Phil Cooke: Success in Media Ministry Requires Momentum

Joel Osteen
Joel Osteen's television ministry has grown by leaps and bounds through hard work and commitment. (Facebook)

Pastors and ministry leaders come to me from time to time and ask an interesting question: "Do for me what you did for Joel Osteen." Apparently, they think it's easy.

But whenever I've worked with people like Joel Osteen, Billy Graham, Joyce Meyer, Jack Graham, and others—or big organizations like The Salvation Army, Stella's Voice, or The American Bible Society, it wasn't me doing something magic—it was give and take, commitment, time, and a lot of creativity from our team and theirs—not to mention the ministry leaders themselves.

But too many pastors who want to be on TV today think it's a just a matter of buying better cameras, lighting the sanctuary better, or creating a more interesting show open. Let me tell you what it takes:

The whole package. That means new lights in the sanctuary alone won't make you successful on television. New cameras? Same thing. Look at the process for a minute:

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Production Quality: We start here because in a high definition world, nobody wants to watch a bad looking program. So we look at the quality of cameras, and where they're placed in the sanctuary. Then we look at lighting, because even the best cameras don't work without proper lighting. Then what about the stage? Is it helping you or hurting you? Is it distracting from or supporting your message?

Creativity: How do we capture your message? Directing isn't randomly cutting between cameras; it's an art. Cutting and dissolving to a director are like periods and commas to a writer. They're the visual grammar that make the scene work. Is the directing distracting, or is it invisible so the message cuts through? Editing is equally important. The show open and close are critical. What about shooting the audience? How you show the audience is incredibly important to the success of your program.

Response: Do you want your TV audience to respond? What if they want to find out more? What if they'd like to accept Christ? What if they love your vision and message and want to support you? Do you have the pathways for them to connect? Remember that it's not about how you want to connect with them, it's about how they want to connect with you. So you should have a strong response strategy through social media, online, phone, and mail. (Yes—the vast majority of fundraising still happens through snail mail.)

Training: Who's going to run those cameras, set the lights, direct the program, edit the show, or manage your response?

Media Buying: Where should you broadcast your show? Local, national? What about religious stations versus secular stations? How fast should you grow?

Marketing: How will people know about your program once it's on the air? Secular networks spend millions advertising new shows, but since you don't have that budget, what are you doing to find your audience?

The list goes on and on, and I've not even gotten around to spiritual issues, or your identity, calling or your messagewhat you preach and how you preach it.But the bottom line is what our team does for many major pastors and leaders is complicated, and it takes commitment to make it happen. It also takes time—and if you haven't noticed, TV is also expensive.

You may think it's not worth the effort, and so you keep doing what you're doing—shooting, editing, and broadcasting your local show the way you've always done it.  But believe me, over the long haul, doing it poorly is much more expensive that doing it right.

The question is, are you ready to make the kind of commitment that creates momentum in the media?

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