Peculiar Fundraising Update

cover supportWe have been in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign over at IndieGoGo for new episodes of my show, Peculiar.

We have 19 days left. We are 22% toward our goal. We passed the 2nd donation level… which means we released a 2nd Reveal Video. When we hit certain levels of donations, we reveal a little more about the new episodes. This one exposes a few of the themes for upcoming shows:

And in case you missed it, here is the first level Reveal Video:

So now you are up to date on the campaign! Next Reveal Video will be out when we hit $2000.

We need your help to make this happen. You can do something “Peculiar” and support Independent Christian TV! Even if you decide not to give any cash, you can use the tools on the page, right under the video, to share the campaign with your friends.


Leading From the Back of the Room

I heard this phrase the other day and I thought it sort of described what most media pastors do on a regular basis. This isn’t exactly like “Leading from the Second Chair” (Which I hear is a good book.) Many times media ministers find themselves a lot further down the line than second chair.

In many ways this feels like an oxymoron. If you lead, you should be out front, not in the back. But the kind of leadership I’m talking about consists more of influence and excellence in the disciplines of media and communications. It’s education and execution. It’s relationships and resourcefulness.

Leading the Team:

Culture is critical in the team. I’d like to say every team I have ever served on has had a great culture, but it just isn’t true. Technical people are analytical by nature. They break events down technically, but they also break motives and decisions down, and can easily start second guessing, or just plain complaining. We can easily fall back into a disdain for another’s lack of planning. Or we can become roadblocks instead of detours when we are heading in the wrong direction. It is our job to be resourceful and get it done.

This isn’t done by casting a vision. It’s done by creature a culture. It’s perpetuated by examples of servant leadership. It’s easy for lofty leaders to sit in their offices and tell technical people how they ought to behave, the tone they ought to use, but the realness of the matter comes into play in the middle of those tense moments in service transitions or rehearsals. Sitting in your office and talking about the attitudes we ought to have has no weight if those attitudes are not modeled.

The culture that you create will permeate the overall ministry organization. Your media ministry can be known as the guys who get things done, or the guys who complain about everything. Culture doesn’t change overnight. It didn’t get the way it is in a week, it took years. You may be lucky enough to be in a great culture, but if there’s work to be done, tackle it in steps.

Leading the Leaders:

I once had a speaker communicate over the comm that I needed to have the pictures he had given me moments before ready to show on the screen because he was about to call for them. I relayed a message back that I was not ready, I was still loading them into the system and please hold for just a little while longer. He replied, “He needs to be ready because I am calling for them now.”

That is a classic example of a leader who doesn’t understand the magic of media. Media guys laugh about power surges that can “let the magic smoke out” when they fry a circuit in a piece of gear. For many in leadership roles, media is all smoke and mirrors. They ask for a video, and it magically appears. They need a microphone, and someone hands it to them. They decide on Wednesday what content they want in the bulletin for Sunday, not knowing the gymnastics you must go through to change what has already been done.

This requires education. It means developing a relationship with the leaders of your ministry and lifting the lid on the inner workings of media and communications tasks. For them to get the most effective use out of media, they must have a basic understanding of it. It is our job to educate them.

And sometimes, it’s our job to redirect them. I was once asked to put together a mailer to send out to tens of thousands of people telling that we were not going to be holding an event. We were not going to tell them what we were going to be doing, just wanted to let them know we wouldn’t be holding the event. The church would literally spend thousands of dollars to tell the community we were not going to do something. It was my job to help them understand why that would be bad, and why we should expend our resources on letting the community know what we were going to be doing.

That takes persuasion. If you work in media, if you are a communicator I strongly suggest you learn about psychology and persuasion. I’m not saying we can replace the Holy Spirit, but knowing what motivates people and how they think will help you communicate effectively. It will help you get out of the way, and let your message speak clearly. This isn’t just for marketing campaigns, but also affects how you interact with others on staff.

Does the pastor need a visual to get the idea? If so, paint him a picture or draw a diagram. Are you talking to a “bottom-line” person? Then sum it up. Got a guy who needs to catch the vision? Then cast it. Figure out how your audience, even if it is just one person, best learns and processes new information and communicate that way.

Do your homework, present it clearly, and be ready to compromise. After a while you can develop the kind of relationship that allows you to give direction freely in the areas of media and communications.

