Christian Media

Should a Church Divide Up the Video and TV Departments?

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.

So I asked my friend Ben Field, Head of Film & TV for Hillsong Church and Director of Programming for The Hillsong Channel how they actually do it. Here’s his reply:

“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.

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10 Comments

  1. You’re right Phil. I’ve seen this in so many churches, universities and ministries. In fact at one large church with an international broadcast outreach, when the planning meetings would happen, the pastor would bring in “the creative team” which included all of the graphic and video people, but none of the broadcast group! Those tasked with getting out the program have incredible deadlines, huge budget responsibility, and oddly, less respect. Everyone’s work would improve if the visual creators were in one incubator together.

  2. Putting both departments together really benefits everyone by pooling talents. Having the collaboration on a daily basis inspires new ideas that I would have never been able to achieve with split departments.

  3. Interesting discussion. Thanks for this. I am at the beginning of starting our church’s “video ministry?” And as of now we are totally separate from the live stream team. This is good food for thought.

    Thanks again!

    Simon
    Church Media Lab

  4. I agree that keeping your departments unified is a good thing. Although one division that makes sense is if your church has a complely separate “movie” ministry. One example would be Sherwood Baptist church with Alex and Greg Kendrick, or the folks at City on a Hill.

  5. Interesting observations but I have one concern: ‘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.’

    One of the concerns I have in many churches is the elevation of the pastor to be the channel through which the Lord speaks. This was the problem that led to the reformation, where the Pope at the stage was the channel through which the Lord speaks.

    My experience is to be amazed at the way the Holy Spirit guides autonomous or semi-autonomous teams within the body the same direction. Not that it happens always, but I do see it more within organisations that delegate, not to individuals to lead departments but to teams to hear from the Lord. I believe that the whole departmental model is actually somewhat flawed when it comes to the body of Christ and that the team model is both more helpful and more Biblical.

  6. Interesting observations but I have one concern: ‘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.’

    One of the concerns I have in many churches is the elevation of the pastor to be the channel through which the Lord speaks. This was the problem that led to the reformation, where the Pope at the stage was the channel through which the Lord speaks.

    My experience is to be amazed at the way the Holy Spirit guides autonomous or semi-autonomous teams within the body the same direction. Not that it happens always, but I do see it more within organisations that delegate, not to individuals to lead departments but to teams to hear from the Lord. I believe that the whole departmental model is actually somewhat flawed when it comes to the body of Christ and that the team model is both more helpful and more Biblical.

  7. I agree that keeping your departments unified is a good thing. Although one division that makes sense is if your church has a complely separate “movie” ministry. One example would be Sherwood Baptist church with Alex and Greg Kendrick, or the folks at City on a Hill.

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