Companion piece to CE Interview July 2011 issue
Worldwide Ministry Requires Communications Effort to Fit the Size
Angie McGregor is executive director of Communications for Abba’s House, a 5,000–member congregation in Hixson, TN. The church has not only a local and regional ministry, through its weekend services, but also a national and international missions and media ministry with Senior Pastor Dr. Ron Phillips. McGregor manages it all—a budget of more than a million dollars and one that accounts for 15 percent of the church’s annual income. This is her account of the communications function:
While some churches have two different departments relating to church media and broadcast media, our team is responsible for both. Church related media is focused on exposing our church to the local community and informing them about the events and ministry opportunities available at the church. We view local advertising as a supplement to personal lifestyle evangelism. When someone invites a coworker to church or an event, it is helpful if they’ve already encountered a billboard or commercial in the local theater or on the radio.
Media at Abba’s House includes audio, video and lighting (A/V/L) support for every system in every classroom and worship venue on our 255,000-square-foot campus. The media team is responsible for web design and management, social media, graphic design, and traditional media creation and placement as an in house ad agency (radio, television, print, direct mail, outdoor, theater).
We also provide support for major stage shows and conferences, mail services for the church and manage Abba’s House Bookstore and Café. Our technical services team also supports special events where our facility is rented by outside organizations and ministries.
The “go” function
Media through Ron Phillips Ministries (RPM), the national and international missions and ministry arm of the church, fulfills the Matthew 28 directive. We “go” physically by preaching crusades and sending mission and medical teams out into different countries. Currently we are supporting ongoing mission work in India, The Gambia, Guatemala, Brazil and the inner city and suburbs of the Tennessee Valley. We also support humanitarian relief that is already on the ground in countries that are rocked by natural disasters.
We also “go” through the use of television and radio. Our television program, “Ron Phillips from Abba’s House,” is broadcast many times each week on several different networks around the world. This broadcast which was started as a local outreach to the community now has an international outreach via satellites, cable networks and the Internet.
On any given weekend, 3,000 people will walk through the doors of our local church, but on Sunday morning during one television broadcast we have a potential audience of millions. Dozens will walk down the aisle each week in response to pastor’s message, but hundreds will call in, e-mail, or write letters in response to that broadcast. Our daily radio program, “CenterPoint,” is available on OnePlace.com, ronphillips.org and radio stations regionally.
We manage our calls, emails and letters in house with the assistance of volunteers from the church who lovingly minister to the people who contact us with wide ranging needs. Volunteers also assist with product creation and order fulfillment, run cameras, build sets, edit copy, run image magnification for worship services, close caption our television programs, and translate our services into Spanish. We have a volunteer pool of 375 people who donated more than 11,000 hours last year assisting with all things “media.”
Recruiting and training volunteers is an ongoing process in each division of our work.
My staff, six fulltime and six part-time, could <I>never<$> survive without the strong support of our volunteers. Our volunteers make ministry possible. If our church family did not donate its time and resources to this technology-based ministry, there would be no money left to pay for the high cost of broadcasting the love of Jesus around the world and communicating God’s love to our community.
Pastor Phillips is an active author for Charisma House Publishing. However we established the AH Publishing imprint for projects that were suited for our church and church-based outreach. Under the AH imprint we are releasing curriculum for use in small groups and for personal use, which includes five books, three study guides, and 10 topical booklets.
The budget for RPM is raised outside of the church’s annual budget through RPM Partners, donations, product sales, an auction and golf tournament. In 2010 the RPM and church media budget was $1,076,764, accounting for 15 percent of the church’s annual income. Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, the importance of dollars spent for media, marketing and technology, creativity and business management are the key to success.
Watching the numbers
Our business management processes are transparent. We can tell you what aired when, how much income each program generated, how much each element in an order costs, which station generated the most calls and when our income surpasses the cost of doing business. We do monthly accounting reconciliations and have checks and balances built in throughout all our processes. Measuring effectiveness of local advertising can be done through the website, bulletin, visitor cards, surveys, etc. However, measuring the success of a broadcast ministry is tricky. Months when the bottom right number is in red with a parenthesis around it, we still may say we had a successful month at RPM. Why?
There is no cost analysis for a soul saved, or depression lifted, or suicide averted, or marriage restored. Some months, the ministry calls may be 4 to 1 over calls that have a dollar figure attached to them. It is at those times that the pastor and I ask the Lord to stretch our faith and believe that He will send resources another way. On Wall Street that type of business model wouldn’t hold up very long, but for 26 years, Ron Phillips Ministries has been walking step by step, measuring what can be measured and trusting the Lord to measure what we cannot.
Pastors and Christian executives wrestling finances in this turbulent world economy may be unable to see the value of a camera, or timeslot on a local television station, or an updated website and an employee paid to keep it fresh and interactive. Let me encourage you to embrace the technology. Keep the advertising line item in your budget and use it wisely to reach as many people as possible.