Tim Cowley from Expat Media Pro - Ministry Storytelling & Documentary Ethics

Tim Cowley from Expat Media Pro - Ministry Storytelling & Documentary Ethics

The Ministry Growth Show

March 15, 2021

Episode Notes:

This week on The Ministry Growth Show we're joined by Tim Cowley from Expat Media Pro. In this episode, Tim shares his insights on the power of storytelling, storytelling structures, and the ethics of documentary filmmaking in the ministry space. Storytelling is powerful, but we need to make sure we're honoring the individual and not exploiting stories simply for the financial benefit of our organizations. Enjoy!

Episode Transcript:

You're listening to the ministry growth show brought to you by Reliant Creative, the creative agency for gospel centered ministries. Find out more at Reliant Creative dot org. Welcome to the Ministry Growth Show, a podcast dedicated to helping churches and ministries grow and make more effective impacts for the Kingdom of God in an ever changing digital world, whether you're building and growing a gospel center ministry or leading a church, if you want insight into the strategies, struggles, challenges and successes of other ministry leaders, you've come to the right place.

Welcome back to the ministry Growth show Today on the show. I'm going to be talking with tim Cali he's the founder of Expat MediaPro and Global Creatives Collective tim. Thanks for being on the show. Hey, my pleasure.

We're gonna have some fun today. Yeah, I'm excited. Um, can you tell us a little bit about your ministry and you're maybe share some of your back stories so that we can have some context for today's conversation? Yeah, okay.

We'll go way back to the 90s. All right, there you go. Remember I do. Okay, awesome. I was thinking that I was going to get into broadcast journalism. I wanted to be tom brokaw and tell the news. You know our family always sat around and we didn't talk but we watched the news when we ate dinner at night.

I thought that's pretty sweet. So that's a fun gig. Yeah. I was like, yeah, let's do that. So I I went to Cedarville College and try to get into broadcast journalism and they cut that course right? As I was getting into it.

So I'm like, all right, well I guess I'll just do communication arts, broadcasting, audio, video production and see where that takes me. And during my time in college, you know, it's pretty interested in in missions and in cross cultural work.

So I thought maybe there was some overlap somehow of doing like ministry and media may be telling video stories for missionaries, I wasn't quite sure, But then I met the woman who would become my wife, she grew up in brazil as a third culture kid and always had a desire to go overseas.

So we started to think about our future together. Um we got married and moved straight out to phoenix, and so I started working for a film company that didn't produce films while I was there. They were kind of like old school, young earth creationist kind of um film producers back in the sixties, seventies and eighties.

But by the time I got there, they wanted to get into this new thing called the Internet and I had a little bit of coding experience. So I dabbled in html design back in Cedarville and uh, I was hired to build a an apologetics website, basically with different um ministry partners.

So I did that for eight years, but didn't shoot anything. Um, even though I was hoping to get more into, like christian films somehow, even though I have to say I hate christian films, I think most of us creatives in the in the ministry space would agree with that, that that said, there's there's a rising number of stars, I think things are shifting, but, you know, I don't watch those things that tend to get a lot of airplay and airtime.

So anyway, I don't know if I'm a bad christian for that, but not at all, But yeah, so, so then that takes me up to phoenix, and we started going to an evangelical free church there that was really into specifically sending people to places where nobody knows who jesus is.

And so that can be maybe a muslim context or a hindu context or buddhist context. And I had to uh if I wanted any support from this church, we were required to take perspectives. So my wife and I took perspectives and we learned yes, kind of history of how God takes his people and he puts them in cross cultural settings like Abraham, you know, where he he knew who God was, but he went to places where they didn't know who god was.

And so it kind of shows that there's this theme of missions and cross cultural ministry that start from the very beginning of scriptures, it's not like a new testament thing. Uh it was pretty, I guess somewhat mind blowing.

I I grew up um in baptist circles and just kind of assumed that everyone was probably baptist if they went to church, because I went to a baptist college too. And then I realized that yeah, there's a lot of um a lot of broadness to Christianity and a lot of orthodoxy and there's a lot of ways that people interpret the scriptures and all of us can actually be theologically correct, depending on a number of those different things.

So all that to say uh having this perspectives, ministry mindset really helped us to focus on going to an unreached area, a place where they did not have the gospel, where people did not know followers of jesus.

