Lightning Round Highlights
Helpful Tech Tools // YouTube/Vimeo
Ministries Following // Elevation Church Charlotte, NewSpring Church in South Carolina
Influential Book // “Start with Why.” By Simon Sinek, “Die Empty” and “The Accidental Creative” by Todd Henry
Inspiring Leader // Bob Goff
What does he do for fun? // Antiquing and Paint Balling!
Interview Transcript //
Rich – Alright everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Happy Thursday, hope you’ve had a great week because you kind of countdown to this weekend at your church. Today, we’ve got a real treat, a church leader that I met years ago who’s a real expert in the area that we’re talking about today. So, I’m excited for this. We’ve got Steven Murphy on the line today. Steven, welcome to the show.
Steven – Thank you very much for having me. This is awesome.
Rich – I’m so glad you’re here. We bumped into each other a few years ago when you were at a previous engagement, when you were working at Sea Coast which was a great experience. Sea Coast is a great church. Currently, you work at Joyce Myers Ministries. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background, give us the Steven Murphy story.
Steven – The nutshell side of it is that I got into television when I was actually a full time, hardly full time, just high-capacity volunteer in youth ministry and we actually toyed with the idea of doing a public access show for teens. Me and one of the other guys went done and took an eight-hour training course at the cable company. With those eight hours of training, you were then authorized to use their stuff. Honestly, that show never came to fruition but that was the kick-starter that what became a hobby and then ultimately a career and that’s been over 25 years that I’ve been in television production. I’ve did a lot of live sports when I was living in Phoenix Arizona, traveled all over the world doing that for all the big networks. Then in about 2004/2005, my wife and I just got to a point we said, “How can I take what I’ve always done with TV and video into the church world.” I took my first church gig in 2005 and worked for a couple big churches, as you mentioned Sea Coast was one of them.
How’s this for a segue? In my church experience was tasked with putting together video announcements. What started off as, “What do you want? What are we doing with this?” became a passion of, “Alright, how do we do this well? How can we use this medium to the best and just communicate well?” That’s why it became a passion for me. I don’t want to just phone this in. I want to do it well.
Rich – Right. You know it’s so funny, the video announcement thing, I think in the last few years and again you’re the expert on this but it seems like over the last even five years, it’s become a more and more standard practice in churches. A lot of churches are doing video announcements. Is that your impression as well?
Steven – Very much so, in fact I tweeted a crack that video announcements have kind of become the church clip-art of 1990’s. Sadly, I feel like so many churches are doing video announcements because all the other churches are doing video announcements. I think that’s where it kind of degrades a little bit. It’s like, “We’re the last church that’s not doing them. We should do them.” I think churches jump into them with little or no research, little or no expertise on their staff. To me, that is one of those areas where it’s like this is part of the first impression that visitors are getting of your church. For that matter, I’m a metaphor guy and when I look at a church service, I look at it as real estate and that you’ve got about 60 to 90 minutes to use well. First of all to foster an environment where people can encounter the power and presence of our God and secondly, to really give them a postage stamp version of what the life of your church looks like. So, it just kind of grates on me when I see churches dive into that haphazardly and take 3 to 5 minutes of very valuable real estate and misuse it. That’s the part that kind of gets me, “Come on. You can do better.”
Rich – It’s funny, last spring, I was on a missions trip, a clean-water (our church does a lot of stuff with that kind of clean-water efforts around the world) and had the privilege of taking a team to Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. On the Thursday night, we had an incredible privilege; we got to go to Thursday night church just outside of Granada in Nicaragua. We pulled up. It was a great service. I speak about as much Spanish as I do Russian; I don’t speak every much at all but, it was a wonderful experience. The whole was just great. It’s interesting, we’re out in this kind of a barn of a facility, it was really nice super-well-kept but not a fancy location but in the middle of all that, here was video announcements. This church had found we actually knew the guy who uses a little camcorder and pulls together video announcements every week at their church. I was like clearly the video announcement thing is wide-spread.
Why don’t we dig into it? What are some of things that when you talk about some of the things that go wrong in video announcements or some of the things that kind of pit-falls maybe a church should avoid when they think about video announcements.
