First Days of the Rest of My Life

So, you may have been wondering how the last few days have been going. How has life been since I left my media pastor position, and started working on the show full time, picking up freelance gigs to pay the bills.

Well, the first few days After Church, or AC as I’ll refer to it in this post, were very busy. I spent three days running camera for a Christian women’s conference here in Orlando. Decent pay, but man, don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s a breeze to do that all day. The cameras were way back in the room, so we were running at the far end of the zoom for most of the event. You couldn’t breathe on them without shaking the image.

That kept me pretty busy, so really yesterday was the first full day of AC work specifically on the show. I finished up my weekly freelance job producing a small TV show, got everything uploaded and mailed. Then ran a couple of errands. I had a meeting where I developed some contacts for both future ministry with small churches as well as the show. And I worked on an executive summary package for fund raising.

Oh, and I made a trailer for the show. Not an iMovie one, a real one:

So, pretty busy day. Today, I need to get my car worked on, so I will do some work in the waiting room, then probably work on the Kickstarter project for the show. Life AC is full of stuff to do.

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Watershed

Watershed: A ridge line that splits drainage areas, or an important point of division or transition between two phases, conditions, etc.

Today is a watershed day.

As I blogged earlier in the week, I’m leaving church media ministry for … media ministry. For over 10 years I have been in full time employment at a church, doing the work of media ministry. I’ve seen God do some pretty spectacular things in this time.

Starting tomorrow I won’t be coming into an office every day. I will be working on the next thing God has called me to do.

There will be some things I won’t miss at all, and some I will. The biggest thing I will miss is seeing a project of eternal significance grow from an idea into an experience used by God every week. I will still see that happen in my new work, but not every single week.

Meanwhile I’ve made some great progress on the show this week. Got some new things I hope to get rolled out next week, when I actually have the time to work on it. And on the tent-making side if things, I landed a freelance gig this weekend. God is continuing to affirm this course for us.

So this is it. I’ve got a few more things to finish up, so I gotta’ go.

Next

After over a decade in full time work on a church staff doing media ministry, I’m moving on to something else. God has been working in my life, and I am convinced that now is the time to move forward. I am quitting my job at the church to produce episodic Christian TV/web shows to reach people under 50 years old.

God has been working on me for a couple of years now. It really started when I first got the demographics for the people who watch our church’s TV show. Based on what we can tell, we reach over 100,000 people every week with our 30-minute and 1-hour broadcasts. Over 75% of those are 50+. Most are well over 50 years old. And we are not the only TV ministry facing this.

I can go on and on about the looming crisis for Christian TV, but the bottom line is that those of us in religious broadcasting must do something now. That is what God has been calling me to do.

Many of you know that I am developing a Christian sitcom. We just released the pilot a few weeks ago. I’m not just doing that as a hobby. I will continue to produce Christian TV shows that reach younger viewers.

It will definitely be a change. Not only will I not have office hours, I won’t really have an office, unless you count a desk in my bedroom as an office. Even the subtitle of this blog “Thoughts from a media pastor” will need to change. Oddly the one thing that bothers me about the whole thing is that I’m pretty sure when SWBTS, the seminary I attended, surveys graduates they will clump me into the group who no longer serves in ministry, even though I’m still doing ministry. I just won’t be employed at a church or para-church organization.

My church has been incredibly supportive. In some places if you were to go to your boss and talk about a new direction God is calling you toward, they would say, “That is great. We’ll be praying for you. Now, let’s get some boxes for your office.” My experience has been the opposite of that. I will be transitioning out while they look for someone to replace me. So, while the capacity of my involvement will be immediately reduced, I will still be involved at First Orlando, working with them on broadcast content and weekend service execution. And the church is still committed to letting me use spaces for shoots, and use equipment when it’s available.

When I talk to people, they inevitably look at me like I’m crazy or courageous. I don’t feel that courageous. I do sometimes feel crazy. Yes, I understand that leaving a steady job that pays the bills to pursue what God has called me to do could be considered both crazy and brave.

So, how am I going to make a living?

I have almost five years worth of contacts in Central Florida. Even in a bad economy, I know several people who make a living doing freelance around here. The plan is to pick up freelance work while looking for support for the show. In many ways it’s like the tent making from Acts 18. In fact, my production company is called “Pup Tent Media” specifically because this kind of work will be a means to an end. I have a few ideas on how to use the whole range of skills I developed this past 10 years making “tents” so I can do what God has called me to do. I will put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads.

So if you need video production, social media, promotions, publicity, advertising, communications, event production help, let me know. If you know someone who would want to invest in or sponsor the show, send them my way.