Then we thought, well what does that mean? We wanted to go to Africa, I think I've always had this adventurous spirit, I watched Power of One back in college and was like that soundtrack, it was so amazing.

And so we kind of were looking at sub Saharan Africa uh and at that point we um started to look at whether there was some unreached people groups, maybe some muslim groups that were in that region. And then I got into this uh kind of email server called Brugada, which is still around actually and they kind of send you these hints and tips and events and things like that if you're interested in missions and ministry things.

Uh so I saw a post from a guy who said he works in a certain area that we were looking at and he was looking for more people to come and and uh check out his team. So I went to Malawi was there for a month with some friends, but not with my spouse and felt a call to go back to that region and work with the people group there, the young people, About three million people, They're kind of spread out in Malawi and Mozambique and Tanzania.

And so we spent 13 years living in an African village, actually one village in Malawi, one village in Mozambique, and also one town in Mozambique as we kind of bounced around a little bit. So that was my ministry context was living with a people group who was very um rural in their, in their Living situation.

$2 a day was kind of the economy that people were going on. So they grew their own food. Usually they had a massive hunger season. So a lot of food insecurity there, education was really low, the school system wasn't really well set up.

So people generally didn't really graduate from high school, nothing like that. And here I was, is this like college educated guy that, you know, a lot of us feel like we're going to go save africa, we're going to go save the World and then you recognize there's, it's a bit more complicated than that and maybe my, my skills aren't that useful here or maybe they are if I can figure out how to make that useful, but I wasn't really a disciple maker in terms of you, you picture these people that are just like evangelists and they're always out telling people about jesus, that that wasn't really my um my skill set necessarily.

Yeah, but I was a supporter of like kind of a guy number two, the second guy, the friendly guy that could come along and make a bit of a full of himself, trying to communicate something in a foreign language, but at least friends, you know.

Uh so while there, I, I mean, I was into video, I thought I would use my video skills to help our teams, you know, fundraise, communicate with their supporters back home, mostly their churches, friends, family, those kind of people.

But then eventually thought, you know, I wanted to get into documentary film. So I found a master's program online at Asbury and they accepted me and I took about two years part time just kind of doing remote learning, which we're all familiar with now.

Thanks. And it was it was pretty awesome to sort of have instructors that helped guide me through what it means to, to study story and filmmaking and cinematography and lighting and all these things that I always wanted to up my game in uh, but just didn't have a lot of opportunity for that.

So I guess my Capstone project was 10 months of filming stories of people that were sick or had family members who were sick because I didn't understand why they thought they were sick and where they went for help.

Why were witch doctors as you know, we call them? But traditional healers is the more gentle term. Why did why were traditional healers still so useful and still used by people? And I think you can have a lot of presuppositions saying, oh, you just need to cut ties with those people, especially if you're a christian, stop doing that.

But I didn't understand the why behind all these things. So I just tried to record stories and that's just an ongoing passion project as I try to help people take time to look at one story and try to then have questions that they can process with a team or with others to understand why does somebody do something that might look strange to us? So that kind of launched this whole thing of starting up an organization, expat Mediapro where I had this vision in my head, maybe if I could recreate myself, maybe I wouldn't be a church planter living in a rural African village.

Maybe I would be a media producer living in a city a couple hours away from that African village where I could help nonprofits to do good storytelling and be able to fly in and out as needed, but be somewhere regionally Blitt based like in, in Africa, maybe in Malawi and Mozambique.

Um, because a lot of teams, a lot of groups doing good things, they just don't have a media person or a media team. They're just barely getting by. Right? So that kind of launched the whole thing of expat Mediapro was all right, let's get started, let's let's try to figure out what that would look like.

And I found a fiscal sponsor based in California and they said, sure, join us. And then that's kind of a fast track to getting started to be able to receive donations from individuals churches, they can get their tax write offs.

Uh, so for the last five years now we've been growing slowly, but there's a couple of people doing different things that are kind of their passion projects in ministry cross culturally awesome. And how does global creatives collective fit into that mix? Yeah, so, uh, last year, about a year ago, we had a little bit of a summit where I'm like, all right, I got some questions, guys, I need a team around me to help process these things.

So we met up in, up in Washington and it was me and a couple of people that were sort of aware of expat MediaPro, some of them were maybe raising funds through it and others weren't, but we realized that there needed to be kind of a different offshoot of expat Mediapro, because expat MediaPro really is, is a way that people can sort of join the organization to be able to receive funding or get a funding stream to get their projects launched or to get paid to do the work that they want to do for ministry.

