Reach farther and engage deeper in the digital age. Why becoming a media church is essential for churches seeking long-term success.
The landscape of the church is transforming. Traditional Sunday services and community outreach models are grappling with attracting new generations and making a lasting impact in an increasingly digital world. Amidst this challenge, the media church emerges as a beacon of hope. It offers a dynamic and engaging way to connect with audiences, foster faith, and create positive change.
I will share my thoughts on the church's direction in this article. Let me state, though, that I believe every church that wants to continue to grow and thrive needs to become a media church.
Media church does not involve abandoning traditional practices. Instead, it embraces modern technologies and platforms to amplify the core principles of faith. It is about recognising how people consume information and connect, which has fundamentally changed, and adapting our approach accordingly.
Before delving into the details, let me clarify what I mean by a "media church."
There are two primary ways to categorise churches. The first is by size. In the United States, for instance, a good guide would be:
Of course, these numbers would differ depending on where you live. They would be quite different in the UK where I live, but the four main categories would still apply.
However, "media church" does not refer to the size of a church. Any church, regardless of size, can be considered a media church.
How, then, am I using this term?
Churches can also be defined based on their "focus". You can think of a church that fits each of the following definitions:
Many churches today embody various elements such as community focus, outreach, social justice, and family impact.
My church, for instance, embraces many of these aspects rather than just having a single focus.
It is within this context that I use the term “media church”.
So, what exactly is a media church?
It's pretty simple: a media church is a church that uses media platforms and media content (video, audio, graphical, written, etc) to connect with people from all walks of life, regardless of where they are.
This innovative approach transcends the limitations of physical buildings and Sunday services, making it possible to reach a broader audience and foster deeper engagement.
Churches must embrace media to reach beyond their local congregation. Without it, they may struggle to have a lasting impact on the lives of their people. They may also find they have little or no effect beyond the church walls. This goes against the essence of what a church is.
Media has become essential to churches over the past few decades, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing an explosion in its use. Almost overnight, every church became a media church as it was the only way to survive.
However, since the end of the pandemic, many churches have either moved away from media entirely or taken a step back, trying to go back to "business as usual."
The world is using media in all its forms like never before. Consumption of online content and social media continues to rise.
Here are some statistics for you to consider. These are why becoming a media church is a must, as we will look at shortly.
Approximately 4.76 billion people use social media, almost 60% of the world's population. On average, a user spends 2 hours and 31 minutes on social media. The screen time for teenagers increased from 7 hours and 22 minutes in 2022 to 8 hours and 39 minutes in 2023.*
There are many more statistics that demonstrate this phenomenon. If you think this is solely a problem for young individuals, the following table will show you the impact of what I am stating:
You can see that social media significantly impacts our time, regardless of age.
I am not suggesting that becoming a media-focused church solves all problems. It is not valid. To thrive in the long run, your church needs to have a variety of focuses and facets. The most crucial is community, which is often lacking in a media-focused church.
Media can be isolating, which goes against the very nature of churches. Ideally, a church should be an inclusive community of individuals who aim to progress together in the same direction.
However, a community cannot be built solely through media.
Even if you know how to use media effectively and successfully develop a media-focused church, you still need other essential aspects to create a sense of community. Nonetheless, media can be beneficial in this regard, and understanding how to use it effectively will be crucial for the success and growth of your church in the future. Read more on this at "Who is your digital church?"
A media church is a church that embraces digital ministry and understands the importance of online connection with its members and the broader community. It goes beyond making resources available through websites, live streams, and other digital channels. Instead, it values and critically uses these resources to connect with people in a relevant and accessible way.
A media church realises the impact of media on people's lives and recognises the need for the church to have a voice in the marketplace. To achieve this, a media church has a clear vision for using media integrated into its mission and vision.
Media plays a critical role in shaping the narrative of society. Stories can change people's perceptions and perspectives, and journalists have been instrumental in bringing about radical change in society. As a church, we have an incredible story to tell, and the media provides a fantastic platform to tell it.
To transition into what we are calling a media church, it is essential to prioritise content creation. There are several types of content, such as audio, video, social, and written media, which can be utilised both online and offline. However, creating unique content for each of these formats is unnecessary. Instead, producing one piece of content and adapting it to multiple formats can be just as effective. By repurposing content, your church can achieve a more significant impact without creating an overwhelming amount of new content. Read more on re-purposing your content in "5 ways to get more from your online video content".
Making the content available in multiple forms is vital so people can access it how they want. If the church does not make its content available in various formats, the congregation may look for other sources that do, and the church's impact on their lives may be reduced.
