Friday, December 16, 2005

Idea for a new TV ministry...

My previous post mentioned that ABC is starting a program where people will be able to submit sermons (among other things) for a show ABC is developing. This got me to thinking this morning about the costs of television ministry. I will come out and say it, TBN causes as much or more harm as it does good in my opinion. In fact, with the amount of money some of the executives and pastors on TBN make, it's hard to believe they can maintain their .org status on the internet, because someone sure is profiting. (granted, there are a few "keepers" on TBN)

I wonder if a collection of churches across the USA could pool together their resources and buy a time slot like infomercials do. I think initially this would have to be like the infomercials where the content provider pays for the programming. My guess is that there might come a point where the ad revenue from this period (assuming they can get a "prime" infomercial time - Saturday afternoon?) would make the shows profitable for the network, to the point where at least the network would consider not charging as they do for the church programming. If you had 60 churches who were willing to do this, that would require each of those churches to pay for 6 weeks a year. I don't know what that cost would be, and if that is too much you just continue adding churches until it becomes affordable. Perhaps some churches could afford more, and they purchase two slots (12 weeks) of programming.

Many large churches are already using high quality video and sound recording, so the cost there would be low presumably.

The manpower to get this off the ground would also not be all that large. 1 or 2 people working on this could pull this together. I would think you would want one person to work on acquisition and review of content, and another who would do scheduling and technical work (editing etc.) as needed. Because churches could choose from the full catalog of sermons previously preached (that they have recorded at the levels needed, and of course this would depend on how dated the illustrations in the sermons are) you would not have to necessarily wait for new materials. This could be an "all-star" sermon collection, the best of the best from each church.

I would watch this. I don't watch a lot of TV, but I would go out of my way to watch this, and I would guess many other Christians would too. With the advent of TiVO and DVR's many people could/would watch them that way too. I also think this would have to be attractive to some businesses advertising wise, which is where I think this could eventually become a revenue producing program (therefore no cost to ministries). Maybe I'm wrong, but I sure would love to see something like this happen. Heck, I sure would like to have the job of acquisition of the sermon material.

A side benefit of this would be at least for a period, we could draw some viewership away from the circus that is TBN.

What are your thoughts? Know of something I am over looking that makes this impossible (don't say cost)? Would you watch this? Anybody you would think might be interested in this?


Ron said...

An alternative to TBN is definitely needed. On more than one occasion I've had to spend time explaining to some sincere but misguided church members why their favorite TV preacher(ette) was not exactly the model of Biblical faithfulness.

I like the overall idea, but see some possible speed bumps.

Mega-churches that are already currently broadcasting their services on Sunday mornings probably wouldn't participate. They already have deals with various networks.

For the churches that did participate, some type of screening would have to be done on which sermons made it to the air. To be blunt, some preachers are just plain too boring to put on the air. (I know I've delivered my share of snoozers.) How do you deal with supporting churches that want to air poorly prepared sermons? The guy who's job it is to handle this is not someone I would envy. ;)

Is it denomination specific? To avoid the kind of doctinal problems that currently plague TBN, it would almost have to be.

These are all my completely uneducated opinions, as I have no experience in media at all. But if properly implemented, it sounds like a great idea.

Chris Meirose said...

With the mega-churches, it would depend on their contracts, but I'm not thinking of just the Willow Creek Churches, but the Eagle Brook's (Lino Lakes, MN), or Wooddale Churches (Leith Anderson's church in Eden Prairie, MN). Or John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis (coincidently, all 3 of these churches are Baptist General Conference). Many of these churches are recording their services, but not broadcasting them anywhere. And honestly, it wouldn't have to be a mega-church, they just tend to be the ones with the resources in both equipment and in finances.

As for screening, I did refer to one of the "employees" of this program as a screener. Ideally someone at the local church goes through that church's catalog and would send off 10-12 potential sermon tapes, and then the screener could choose from those. If they weren't up to standard, screener asks for some other ones. As for being the one who handles telling people their sermons are up to standard, that's the type of thing I have no problem doing! You state the standard of excellence up front, prior to the submissions, and it removes a lot of issues. You stick to your guns when push comes to shove, maintaining final editing and selecting control outside of the original ministry.

As for denomination specific, yes and no if I was in charge. There are some groups that might have a tough time cracking my rotation for issues about some of their theology. I'm sure there would have to be some set of constraints, but I wouldn't say a single denomination. Off the top of my head I can name people who would make the cut in Baptist General Conference, Southern Baptist, Wisconsin Synod Lutheran, Evangelical Covenant, Evangelical Free, North American Baptist, Non-Denominational, Sovereign Grace, Calvary Chapel, Christian Missionary Alliance, and probably some others if I gave it more than a moments thought. And those are just pastors I know off the top of my head, on a personal (or somewhat personal) level.

But great questions. Obviously this likely will be an idea that dies slowly and quietly on this blog, but it's fun to think! I'm game to give it a try if anyone wants to finance me :-)

Big Chris

Ant said...

Something like that would be great. If it was going to happen it really would have to come from your side of the pond. The church in the UK is a lot smaller and has less finance. But unfortunately some of the TV stuff is beginning to find its way over here. Not many people watch it, but there is a 'God' channel, but its full of all the wacky stuff that people think of when you think 'televangelist'. Most people here (Christians and non Christians) dismiss it as (sorry about this) 'American' and pay little attention to it. I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if you tried to appeal to people as a channel having something that takes the bible seriously and is not into 'showmanship' and so on. If you (as in the US church) could pull it off, it would be brilliant. A lot of suspicions here would have to be overcome, but it would be good long term.

Chris Meirose said...

It would be a really neat ministry. I'm not sure I'm equipped at the moment to pull it off, but somewhere down the road I'd love to give it a go. I actually have contacts in at least a dozen or so very large churches who use technology well and might fit into this. Maybe it's just a dream. Only time will tell I guess. And on behalf of all the "normal" believers on this side of the pond, I apologize for the invasion of the shady televangelists. There are some great people on TV though, so it's sometimes worth sifting through the bad to find a good one.

Big Chris