But global Creative Collective was this way of trying to build this entire network, this global network of people passionate about jesus who love ministry, maybe their emissions already. Or maybe they are in a country where they are doing uh maybe there are national in their own country doing ministry in media, but you know, why not use somebody who is based in Lahore and asked them to get some scenes for us instead of flying somebody over there and wasting all that precious money and time, someone else might be able to do a better job and they speak the local language or they have all these these things that they can do that we can't.

So even though we all have to travel, um it seemed like it would be a good thing to know who that person is over there. So I'm trying to build this this network using social media and using the E. M. D.

C. Platform, this this big global media ministry platform to sort of, yeah, I have a way to know who's doing what and then share projects with each other and try to encourage one another. Because if your emissions and your new media, unless you join a specific organization that does, you know, radio broadcasting or video, you're kind of a square peg in a round hole.

Uh That's what I always kind of experienced or what we've found is this the, yeah, the cost of it is to get somebody from the west over to it. Foreign country is, is too high, especially if you, if you're going to spend that money and we run into this all the time, you're going to spend that money, you want to make sure you're sending somebody good and somebody good and of high quality who has done trips like that before it is going to be expensive.

And so it puts it out of reach, the budgetary confinements of that type of higher production value, storytelling and content production. Put puts that type of work out of reach for a lot of ministries and then there are, you know, they might try to resolve it by bringing somebody in on their team, but you're still limited to the time and cost of sending that person however many times a year you want to send them in country.

Yeah. So as a starting point for today's topic. So we got a couple of topics on a, on a hit on. Um, I want to hear why you think storytelling and media are so important for ministries to take seriously? Like what, why why is it important that ministries and organizations, non profits, the church function well in this space? Yeah.

You know, a couple of things come to mind since, since coming back to the States, which is my home country, but not a home country for my wife and my kids. Um, I've sort of gotten involved in different ministries here in the Portland area that that have needed a media person.

So, you know, joining the leadership team of groups like refugee highway partnership, North America or um sanctuary in all these different ministries that I love. But I think they all sort of have a vision.

They want to raise funds. They want to raise prayer support, but they don't really know how to do that well. And so it's like, how do you tell somebody who has a desire to partner with you or potential desire? Maybe they don't know it yet.

How do you tell them how important you are in terms of what you do for the kingdom or to help others? So that all comes down to telling good stories, doesn't it? I mean, you don't say, hey, here's some stats, Look at the stats.

Um, here's the number of people were serving and here's how many decisions for christ are coming and you know, stats, I feel like they're so easily manipulated and as a creative, I'm not a numbers guy, so I'm not convinced by stats.

Um, so I know that that's just playing my cards there and saying, I don't like numbers, but I think, you know, you look at what jesus did he, he told stories and you know, the scriptures is mostly story, it's, you know, and that's just how we think as we are drawn to stories and we want them well told and we want them to have conflict because otherwise it's a super boring story and you know, it's funny, like when I took that course in storytelling from Asbury during my masters, it was like, okay, my mind was blown.

I had no idea about any of these things like the hero's journey, you know, and we read save the Cat and we read these things for script writing that helped you to think about the story structure, uh you know, finding your Yoda, that's gonna be your guy, that's going to help you uh figure out something as you enter the cave and as you fight the dragon and then as you you lose and you die and then you're raised up again, like all these, these plot points and these things that make for a good story, you just start seeing them over and over and over again in well told stories.

Yeah. And you're like, oh wait, there's a formula to this, isn't there? So I don't feel like I've mastered that formula by any means. But but yeah, it's super important for an organization to know how can they tell their story? How can they tell? There's the story of their organization.

The founding of it is oftentimes really fascinating. Um, but so is the story of each individual that's being helped by that organization. I mean, OK, I'm going to throw out an example. There's a guy here who lives in Portland, but he's from India.

Originally. When he came as an immigrant, he began making coffee and shy at a local coffee shop and he was basically trained into this barista thing, but brought his chai wisdom from India to give his recipe to this local chai producer now who did really well with it.

And he realized that because he was an immigrant coming and learning english on the job and all this stuff that he could possibly do that in the future. Um, maybe this is a way to help people. So that was, I don't know, 5678 years ago.

