it wrong.