There are some great examples of churches that are effectively using media to reach and engage people. One of the best examples is Holy Trinity Brompton, a Church of England congregation in the heart of London, where The Alpha Course was developed.
Since its inception in 1977, The Alpha Course has undergone several iterations. It has seen tremendous growth, with claims in 2018 that the course was running in over 100 countries and over 24 million people had taken it. The course is based on the simple premise of watching a series of different videos over several weeks and then discussing them. These videos have improved progressively over the years, BUT they were pretty average at the start. That did not stop the growth and momentum, though, as a strategy was behind them.
However, it is an excellent example of how a church with a clear strategy can use media to reach people and achieve a phenomenal outcome.
While some of these grand examples of churches using media may seem like something you want to aspire to, they may also seem out of reach for you. However, I want to encourage you to see things differently.
To become an influential media church, you should define the impact you want to have on people's lives and work diligently to serve that vision. Develop a sustainable strategy to produce content that consistently serves your audience, and you will grow in your impact.
I have a couple of resources that may be helpful to you. The first one is our Digital Ministry Assessment. If you recognise the importance of being a media church but don't know where to start, this assessment can help.
It will provide you with insights into how you are doing and where you can improve, and you can choose to receive a 22-page personalized report with practical tips to move you forward. The assessment is completely free.
The second resource is our regular weekly emails.
You can sign up to receive them every week in your inbox. These emails contain helpful insights that can encourage and guide you on your journey to becoming a media church.
Here is what Chris from the UK said about our weekly emails:
"These resources have been very helpful to me; thank you for the time and effort you put into creating those resources."
The most significant benefit of establishing a media church is positioning yourself for future growth. As the consumption of media continues to increase and AI becomes more prevalent, people will still seek honest, authentic, and human-generated content. By producing such content, the church can play a vital role in engaging and impacting people through media, leading to increased influence and growth.
Having a well-defined media strategy can help reach the congregation beyond the weekend and become an essential part of their daily lives. For more ideas, I recommend reading “Five Methods to Reach Your Church Audience Beyond Sunday,” for a more in-depth understanding, check out “Digital Ministry Unleashed: 5 Proven Strategies for Your Church.”
Moreover, being a media church can help expand your ministry beyond the local area and current demographics, allowing you to impact more people at a much-reduced cost. So, by thinking creatively and producing great content, your organisation can achieve growth and success beyond what you can accomplish in person.
Imagine the impact you could have on hundreds of people through online content that your current local church infrastructure would never be able to accommodate. Consider a scenario where one hundred new people show up at church on Sunday. While it would be a nice problem to have, the implications for your church might be a nightmare. Do you have enough seats, parking spaces, etc.? None of these considerations matters in Digital Ministry, meaning you can have a more significant impact as a media church.
There are two primary considerations to look at that might stop you from becoming a media church.
Firstly, if it takes your focus away from building community, that is why your strategy must be integrated into the overall mission and vision of the church. You must also have a “community building” aspect within your media church action plan. You can achieve both without compromising on either by holding the tension in these two areas.
Secondly, a lack of skills or the required knowledge to get going. This is an area where we can help.
I encourage you to take our Digital Ministry Assessment as a first step. By doing this, you will get help to see progress.
“Media Mentoring has provided an invaluable resource here that will offer you an instant diagnostic on the health of your digital ministry. Not only are you given helpful next steps to work on across five different areas, but you can also access additional support and advice if you want to take this further. Graeme and the team are experts, and through the assessment, church leaders get to have Graeme as a personal consultant, helping them make the most of the skills and resources they have in the context and roadmap for future impact.”
Also, I want to mention our Church Production Academy. Once it is clear that becoming a media church is for you, you should sign up for our Church Production Academy. This will provide regular and appropriate training for you and your teams to become more effective in the “how” of what they do.
Click on the image to find out more and sign up.
Media is an ever-growing field. For churches to thrive today, becoming a media church is crucial. This isn't a passing trend but a necessary adjustment to the changing communication landscape and community building.
Media allows churches to reach more people, foster deeper connections, and make a lasting impact on the world. Understanding media's potential and how to use it effectively is essential. That's why a great starting point is our Digital Ministry Assessment.
However, it's important not to compare your church to others. Every church is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Take inspiration from other churches, but stay true to your own identity.
If you want to thrive, you must embrace the power of media and become a media church.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Have you had any experiences with churches that are using media effectively?
Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let's continue the conversation!
*Stats are taken from: Tech Jury.