Now, as of this year, they're looking at launching an actual storefront where they trained immigrants and refugees to do coffee and shy, um, as a business so that they get business training as well as coffee and you know, skills that they can use.

But his little story intersects with the story of a lady from my church that I know who had been praying over this one specific area just up the road from me. She felt like this passion to pray for that specific area.

And she had in her mind this idea of a tea shop that had a refugee component to it. And so you've got her praying this and him praying this over here. And then I helped do this refugee highway partnership regional meet up a couple of years ago here in Portland.

Her husband came to that and he met this guy Sam and he's like, hey, wait, what you've got is the passion that my wife has been praying for, you know, for years. And so it's just this really cool thing to see how, you know that story is a powerful story of how this organization has come together.

But then each of those people that are going to get trained is also going to be a powerful story that people are just going to be really wanting to participate in because they see a God at work. Mm Yeah.

one back to the that power of story and the importance of it. I think, um, there is a, I'm not sure why I don't have any statistics or data around why ministries want to lean towards or default towards communicating those data.

This data, the statistics, the strategies around how they work primarily like those things need to be communicated. That has to be a part of your communication strategy. Because especially when you're talking about major donors and people that are going to invest large sums, they want to know that there you've got a strategy and a plan in place.

But those things have to come after, somebody has been engaged at an emotional level. And the only way to do that well is through storytelling. And so like helping the church and the ministry space shift in mindset around that is, um, it is difficult because we want to, for some reason, we want to default to let me tell you the strategy that we have in place.

I'm a storyteller and even with my own ministry with reliant like that, I feel the struggle and the pole and the bent towards Let me tell you about the strategies that I have in my mind before, the stories of impact that are coming out of our organization.

And so I don't know what that is. That is because we're wired to hear story and tell story and be engaged by story like that. Like you said, that is ingrained, I think that's ingrained in us by our creator, that's how our creator show, that's how God chose to speak through us primarily through his word.

Which is like you said, there's a collection of stories or primarily a collection of stories and so even the Bad in there. Yeah, like they're the conflict is in there, the hard parts are in there, the dirty messy parts are in there.

Like that story is incredibly powerful. It's how God primarily chose to speak to us. That's how we engage with each other as a species that has humanity. That's how we engage well with one another. That's how we build relationships.

That's how we let me tell you about this experience I had at the grocery store today. Like that happens every single day. That's how we function. And yet when it comes to the ministry space, we want to default to Let me tell you about the strategies that we have in place to do, the work that we're doing.

Oh my goodness, can we if we could just shift in mindset? Yes, those things need to be communicated. But let's engage at the heart level, let's emotionally engage people, get people bought into our organizations, our brands and our work through story.

And then we can support it with the strategy and the data and the statistics. Um, those things can be there, but they can't come first. Yeah. And it's it's a tricky line, isn't it? Because have you heard of the term poverty porn? Yes.

Okay. How would you describe that, uh, exploiting someone's story for the financial benefit of my ministry? Yeah. Okay. So we don't want to throw anyone under the bus necessarily. But have you seen that done much all the time? And what does, what does that usually look like? Uh flies in kids faces? And um I'm having I'm trying not to like throw anybody under the bus with specifics about things that I've seen, because like, as soon as I say something that will give it away.

Yeah, Yeah, at least the type of ministries that are doing that kind of work, but yeah, it's it's it's taking the, maybe the stereotypes, like, for example, like the stereotypes that westerners have about africa, like taking those and exploiting those in a piece of content or a quote unquote story to make me guilted into investing into that work as a donor.

And so like your it's a Mhm. It's I will say this as a storyteller, it's hard not to do those things, like it's I don't know what it is, there's a pole towards that, like that, that's its problem. Maybe it's the easier way to go.

It's the easier route because maybe as a creative or somebody that's producing a film, I don't no storytelling structures like I should, and so I'm just gonna do a bunch of this um begin marketing practices because that's gonna be effective short term.

Um because the alternative, like, telling a really great story that fits into a story structure that's going to engage, well, respect the individuals and the beneficiary story. Well, like, that's a lot harder to do.

It's more difficult, it takes more time, it takes more thought. Uh It requires me to connect with that beneficiary at a level and build a relationship with that individual and have actual interest in their story to be able to tell their story well, right, I can't tell your story well, unless I have engaged with you and build a relationship with you and have shown real interest in your story.

