From a fundraising perspective, Mary Hutchinson has been an enormous help to a number of religious media ministries. Recently, as part of launching a new direct response company, she asked some interesting questions about the future of religious media – particularly who will pay for it. If you think religious media shouldn’t exist at all – and I understand your position – this isn’t for you. But if you’re interested or concerned about the future of religious media, I’d love to know what you think of Mary’s points:
— To air a Christian TV program, someone has to pay for it. I remember back in the early 80s, a well-known television preacher explained to the crowd that they needed to send a gift if they enjoyed the broadcast. “Water is free. But you have to pay to have it piped into your homes,” he explained.
And so the Christian culture embraced giving to support their personal favorites. Need a healing? Sow a seed with Oral Roberts. Want to be told to walk the straight and narrow? Jimmy Swaggart was where you sent your gift. Want “Christian entertainment” —guests and music and banter? That would be Jim and Tammy Bakker. The programs were designed to meet the needs of the people paying for them.
Today, things are changing. There are fewer older folks to support Jim, Jimmy and Oral. The next generation—baby boomers—isn’t comprised of stay-at-home moms who channel surf across three channels from soap operas and game shows to their favorite preacher.
We as baby boomers have 200 channels on TV—not to mention the web—and we barely have time for a handful of choice programs during the week.
Most people in my generation are less concerned about souls and more concerned about the hungry. Even so, it is easier to raise support for starving puppies than it is for starving babies. Getting my generation to watch Christian television is a much greater challenge.
And here is the real issue—we are already paying over $100 per month for cable. We don’t feel we need to “pay again” for what we watch. Of course, we will spend the $4 for a pay-per-view movie that was on the big screen a few weeks ago, but it ends there. Money is tight. Time is tighter. So where does that leave Christian media? Many signs point to this being a highly creative generation. They have tools to enable them to produce better, cheaper, and even faster.
So what does this have to do with the church or with Christian media?
In a few years, everything. This generation will not only need to produce the Christian media that will be the next wave of evangelism—perhaps the last great move of God—their peers also have to pay for it. But will they? Can they? What will motivate them to do so? They will never fall for the Jesus Junk our parents did. They have no use for 47 versions of the Bible on their shelves. (If the Bible is important to them, it’s on their iPod.)
Phil and others here talk a lot about what Christian media needs as it moves forward—and I agree with all of it. My question is this—who will pay for it? What will it take to get the boomers like me to give? And harder still, what will move the next generation to give?
I would love to see some creative ideas from people in their 50s, their 40s, their 30s and yes, their 20s. I would like to hear what it will take for you to send some hard-earned money so creative people can develop great Christian media that changes lives.
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