Not so long ago, it was a regular practice to gather the family around the television and switch on your favorite Monday night T.V. program. At one point, you may have rushed home to make sure you didn’t miss your 8 p.m. show! If you mention this concept to anyone in their 20s or younger, they may give you a perplexed look.
Television and the media aren’t consumed like it used to be. Instead of needing to rush to watch a show at a specific time, you can watch a show or movie wherever you want, whenever you want.
Media now adheres to our schedule, not the other way around.
There was also a time that churches operated under the same system. There was only a specific time, and a particular day you could go to church. If you missed out, you had to wait until the next week to attend. While tape recordings and CD-ROMs helped to capture missed content, church was still very much dependent on gathering at a specific time in one particular place.
The world has changed, and as with all significant technological shifts, the church must also be willing to change. This does not mean the church is stooping down to the level and whims of the world. It merely means that the church is ready to infiltrate culture for the sake of sharing the Gospel.
So what does this all have to do with Netflix?
Netflix has started a revolution in the ways we consume content. They have virtually eliminated all of the things we hate about cable: commercials, waiting a week for a new episode, and only being able to watch a show at a specific date and time.
The primary reason Netflix has seen so much success? Three words: video on demand. On-demand content was made famous by Netflix, and dozens of streaming services have followed suit.
As of last year, more Americans pay for streaming services, such as Netflix or Hulu, than they do cable television services.
Netflix has tapped into a growing number of people in the millennial generation who know what they want and want it now. This isn’t to say millennials are impatient, but it does speak to the reality that they are straight shooters: they don’t want to deal with all of the distractions and nonsense.
The instant gratification culture may seem like a negative thing, but let’s think about it for a moment: don’t we want to get right to the point when it comes to preaching the Gospel?
The Gospel is not a 12 step program to gain God’s favor. It is a simple decision to believe in Jesus.
The church doesn’t need any more formalities when it comes to people being in a relationship with God. When we preach what the first-century church preached (confess Jesus and believe God raised Him from the dead), we can reach a culture that is seeking simplicity.
How exactly can the church keep up with this on-demand world that Netflix and services like it have tapped into?
Watching your favorite show used to mean hunkering down in the family entertainment room and fighting over the remote. Now, with streaming services, you can view your shows anywhere with a WiFi connection and smart device.
Netflix gave its users the convenience of accessibility, meaning that their users can access their content on their T.V.s, laptops, tablets, desktop computers, and smartphones. They can watch on their subway commute to work or while waiting in a doctor’s office.
How are your congregants able to consume your content?
Can they only access your sermons and highlights on Sunday morning? There are many different ways your church members and potential members can access your content. One of the best ways you can do this is to invest in a high-quality website where anybody can access your church sermons and videos.
Another medium you can use to share your content is through social media. Setting up a YouTube channel is a great place to start and is easily accessible from anywhere. You can also share videos and sermon clips on Facebook and IGTV. The golden rule? Wherever the people are spending their time the most, that is where you will want to be.
Netflix does a great job of piquing viewers’ interest and keeping it. When you log on, you are often met with a preview of a new or trending show or movie. The option to stop watching the preview can occur when you choose something else to view, or you ultimately select the preview itself. Frequently, the preview of the latest show is so intriguing you may just decide it by default.
How can this concept relate to our church’s content?
Netflix is set up in a way that makes viewers want to see more. They give you a little taste of what a series or movie is about that hooks you and has you wanting more. The church can use this concept with our media as well.
A sermon trailer is a great way to pique the interest of your congregation and potential visitors. They can be created in a way that has the viewer wanting more. Through cinematic tools and the creativity of the Pro Media Fire digital team, you can share sermon previews that will have your audience wanting more.
Another way to keep viewers wanting more is through sermon jams. These short sermon clips highlight a short section of the sermon in a 1-3 minute clip. This clip can summarize the gist of the message and capture the attention of the audience. If you do this well, your viewers may even make a decision to view the entire message. Think of it as the trailer for a feature-length movie.
Streaming services do many things well, but no one does original series quite like Netflix does. It is one thing to binge-watch Breaking Bad or The Office for the 12th time, but Netflix has made a ton of original series available to their viewers. Stranger Things, Ozark, and Mindhunter, are just a few of the original series Netflix viewers have pined over the past few years.
Our society likes new, fresh, and original content. This presents an excellent opportunity for the church to flex their creative muscle and put out new and unique content.
This also allows the church to partake in the art of storytelling.
The church has the keys to the greatest story of all time! A story of triumph, the realities of the human plight, and the victory of an overlooked underdog. This is not a trending series on Netflix, it is the story of Jesus and His rescue of humanity!
The Gospel story is the most important story of all time and needs to be continuously shared in a relevant and new way. No matter what, the story of Jesus will withstand the test of time and transform generations to come. What the church can do is contribute to the effort of spreading this story through creativity and innovation.
We live in an era of “trends” - Twitter trending topics, viral memes, and even trending shows. Netflix has an elegant feature that suggests trending content - the videos and movies many people are watching and talking about videos and movies. Tapping into this culture can pave a way to 2 essential things: building relatability and building trust among our followers.
First, keeping up with trends says to our culture, “hey, we can have fun too!”
Almost daily, some viral meme or TikTok dance is circulating on social media. When a church is willing to partake in these trends and spin the trend and make it their own, it demonstrates to our culture that we care about what they care about. It shows to others that church doesn’t have to be rigid and unexciting - it can be fun and light- hearted.
On the flip side of this, keeping up with trends says to our culture, “hey, we care about the current events in our world.”
The topics of discussion that the church partakes in speaks volumes to what they value. These “trending topics” often dominate the dialogue on social media for weeks at a time. Sure, the church can choose to ignore these conversations and go about business as usual, but we then miss a vital opportunity.
The church is meant to be a conduit of change and hope in the world.
We are called to be a voice to the powerless and to love others as God has loved us.
To reach our lost world, we must be willing to join in on the conversation. We must use our voice, seasoned with grace, and speak into the issues of the world. This does not mean picking a political side or stirring up controversy, it merely means stewarding our call to reach the lost by meeting them where they are.
We cannot ignore the reality that the world we live in thrives on instant gratification, custom-tailored content, and convenience. The church has a unique opportunity to weave the Gospel message into easy to access, available-to-anyone content.
Consider how your church can contribute to the conversation in our on-demand world!
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