Um, and so I think maybe an element of it is it's just easier to do the guilt, marketing, um, version of communication and production. And I feel like if we think about it from our own perspective, like what if somebody let's say there was an asian tourist who is a videographer and they're coming to Portland and they want to tell, tell a story of what it's like in Portland.

Yes, everywhere you look, you can find the trash and the homeless and the boarded up buildings and that is a real component of Portland. But if they don't tell the story of the great outdoors and the beautiful people and the multiculturalism, then you're only getting, uh, a one sided perspective that's going to make it look like, oh man, that place, you know, like what we're seeing on, on certain news channels, you know, my friends all the time that are like, you doing okay out there.

I'm like, yeah, we're fine, you know? Yeah. Things have gotten worse as they have for most places during Covid and I feel like they're not really solving issues necessarily, but yeah, it's just one sided and, and we don't want someone to do that to us.

So why do we feel like we can do that to someone else just because maybe there's a power dynamic there too, isn't there? I think so. And I think we're getting better at this. Like, you know, you think about the last couple years there's been a lot of awareness issues that have come about like, oh, I could see how that could come across like that.

I never thought about it that way. I've got to change some ways that I'm thinking about things or practicing certain things you're always learning. Yeah, I think it it just requires going into it, a desire to actually care about the person whose story we're telling, to show real interest in telling their story well, and not coming at it from an angle of trying to exploit that story, not, and I don't I don't even think that that is necessarily the desire when, when ministries are creative to go into a storytelling processes, they like, I want to exploit this story so I can make a bunch of money for this ministry.

I don't think that that's necessarily the mindset um uh at least hopefully not. Um but Mhm. Without knowing, without having a real interest in this individual story and wanting to tell it well, like, without having that posture, when you go to tell a story, I think it can it can slip to the other side really easily without there being intent that it does right? And I think people are just people, there has to be report built.

Um, and I'm just picturing when I went to chad last year, right before Covid hit, um, we were driving into this, this remote, even more remote village than the remote village that we were living in at the time staying in and you might have your camera gear.

You know, like we, we drive through the desert and you're seeing guys with camels and stuff and yes, I'm taking snapshots as I can, you know, as we drive by. Um, but then when we get to this house of this, this elder, you know, I might have my camera gear in the back of the truck and not get it out right away so that you, you're warmly received and welcomed.

You brought in for tea, you know, and you're still not taking pictures, You're you're just trying to be a person, meeting another person, being appreciative that this person is inviting you into their space.

And then later on, there's that opportunity, that openness and you sort of sense this warmness that can start allowing you that desire to then be able to start telling some of their story. Yeah, that's that's a that's a really good practice.

Um, I don't know if you're familiar with a photographer by the name of Joey Lawrence, He goes, but his brand is Joey l I think it's Joey l dot com. And I'm not sure. I don't think he's a believer. He's done a lot of international humanitarian type work with his photography, but he did a series that he titled, I think it was titled Holy Men.

It's one of the most beautiful photography series that I've ever seen. It was masterful what he was able to do. And he's a commercial photographer and he takes his lighting principal commercial, like lighting principles, into the field and does just really amazing work.

But he talked about on that trip for that series, making sure that he was going into a location and building relationships with these men that he was going to be photographing and spending maybe a day or two with them just hanging out and playing games and having tea and getting to know these guys before maybe the second or third day ever bringing out the camera or any of his gear.

And I remember early on in reliant creative watching him do that and watching him talk about that way of telling these guys story, being respectful of their story and building a relationship first before going in and creating a bunch of content and having that be really impactful from this guy that I don't know or probably isn't necessarily a believer.

And so like learning that from somebody that had that type of mindset without being a christ follower was really, was really impactful for me and wanting to Yeah, I mean if we're going to do this with reliant, we're gonna story tell, we're going to communicate what God's doing, going to make sure that we're not exploiting.

I want to make sure that we're telling these stories well and building relationships with these people. And it's hard, are you going back to the, the travel aspect of what we do? You know, your, your mm Oftentimes traveling and have hard deadlines and you've only got 34 or five days in country and we've got a quick turnaround on this trip and we've got to create this much content in this short period of time.

There's a very much a rushed element to these higher production value type films. And so like being okay with adding maybe some time to make sure that you're doing this well and uh, and not just rushing in and sticking a camera in someone's face when they've never met you.