Steven – Like I was saying, I feel like a lot of churches just dive in, feeling like they’re behind so they just go for it with little or no plan. I’m very much a why-guy. Read a good book about a year and a half ago called Start with Why and it really helped crystalized my thoughts on, “Okay, this is what makes sense. You can’t just read the bulletin for 5 minutes.” I think if you’re going to go with video announcements, then you’ve got to start thinking visually. You can’t just move a talking-head from a podium to a screen. That’s what I think really one of the first things that happens is, “We just read the bulletin and we put it on video.” Then, you’re not really maximizing what that medium is good for. Be visual.
You were just talking about mission trips. Well, it’s one thing to stand up and say, “We’ve got a great mission trip coming up to Nicaragua. It’s in six weeks. If you want to go, you should sign up.” You haven’t really communicated other than a date and time. Give people a reason why you are going. Give them a reason why your church is passionate about serving the people of Nicaragua and then mix in some photos or some video from the last time you went. For that matter, I’m very much a fan of story; get a quick 30-second synopsis from somebody who was on the last trip. Obviously, they’re going to speak very passionately about what that trip meant to them and why they’re going back. These are the things that are going to wet people’s appetite more than just calendar fodder. I think very much in our churches, we’re very much about what. We’ve got plenty of stuff to do but we rarely give the why. We rarely give the reasons why our church is giving things like this time and the calendar space to happen.
Second to that, if you really want to do video announcements, identify somebody on your staff or start thinking about a hire. One of things that that’s really occurred to me lately was that you wouldn’t just grab somebody off the street and say, “Hey, why don’t you lead worship in our service. I don’t know anything about your background or your skill but this is just something that we really want to do.” I feel like that’s one of the things that happens in churches. “You know the youth guy, he knows a little bit about video.” Well, that youth guy is probably really strapped in his schedule and now you’re putting this on his plate. You go in without a plan. You go in without any real long-view as to what things look like for the next 6 months and you start them.
Rich – In our world, we do video announcements every week. I think our guys do a really good job just to underline a couple things there. We don’t want to just transfer the talking -head thing, like we had one person just standing up there. We want to actually show as much, (the term I’d heard used before) the B-roll or footage from, actually seeing things happen. Let’s actually illustrate what it’s like to be in this whatever event or that you’re promoting. Obviously it’s a little of a bottom-less pit like television commercials are 30 seconds long and they can take half a year to put together. What would a rule of thumb do you think that a church when they think about how long it might take between shooting and editing to pull together a decent video announcement?
Steven – I think that the reasonable time-frame is a good day and a half. That’s just because, I look at that you’re usually talking about a four-day work week (and I hope that churches either given their staff a Monday or a Friday off) that you’re really trying to cram a whole lot into that four days. So, you’ve got a day’s worth of work as far as planning, scheduling, shooting and then the edit and I would always throw out that you’ve got to throw in a little extra that I hope that somebody gets to review that things and you may have to go back in and do a reedit, tweak something before you actually kick it out and have it ready for the weekend. That’s just one of those things to where I just don’t think a lot of leadership knows what it takes to put together a video. It’s like, “What? It’s just 2 minutes, how hard could it be?” There are a lot of hours that come out to making that 2 to 3 minute video and it’s not so easy. It’s just tedious and time-consuming at times.
Rich – I found that part of my role has been internally, trying to communicate with people when they ask for video stuff from our video guys to just articulate how long that takes. Coming up with some sort of calculation that’s like, “Well, if the video’s going to be 3 minutes long, generally, it’s 3 hours per finished minute so that’s going to take 9 hours work for us to do.” Every editors going to be a little bit different and very situations going to be a little different but it’s good to kind of figure out what that is because a lot of times people all they see is the finished product and it actually takes longer than you’ve ever anticipate it taking. What else should we be thinking about when we think about video announcements?
Steven – One of the things that occurred to me in the last year, even though I’m out of having to do it week to week, I just like to watch and see what’s happening out there. The propensity to have a boiler-plate section, do a search on YouTube or Vimeo for church video announcements and you’ll find this in 90% of them, “Hi, welcome to Such-and-such Church. We’re so glad to see you this weekend. If you could take a moment and please fill out the visitor card, it’s in the seat in front of you and drop it in the…” Okay. We get that part. To me, that’s something that should actually come from a human. I think that we again started to look at video announcements as this weird catch-all for those kinds of things. I would just much rather see that from a pastor or a staff member that’s up on stage and right in front of the people. Video is a great way to get messages across, it’s a great way to be visual but, something like that to me should be more personal. That’s should come from a human right in front of you that’s making you feel welcome as a new person or as maybe somebody who hasn’t been at church for a year. Save that real estate for actually announcements, save that time for making things stick.