Leading the congregation:

There are really two areas where media and communications interact with the congregation; the experiential and the informative. The experiential deals with how people engage the local body in worship, discipleship, and service. The informative covers the ways we let the people know about the church, ministry opportunities and events.

On the informative front, it is our job to tell the people what they need to know. We need to make the information available in a way that most people can easily consume it. this means that we must filter and meter the amount of information we are putting out. If everything is important, nothing is important. We have a criteria we use to classify events and publicity requests that governs how much attention we let any one event get. A class for 50 people doesn’t get the same attention that a church wide event does.

Much of what my communications team does is perform “marketing triage”. We review incoming requests and prioritize them. Then we put them into the system, and let it work. For smaller events we provide ways for the ministry areas to do targeted communication. For larger events, we use every channel available to us. It is our responsibility to communicate to the people of the congregation.

The experiential side is where many media ministries fall short. They get bogged down in the information, and fail to see how they can enhance the ministry of the church. They may extend the ministry through broadcast, web streaming, or media resources, but they may not seize the chance to use media to enhance the message or music.

I learned a long time ago that media is a cultural language, one that western society uses with great regularity. When people come into an American church and see screens they have an unconscious expectation to see quality video. Large speakers and lights bring expectations of production style music. We should use the means available to us to enhance the message in worship. Even if it is just simple things like using IMAG to direct the eye, or choosing a complimentary motion background for the lyrics. If we do not engage our congregation through media we are missing a huge opportunity to lead them in worship. My boss describes it as leveraging technology to create moments where God works. Those moments can be in weekend worship, small group classes, or out in the community. Technology can both facilitate and enhance our ministry.

We media minister types are rarely up front. We are not the person in charge. We are most often a supporting member of the overall ministry team. Yet we can and should lead from the back of the room to help make the ministry we are a part of the best it can be.

Hard Days

Some days are harder than others.

We learned a few weeks ago that the 2010 budget would include a significant reduction in operating expense, and that would include some staff changes. The changes cover a lot of departments and include a range of salary adjustments, converting FT positions to PT, and position eliminations.

A lot of conversations later, 3 people in my ministry area were affected. Yesterday I had to tell two employees that their jobs were converting to part time. This morning I had to tell another that her position was eliminated.

While my feelings can’t compare to what these 3 are going through, or the others across the staff, I don’t mind telling you that this was a couple of the hardest days of my professional career. I have had plenty of hard conversations with staff that were not performing well. I’ve let people go with cause. I’ve never had to do multiple life-altering conversations with people who did not deserve it.

It could have been worse. The initial proposal brought to me had 3 positions completely eliminated. At least I was able to have some input. As soon as I knew for sure what was going to happen, I let my staff know what was coming. It’s still to close to the holidays for my liking, but we had to wait until the budget proposal was complete.

Over the next few days the rest of the staff who are affected will find out. Please keep them in your prayers.

Used Car Salesmen

Today I bought a used car for my wife. I started the process last Wednesday.

Why is it that some salesmen think they should try to argue you into buying a car? I was really doing a survey of automobiles and had no intention of buying one that day, and said so up front. I visited 8 dealerships. The tactics used ranged from no pressure to that thing where they bring their boss out to explain how financing a larger sum over a longer period means more security and doesn’t feel like more debt.

During one test drive a few days earlier I had decided that kind of car wasn’t for us. When I said I was not interested in this car, the salesman actual asked, “Why the h— did you drive my car then?” How else would I know if I I liked it or not? Isn’t it his job to try to put me with inventory he has that might fit my needs? We left without buying.

By the end of the day we had settled on one kind of car we wanted, and had seen a few of them.

We went to one of the places that had the model, features, and price we wanted. It was not a high pressure place. They post one price, and that’s it. When they came back with the total number package, and I wanted to haggle over my trade in value, they simply said, “We don’t negotiate.” When they say one price, they mean it.

It was a low pressure, pleasant experience.

What makes this different?

They didn’t try to talk me into anything. They let me decide for myself. They laid out what they offered, and simply left the decision up to me. It wasn’t adversarial. They had helpful sales people to answer questions. No hard feeling if I walked away.

The result of the search? We bought a car we liked, at a fair price, from a place that treated me like a guest, not the next sale.