Um, I think is excuse me, I think is important and and a practice we need to implement more often. And I think that speaks to your global collective, creatives collective is the idea that let's raise up and equip and train people and find people that are in country that are living in the context of the content that we want to create in these places to go and do this for.

So we don't have to have these really quick turnaround productions that have hard deadlines and we have to come in and we have to get this much stuff done in a certain amount of time. And that that model that strategy forces our hand into doing some things that maybe we wouldn't otherwise want to do if we had given ourselves more time.

And so um I love this idea of finding people in country and finding a global collective that can be telling these stories well not just for the the scale of the content to be able to tell more stories but so that we can do it really well and do it ethically.

I had a guy contacted me recently that has a business in India and he has been filming himself at different cultural events and those kinds of things to share with his people back in his home country of the U.

S. And he said, you know what, I I'm just not a video guy and this is something I want to see done better. So we connected on zoom and then I said, hey, I've got this guy that I think would be perfect for you because he's got all the right skill set.

He's from India. So you know, and he's a ministry minded kind of guy that's been raised under why why am tutelage youth with a mission? So I haven't heard the end of the story, but I've tried to connect the two of them because there's this guy that doesn't have to get on a plane and fly all the way over and then have no clue maybe have Delhi belly for the whole, you know, so it's it's just really cool how you can make these matches and you know, I'd say 99% of the work that I do have a number of different clients.

Most of the work that I do, we're just looking for iphone footage or something that's going to just set the scene of a place. Uh you know, we're all watching stuff on our phones anyway. It's not like we're sitting there in a theater usually watching these things that non profit is trying to put out about their work.

It's some guy on the phone watching it. Uh maybe a computer if if you have a computer, but even then now it's more and more the phone. So you're thinking about this three inch space of window, you know, are you going to tell if that's an iphone or a red camera? It's been all kinds of tests like that.

And basically we need to think of that little three inch screen now as the bulk of where we're sending our content. Yeah. And yeah, I completely agree to stay on schedule on a transition a little bit and talk about some things that um and I think this transition as well, because what we're talking about, especially when we start talking about creating content for a mobile device where audience attention is requires content at scale, it requires a good amount of content to be engaging well with people where their intention is right? And so that pursuit content at scale storytelling, it scale score storytelling with regularity and consistency.

That can be expensive. Media is expensive. Media production is expensive. That's just the reality of it. And so what are some ways that ministries and organizations in the church can be producing content and media with regularity at scale and maybe do it on a budget? They can have access to this type of stuff Um and not have to spend 30, 40, 50, 60 grand on a big high production value type film.

Yeah, I have helped a number of organizations try to think through this. Some of them have been more successful than others at implementing these kinds of practices. But I'd say you know what, if you had $1000 to work with, Let's say you can.

And most groups I think and pull together $1,000 uh you should at least be documentary documenting your events because you want to start building up a library of things that you can look back to. You can also grab snippets of things to be able to post on social outlets, social media.

Uh So for example, this group that I have worked with in the past, it's Swahili speaking group here in Portland and I said, hey, if you just bought yourselves a DJ I Osma pocket, I mean they are kind of like a GoPro alternative, um they're super easy to use.

You just turn it on. You know, you kind of, it's got a little screen in the back so you can sort of see what you're doing or you can plug it into your phone so it looks more and more professional, but just try to be recording some of your events.

Uh and then you are then building a library of footage that you can look back to. You can um, you know, maybe hand off to a more professional editor if you wanted to put together some kind of a story about your first year or your first couple of years.

So something like that um as well as a tripod that might be small enough, like a gorilla pod you could use to do, you know, maybe self facing, talking to your camera kinds of things like those are really popular avenues of content.

Now, people being real and raw and telling about some of the inside things that are going on or what they're facing or what they're dealing with the hard things as well of running an organization. Um, yeah, one of our, in one of our courses that we teach on, I talk about and this is a pretty standard term in the marketing space, but user generated content or UGC and the stats around that kind of content, just somebody with a mobile device bringing it up in front of their face, pointing out themselves and talking about something.

Um, or sharing an idea or sharing a story in that format. The engagement statistics around that type of content are far more significant than a really high value, really well done polished film. People are engaging with those types of pieces of content because there is a transparency and honesty about it.