Again, you mentioned mission trips, that is one of those things that I think that is a great medium because you can be so visual with. At Sea Coast, we had this on-going relationship with Habitat for Humanity that we had teams going out on a regular basis. Don’t just give a date. I grabbed one of the guys and said, “Let’s go shoot on the site.” Just the location itself becomes a part the announcement. You’ve got 2X4’s and hammering and nailing and stuff going on behind and that to me is all the more enticing than just somebody giving dates and times. Let the medium work for you instead of just, “We know that video announcements is 3 minutes this week and here it is.” Then, everybody down the line is just kind of phoning it in and my heart goes out to the video guy who’s got to make that work every week.
Rich – Have you kind of encouraged churches or seen churches, they might get into a regular pattern and then take a break. We’ve done this actually two weeks ago; we didn’t have any announcements at all. I remember in the Monday meeting going into that next weekend, I was like, “Yeah, there’s no announcements this weekend at all,” and people were like, “What?” I was like, “Yeah.”
Steven – “Can we do that?”
Rich – “Are we allowed to do church without it?” I said, “Listen, I want times in our schedule where we just are not constantly shilling for stuff and give a bit of break, a bit of a breather, a bit of a Salem-moment.” Obviously, the same is true with video announcements, right? Taking a break every once and while is a good thing just to kind of keep it fresh.
Steven – Absolutely, I’m all in favor of, I always call it, going dark. If you don’t have some real meaty things that you need to promote that week, then go without. I dare say if you did an exit poll of people walking out of your church, “Did you miss video announcements?” “Didn’t even think about it.” I think that all too often our video announcements may end up being way too internally-focused. “That one ministry really wants their thing on.” I remember one time, we didn’t have anything going on and I was asking around. I was like, “You got anything?” This one guy said, “We’ve got a financial seminar.” I remember thinking, “I can’t make that real visual. That’s the only thing that we have? That’s going to be tough.” I don’t think that your service will suffer any if you go without for one week.
Rich – That speaks to connecting to the broader communications strategy, right? Like you said earlier, you let the why drive first. Why are we doing this? What piece does this play? How does this fit into the overall mix? What piece of our strategy does this fulfill? Let that be the preeminent thing rather than, “Okay, we need to fill a time-slot. Let’s watch paint drying in the senior’s room because we have to.”
Steven – They think that they just get this kick that, “We have to have video announcements this week.” I’m never going to be a proponent of that, to do it just because you can. You’re wasting somebody’s time.
Rich – Are there churches that you think do a particularly great job, if people want to look at or kind of explore what other people are doing, who would you point them in the direction of that you think do a great job on video announcements?
Steven – The real easy one right off the top of my head is Elevation Church in Charlotte and they post their stuff on Vimeo. They blow everybody out of the water. Early on, one of the big sparks for me is that I went to a service at North Point in Atlanta and they do a phenomenal job. They do a 10-minute announcement thing that starts well before the service but that’s because they’ve got full seats and a captive audience and an amazing team. Elevation just has really done a great job of capturing the story element and just really telling what the church is doing on an ongoing basis as opposed to, “Here’s a thing coming up.” It’s like, “Look what your money has been doing. Look what your involvement is doing in changing our community.” It’s a great unifier in a church like that that’s got a good dozen sites that really shows people what that church is all about. I’m just a big fan of that. When you switch it from calendar fodder to, “This is our DNA, this is what our church is about,” I think that’s something that’s just got teeth as opposed to just spouting dates and times all the time.
Rich – Definitely, is there anything else that you want to share with our listeners before jump into the lightening round?
Steven – Yes, honestly it’s just, be strategic. Figure out what you want that thing to look like and not just this week. What do we want the next 6 months to look like or the next year to look like to where you’re really maximizing what that medium can do for your church instead of just spouting calendar, instead of just taking up several minutes. It just cracks me up sometimes when I come across video announcements that are 7 and 8 minutes long. That to me says, “This is a church with no strategy whatsoever.” Pick the top 2 or 3 items that you really think are going apply well to your church and then go after them with a fever that says, “We want to tell this story. We want to really sell this to our people in a way that lets them know, this is what our church is about.”