How do we treat those who come into our lives?


I am continually reminded of how blessed we are at my church.

Today I got an email from a friend at another church that is laying off people, cutting pay and benefits. He lost his immediate supervisor, and the entire media and creative staff structure has shifted.

Oh, we have our challenges. I have gear that’s so old it is literally dying a little more every week. This weekend the “Color Black” on the switcher became purple. I hear purple is the new black, but not in video production. Our gear is old, 2 decades old. But we at least have a plan to replace it, and a likelihood.

I am not looking at laying off anyone. Our giving is equal to last year, and since we kept the budget the same, that means we will make it through like last year.

Anything can happen, but we work in a pretty safe environment. We get to do some great, fun stuff. And work with some amazing people. I am truly blessed.

Magazines: Are they done?

I just got a copy of the September Macworld magazine. I have not even opened it yet. Just based on the cover I am wondering how they stay in business in this new model of information distribution.

The primary title on the page is “iPhone 3GS, Full Review: Apple’s Speedy Smartphone”. What exactly are they going to tell me that I have not already read on any number of internet sites? this is a tech magazine, surely they know and have even posted themselves, that the 3GS has been reviewed thoroughly.

The rest of the cover stories are somewhat better. There is a lab test and rating of the new Macbooks, something you can find online, but maybe not in this detail. An article about why you should upgrade to the 3.0 software for iPhone, again something you can find elsewhere but not with their spin. And something about trouble with the App store, intriguing. There are a couple more reviews mentioned; Safari 4 and home media servers.

If I was in charge of a tech magazine, I would focus on the content that sets that publication apart, the content that you can’t get anywhere else. I would never try to make a review of a piece of hardware that is already months old be the main story in the issue, on the cover. If it’s already online, leave it out.

Print publishing has to change if it wants to survive. Even then, I have my doubts about the viability of paper magazines.

Mickey’s Commandments #10: Keep it up

Part 10 in a 10 part series on Mickey’s Commandments as presented by Michael Lingerfelt, former Disney “imagineer”, in a recent conference.

10. Keep it up.

Maintain it. Right now if you go to Magic Kingdom you may be disappointed because Space Mountain is closed for remodeling. One of the store fronts on Main Street USA is covered over (in a very attractive way) while Disney works to keep the appearance and safety up.

The upkeep of what you have is critical, because while people who have been around a while may not notice something that’s broken or faded, for new people part of their first impression is the state of repair of your facility. Our church is over two decades old. There are a lot of things we should update, and will very soon.

When talking about this commandment, Michael Lingerfelt said something very interesting:

“Spend an extra dollar now, you will get a $6 return over it’s life.”

This goes to the heart of stewardship. How can we best utilize the resources available? Less expensive isn’t always better. Sometime less expensive means cheap. I have adopted the philosophy of spending that says if you can’t tell the difference, get the cheaper one. If you can tell the difference, get the better one, regardless of price.

Almost 20 years ago someone at First Orlando did the right thing. They bought a great quality broadcast capture system. I don’t know how much they spent, but we have state-of-the-art broadcast equipment for 1989. As a testimony to how good it is, we can still use it today to get a good quality picture. It’s old, and dying, but for over 19 years this equipment has helped us broadcast to tens of thousands of homes in the Orlando area every week.

As we look at replacing this gear with new HD broadcast equipment, we are taking a page from their book. While we are not buying the most expensive equipment available, we are buying top level, high quality broadcast gear from professional manufacturers. There are many kinds of gear that can do basic HD capture, but they are not true broadcast quality. Because we know we want this new gear to last a long time, and work without failure, we will replace our TV cameras and switchers with professional products. As it turns out, we are going to be able to get a great deal on this, too.

If Lingerfelt is to be believed (and I do believe him), paying a little more now for high quality equipment will save us a lot of time, money, and trouble over the next few years.

When looking at replacement or new purchases, can you tell the difference? If so, buy the better one. In the long run, it will save you more than any extra cost.

Excellence= b(t+r)

My church, like many, has excellence included in their core values: “Excellence in all we do.” I’ve seen some of the things we do. I have, at times, been dissatisfied with work from my areas of responsibility. How can we claim to pursue excellence and sometimes deliver less than stellar quality?