It doesn't look like I'm trying to sway you or convince you or manipulate you into buying something or investing in something or donating to something, um, when you've got somebody just talking on their cell phone and creating their own piece of content on behalf of the ministry or even from within the ministry.

And so the idea that we are, we got to do something really well polished in really high value every single time. It's just not the case. And you can actually maybe be more effective by just creating user generated content, whether that's your donors, creating content on your behalf, your staff, your leadership team, your beneficiaries.

I mean, there's a wide range of people and that can be creating content on behalf of the ministry and to reach an audience more effectively. And there's data and statistics to support that model. Yeah, I think there, you know, you gotta have you gotta have a plan in place, you have to know, you know who it is that you're trying to reach your target audience.

Um, some people recommend making personas, you know, like who are your fake people that are the real people you're trying to reach. So that include things like, um where do they spend their time? What's their education level? Uh gender, family issues, all those kinds of things.

And you could have maybe 1, 2, 3 or 3-5 personas in mind that when you're communicating your content, these are the people you're picturing and then, you know, pulling together, uh, where do those people spend their time? So who uses facebook anymore? What's the what's the average age of a facebook user? It's it's probably in the older scale older side of things nowadays, unless they're from another country where maybe they're just ramping up their internet usage and they've discovered facebook right, you know, or instagram it seems like it's it's mostly younger females that are the bulk of that.

So thinking about, you know, where you're trying to get your content and each platform, you have to communicate a little bit differently too. So having someone that understands each individual platform I think is super helpful.

Like right now for refugee highway partnership North America, I actually hired somebody to assist me because it's a young female who understands the platform really well. And so the idea is that she's coming back to me with is pretty cool because I can now sort of hand that off and just say yes or no or hey, can you try this? But then she knows how to implement things and get a better followership and your followership isn't even, I mean, those are stats obviously we want to make sure that we're growing, but what kind of growth is it, is that the good growth? Is this the people that you're really trying to reach instead of just getting new followers? Because we're really trying to make a difference, We're not just trying to get numbers.

Yeah. You want to make sure that we're making a real impact and real growth and real kingdom investment from, from the people you're trying to reach and not just, hey, we've got 100,000 followers, but they're all people that can't invest in our organization or have no interest in being a part of what we're doing.

Yeah. So budget, you know, having, having a little bit of training I think would help a lot, you know, could you just train your staff someday, have somebody come in and say, here's what a tripod is. Here's how you use it.

Here's how you can use your phone, which is right in your pocket. Here's some things that, you know, you can install on your phone so that you can get better quality. Um, here's how you should hold it.

Here's how you can have a little bit of a steady cam feel. You know, I think basic training that could take just two hours would significantly improve a nonprofit or a ministries ability to be able to equipped everybody on staff to be able to start getting stuff and then having somebody that can then take that and maybe put it on a google drive or put it on a hard drive.

That's super simple stuff. But just obvious that You're not trying to hire the guy for $75 an hour to be on staff to do all of your media because a lot of people can't afford that, a lot of groups can't afford that.

So deputize, deputize, deputize. So it is expat doing a lot of training and equipping of creatives to be raised up to do what you're talking about, you know, as an organization. No, but there are opportunities where we do have dr craig Forrest is is one of the guys that is on our team and he does a lot of training.

So he'll go down to a different country in Latin America and he will train young people, church workers usually and how to do video production, how to do good lighting, how to do good audio. Because he's been a documentary filmmaker for, for his career.

Um I will travel sometimes to conferences and try to do two day trainings on, on how to tell a story. You know, what are the structures, how can we use your camera for these kinds of things? So yeah, I'd say certain people do their own projects, but we don't do it as an organization necessarily.

It's not a strategy that's specifically outlined under the ministry. No. And you know, with like, I'm heavily involved in E M D C, which is a global community of ministry minded people. Some of them are media professionals.

Other people are recognizing their need for upgrading their skills. So now, because of Covid, we've moved online. So you can actually go to e M D C dot info and then see what we have online classes that are usually an hour long that will train you or kind of give you an overview of certain things, which would then give you further ability to then say, okay, I just did this one hour thing from create mobile and now I'm really excited.

So then you find out that they're doing this two week intensive over in India, you know, in April. So then that's like your next stepping stone of, okay, I can do this. I don't have to go to this four year college and have 80 grand in debt.

