by Terry WilhiteMany churches go about putting together a multimedia ministry like I put together toys on Christmas Eve. I look at the box to get a concept of the big picture. I pour out all the widgets on the carpet and then begin to assemble them to resemble the picture on the box, only to get to the end of the process and discover, oh my, there's "stuff" leftover and well, it's back to square one. My wife, in contrast, is a real pro at assembly. Her secret is to first send me to the shed to look for a special tool and while I'm there, she looks at the picture on the box, reads every detail of the instructions and by the time I've returned with the tool, she has the toy perfectly assembled for Christmas morning.
Tim Eason says when it comes to launching a multimedia ministry, too many entrepreneurial saints look at the "picture on the box"-in this case, what the mega churches have done or maybe what a church across town has accomplished-and say, "that's neat, let's do that here"-only to meet with resistance from the finance committee, the church leadership, or worse yet, the entire congregation. Eason has written the instruction manual for launching and implementing an effective multimedia ministry that can save you a lot of pain and duress. In Media Ministry Made Easy (2003, Abington Press), this self-proclaimed "media missionary" is smart to deal with the "whys" before he tackles the "hows."
"Pastors may spend hours praying and preparing for a message, which became only a vague memory the day after it was delivered," Eason says. Then he offers proof: "Do you remember last week's sermon? I ask this question at my seminars and seldom get more than two or three people who can remember the sermon topic from a few days earlier. What is even more disappointing is that those two or three people are the pastors that preached the sermons," he says with a smile.
Eason says one must learn to speak the language of his audience. "Media are the language of our culture," he says. And Eason, who has his P.K. (pastor's kid) certification, is helping ministers and worship leaders nationwide bridge the digital divide.
"The language of media is foreign to many pastors who may have not been exposed to this method of communication in their training. If the church wants to reach new generations of believers, it must learn to speak this new language fluently," he stresses.
Unfortunately, not nearly enough technology advocates in ministry begin with Eason's spiritual perspective. "When the members of your church understand the spiritual motivations for using media, the major fears and objections about starting a media ministry will be quieted," he asserts. "I would personally rather attend a small church striving for spiritual maturity than a large church that is merely' a cool place to go,'" he writes.
Eason says effective multimedia begins with the pastor. "If the pastor does not fully grasp the potential of using media to equip the church and enhance the worship experience, then the media ministry will be doomed to mediocrity." But, he adds, if the pastor does have a good understanding of how ministry can help transform people and disciple them, success is just around the bend.
Having laid a solid spiritual foundation and stressed a need for a clear vision for a media ministry, Eason then takes readers through an entertaining look at what equipment they'll need and how to bring people and technology together during a worship service. He even briefly addresses copyright law. That's Section One. Section Two deals with graphics. By the way, he is quite a pro at design and markets his own worship graphics. Section Three deals with PowerPoint and also shows you how similar software, designed exclusively for ministry, offers features such as "on demand" Scripture and song projection capabilities.
It doesn't take long to see that the potential for using the big screen for worship can (and should) be more exciting than static slides. Eason in Section Four deals with video. He includes a checklist of the skill sets needed. "Substandard productions will only distract from the message, while videos that show creativity and attention to detail will communicate volumes of information in a way no other medium can," he says.
With his book, Eason practices what he preaches. He has created an accompanying DVD with free demos of software he mentions and he offers examples of what that software, with a little patience, spiritual direction, training, creativity, and vision, can accomplish.
In my opinion, Eason has developed a resource that anyone looking to begin a multimedia ministry must have, and those now who have "parts left over on the carpet" after assembly will find this more useful than the toy instructions on Christmas Eve. You can order it on-line for$25 at www.churchmedia.net.