In October of last year I attended the Society of Adventist Communicators' annual conference. One session I attended discussed media professionals and their commitment to working for the church. Three groups of professionals emerged from this discussion. Group one were media professionals working in a secular market that contracted projects for the church. Group two were professionals employed by the church in various areas of media ministry. Group three were students soon to graduate, many interested in media careers working for the church.
To further explore the relationship between the church an media professionals I conversed with a few people representing these groups.
Larry Bothe, Technical Director of International Learning Systems, a video production company that does the majority of its work for the church spoke from his experience. "Seventh-day Adventist media students about to graduate should give serious and prayerful consideration to the possibility of church employment." He goes on to say "In this process they should research the church just as you would any potential employer. Do personality, skill-set, work habits and lifestyle fit jobs that the church offers? What about media positions the church currently does not have but really should? If so, graduating students must sell themselves and the new positions to church leadership. They must convincingly show that the church would be better off because of hiring them."
A key point that Mr. Bothe makes is that seeking employment in the church is a serious matter. The great commission in Matthew 28:19, 20 has long been a rallying cry that calls us to give our time to help spread the gospel to the world. Prayerful consideration should be given as to how best to answer this call.
Recently I communicated with Gary Burns, Communication Director for the Lake Union. He states that "the church is not in the business of being in business. There is a litany of economic disasters in our church's 'business' history. Rather than trying to set up all the professional services that would be employed to facilitate the spreading of the gospel, we should turn to our members with professional and business expertise to provide these services. The church can than contract for these services as needed. I believe it is unrealistic to think that hundreds or thousands of people trained in television production, graphic design, dramatic arts, etc., would be employed by the church.”
"Yet I could envision thousands of creative young people in the media business community, passionate about their love for Christ, making a difference in their world, and helping the church accomplish its mission.”
"In addition, the business community functions differently than an in-house department within an
institution. A lay operated business is more efficient, more competitive, more cutting edge, and
more flexible. It can accomplish things that are prohibitive within the church structure. Therefore, I encourage young people to dedicate their lives, their gifts and their talents to God while being salt and light in the business world. If they are called to serve the church as an employee (as I am) they should do so by encouraging, supporting, and utilizing the services of lay business as faithful stewards in their areas of responsibility."
I agree with much of what Mr. Burns has said, yet I must admit, there are hurdles to be overcome. Cesar Soto, a former co-worker of mine, often told me of his experience after graduating from Andrews University. Trying to get a job in Graphic Arts he looked up and down the east coast. After six months he gave up and returned to Andrews to work. Mr Soto's trouble was not the availability of work, but finding a workplace that would respect his Sabbath observance.
Some would suggest that starting your own company would be ideal because you can set your own hours. But this too has pitfalls. Steve Taylor started Squint Entertainment in 1997. The label is popularly known for Nashville rock band Sixpence None the Richer and their No. 1 hit single Kiss Me. Taylor said in an interview transcribed on the website http://www.tollbooth.org/2003/features/staylor.html "When I started Squint in 1997, .... I met with some different funding sources and the one that I clicked with most was a guy named Roland Lundy at Word Records. .... He gave us all the money we needed, he gave me complete autonomy to run things, and things went really well.”
"Then in the fall of 2000, Roland was pushed out of his position at Word. I guess the best way to put this would be in biblical language: the new pharaoh knew not Steve." Taylor goes on to say that the decision was made to sell Squint Entertainment and despite Taylor’s efforts to buy the label himself he was unsuccessful. When the label was sold Taylor says it "for all intents, closed down Squint as far as a label that I founded."
Obstacles to finding work in the secular environment and the challenges of entrepreneurship should not be excuses for not pursuing these options. Big Idea, makers of Veggie Tales, are a success story worth studying. On Big Idea's website they expound upon their mission statement by saying "The world is full of media companies that are out to make a buck. The world desperately needs a media company that is out to make a difference." As Christian students we are called to make a difference. I remind you that many avenues are available to move you towards this goal. It would be impractical to expect the church to mobilize the entire workforce.