Excellence is something I work hard to achieve. It is extremely important to me to do everything I do for God as good as I can do it. Excellence is not perfection. Sometimes, it’s pretty far from perfect. The key to understanding the difference between God-honoring excellent workmanship and perfection is how we define excellence:

Excellence = b(t+r)
Excellence is doing the best you can with the time and resources available.

I used to beat myself up over mistakes and flaws in my work. I used to get so frustrated at videos that were not quite right. If only I had better lights. Or any lights. A better camera would have helped. Another week to fix it in post could have made it so much better. If I could just learn to do it better.

OK, I still beat myself up over mistakes. I still want to do better. But I understand that when I do the best I can with the time and resources available, I do not dishonor God with that work.

Last week I showed 3 different versions of the same video because I kept tweaking them during each service. Why? I was out of time before the first one showed. There were a few changes I felt I needed to make, but ran out of time in the week to finish. The first video was fine, but could have been better. So, I tweaked, and then retweaked, with the final video being better than the first two… slightly.

I have served where we did not have a lot of resources; where resourcefulness ruled the day. Not everything we tried worked. we did our best, but we were limited. We did the best we could in the time we had with what was available. The quality of our work was not as good as it could have been under different circumstances, but it was the best we could do.

In both situations, God was honored by our workmanship. We did the best we could in the time we had with what we had. those efforts were not perfect, but they were excellent.

Ministry Marketing Schizophrenia & Silos

Phil Cooke has an interesting take on Ministry Marketing.

The symptom I want to highlight is the 2nd; Divided and Conquered Syndrome:

When a Christian organization sees its ministry and its marketing as separate things, that schizophrenia often grows into (or out of) an even more fractured environment. Turf warfare is tragically commonplace in Christian organizations.

In these ministries, not only have marketing and ministry come to be regarded as separate things, but each function – each department, each office – has evolved into a miniature “state” all its own. Frustration runs high, efficiency runs low; quantity and quality of ministry suffer. Let’s have a big meal together and recommit to each other and the overall mission.

I have heard this kind of situation described as “siloed” ministry. Where each separate area does it’s own thing. I sat in one meeting at a church that was fighting this syndrome, and watched two different ministry areas that had each scheduled a Father/Son Camp-out on different weekends of the same month stare each other down over who was going to cancel their event.

How can a church be good stewards when they waste time and energy duplicating or competing with other ministry’s programs?

The key component, I have found, to prevent this kind of separation is a leader who casts strong, clear vision. And a team that comes together to accomplish that vision. Then it’s not about what event my area did, it’s about how many people we reached for Christ, about how people’s lives were changed.

So What Happened When We Killed the Magazine?

A while back I wrote about how we communicated a change to our congregation. I promised I would let you know how it went.

The change was moving from a print magazine to an online “news” section of our new website. We printed about 10,000 copies, and mailed 8,000 out every two months. The print and mailing cost was almost $40,000 annually, with postage prices on the rise. It took 25% of one of my staff member’s time to design it. Every indication we have about print is that more and more people are turning to electronic delivery for information. We made arrangements to print out a dozen or so copies of the stories and have them available for people that refused to view them online. Our welcome centers have computers which can be used to view our website.

Plus, we had just launched a new website that could handle the needs of an electronic “news” section. The amount of information we could release, compared to a bi-monthly magazine, would more than quadruple. And the response is immediate; click here, register now, find out more right away. There’s no need to put down a paper magazine and go to the phone or computer to take action. You can take action right then.

So, we pulled the trigger. We communicated the change and our last issue was all about the change to the online format. The bulletin had my contact information so I could take any questions or complaints. While we heard several stories of people that expressed sadness at the loss of a nice magazine, they understood and agreed with the reasons for the shift.

To date, my office has received only 5 real complaints. One was from a very angry 80-year-old that called me personally. She was very upset until I reminded her she could get the same content at the welcome centers if she wanted it. Two were from people that work in the print industry.

The news section of the site has seen excellent traffic. At one point, every two days we were seeing 8000 unique visitors which is as many addresses we used to mail magazines. we are still in the “new” phase of the website, so I don’t want to say this kind of traffic is what we can continue to expect, but the content is being read.

5 complaints out of 8,000 subscribers. I can live with that.