In the mean time, I am moving forward. To be completely transparent, I had a pretty rough day last Sunday. It was time to tell a lot of people about this. Right in the middle of all of that, sharing my heart and passion, talking about the direction God was moving us, I had doubts. From out of nowhere this kind of thing would pop into my head: “Are you an idiot? You are not ready for this.”

If this was something my wife and I took lightly, that might have derailed us. But God has been clear. Scripture, prayer, circumstances and counsel have all been confirming what we know in our hearts we are called to do. I am called to create episodic Christian video content that appeals to viewers under age 50.

It’s not the first time I/we have made major changes because we knew God was telling us to. I quit my dream job to go into ministry. My wife and I moved across the country to attend seminary. We both left good jobs and our families to take a full time media ministry job in Louisiana. We have since moved twice to new ministries because we were led by God to.

Sometimes God asks people to do things that don’t make sense. That’s because he’s God, and we aren’t. Jeremiah 29:11 and Proverbs 3:5-6 come to mind. If I had leaned on my own understanding, I’d still be working in Nashville, wouldn’t have met my wife, had these kids, or been doing things that are are eternally significant in ministry. So, now that we are taking another step, I trust.

Frankly, it’s scary at times. But, I know this is right for us.

So that’s it. Pray for us. Please.

Pastors: Should You Be On Twitter?

Specifically, minister-types: Should you be on twitter?

I know that many of you cringe at the thought of social media. The imagined image of you, sitting at a computer, trying to keep up with responding to messages on Facebook sends you running to the dark corner of your office. I understand. The volume of email and phone calls you already have to keep up with is overwhelming. Unless you just like social media, you may be choosing to pass.

But twitter isn’t the same as other social media outlets. The 140 character limit requires conversations and responses to be short.

The shortened form (140 characters) limits conversations. It’s almost perfect for tweeting scriptures. And devotional thoughts. Recently, the NY Times had an article about this very thing. Part of the article included an interview with a Twitter executive:

“Pastors tell me, Twitter is just made for the Bible,” Ms. Díaz-Ortiz said.

It’s close. On average, verses in the King James Version are about 100 characters long, leaving room to slip in a #bible hashtag and still come in under the 140-character limit.

And proverbs are powerful draws on Twitter.

Why do religious leaders have so much more impact on twitter?

I think it’s because people do want to hear truth. They crave it. But our society is so busy, finding time to read and study is very hard. People will subscribe to your twitter feed and hear truth and scripture from someone they trust.

Should you be on twitter? Yes. Don’t miss a great opportunity to speak into the lives of people who care the truth you can share.

Even Christians Hate Christian TV: What do we do about it?

I saw a post on twitter from Phil Cooke about an article from Christian Newswire. For the last couple of years DoersTV has been surveying their online fans:

Based on the fan’s comments from the Fan Page posts over the last two years, over 90% of the people had a negative comment about Christian TV for the following reasons:

Too much begging for money and fundraising telethons

False prosperity teachers manipulating people for offerings

Boring and lack of quality programming

Lack of integrity of Christian Leaders they broadcast

Sounds like content on a lot of Christian Networks. So, who is this stuff made for?

Obviously, because this was an online survey, it ignores those not online. In America, 91% of 18-34 yr olds are online. (84% watch video online.) Compare to 47% of folks over 65 years of age. By the end of 2011 78.6% of North Americans were online. Leaving over 74 million people in North America who are not online. I don’t know how many of those have access to a TV, and Christian programming, but I’m sure the percentage is pretty high. I believe that the majority of religious programing out there is watched by senior adults.

I know the demographics on our own TV show, 70% of our audience is well over the age of 50. I’ve said this before, but the audience for Christian TV is literally dying off.

This stuff is made for older, aging audiences. Christians networks and program producers have settled into what is familiar, and ignored trends of younger potential viewers. Choosing instead to keep their existing audience, and cater to their viewing preferences. And, that audience faithfully sends their money in, and supports their efforts. But it doesn’t take the gift of prophecy to see that this model is doomed. It’s literally a matter of time. Either Christian networks/program producers change, or they will find themselves with no viewers at all in the next few decades.

We cannot wait five or 10 years. We need to be figuring out a new model of programming that is sustainable and reaches younger viewers. We are already missing whole generations with religious programming, even though these same generations consume media more than any generation before.

I am not saying every Christian TV show and network should immediately stop what they are doing and focus all their efforts on 18-34 year olds. That would ignore the millions who do watch current religious programming. But I am saying that if we rest content with just our current, dwindling audience, we will end up with no one watching at all. And that will come faster than you realize.

If you are a network, actively seek out programming that will appeal to younger audiences. If you are a program producer, produce a program that appeals to younger audiences. I am. You should, too.