I can just start with this thing here and then take it from there. So yeah, NBC is awesome. Yeah. For photography and film those mediums, like I, I didn't go to school to learn those mediums I learned on the fly on the job and there.

You can, you can learn as much as you want in school about those things are in the training. But the area that you're going to learn the most and gain the most experience is just actually going out and doing it and we can train until we're blue in the face, but if someone's not willing to go and start taking 1000 pictures over and over and over again and learning through experience, like, that's the best way to get better with with these mediums specifically.

And I think that that can be said for most things. But um like, I I wouldn't call myself a I've never thought of myself as a creative, like, I was played sports growing up, like, that was my mindset and what my world was centered around, involved it, or revolved around, and I didn't start taking pictures till after college and looking back at that old content was like, man, I was terrible, like that was none of that stuff was any good.

Um but I just kept doing it, I just kept at it and kept creating content, kept taking pictures over and over and over again. And however many years later, decade later, like, I can now say I'm a good photographer, but that didn't come because I think I'm necessarily a creative individual.

I think it came because primarily I just wouldn't stop. I just kept creating photos and that was the single biggest thing for me and making the photographer, making me the photographer that I am today.

Yeah, let's, I want to transition a little bit and discuss documentary films in ministry real quick. And what might, uh, what might a ministry organization benefit from telling a documentary style story and maybe a couple with that or, or go alongside with that question? How can, um, how can organizations tell those type of stories because those end up being a little bit more involved? Right.

How can they tell those types of stories on that on a budget? Where some ideas around that specifically that you have? Yeah, it's kind of a broad genre in a way. You can kind of go in a lot of different directions with documentary, but the idea behind documentary is that you're telling a true story.

These are real people. This is a real thing happening. Uh, there's all kinds of story elements that you can use. But the basic gist is, you know, I think about a number of the organizations I've worked with here in Portland.

They're either focused on refugees usually or education. Um, specifically in, in a story of a group. You know, when we first came here, we were part of a kind of like a food bank, uh, where we would go.

And once a week we could shop at this food bank. And in return, you had to do volunteer hours. And so I'm like, hey, I do video stuff so maybe I can volunteer my video hours and shoot something for you guys.

And they're like, yeah, that'd be great. We have a fundraiser coming up, dinner, breakfast, whatever it was. And so I had some friends who were also at that same food bank and I'm like, here's what our plan is to try to film you guys in your natural habitat at home, you know, doing your home schooling and sort of talking a little bit about your, your family background so that we understand you're just a hardworking family and how this organization, this food bank is able to help you in your savings goals because they provide financial education and all this kind of stuff.

So I spent a couple hours hanging out with them at their house filming and then we spent some time at the food bank of them shopping. We spent some time shooting them while they were getting some financial education in, in person classes back in the day.

Uh, and then put that together, edit into a three minute video that's like, hey here is a story of a group, one family, this is how their lives are being impacted and that's, that's kind of a documentary style.

Um, and there was nothing fancy about it. But because the story element is interesting and because you get to learn who this family is, you're not looking at the cinematography as much as you are pulled into the story.

Of course you want to do beautiful work, but it doesn't stop you from using your phone to do this kind of storytelling as long as you have good audio and the ability to have decent video and your from your phone.

For me. I I think um I think documentary is often overlooked because you know, we picture growing up in high school, you're stuck, you know, while we have a substitute teacher today and we're gonna watch a documentary and everyone's like, okay, well I can sleep I guess.

Um a lot of those documentaries were just terrible. They were just badly done. And I used to hate documentaries until I started to realize, oh, there's actually some really awesome documentaries out there with on demand access now.

We can find out what those are and we can we can watch whatever we're interested in. So some ministries, I think I've done really well with this. Uh you know, there there's free Burma rangers came out with a documentary about what they do and how they're trying to train people from um from Burma to document and to actually physically fight against the army forces that are coming in and wiping out their villages.

And it's just mind boggling how this, this family from texas started this organization because this former army ranger had this ministry goal, this passion that jesus gave him to do this thing and then now they're working in Iraq and they're working in different places and and this story is done really well because they hired a good firm based in austin texas that knew how to tell good stories.

Um, and that same organization, that same firm was also, I saw a documentary they did about bad lending practices and how these um these predatory groups will let you cash your check there because they know you need the money, but then they'll have exorbitant rates on how much they get to keep from that.

Was that the dirty money documentary on netflix? You know, I don't know if it was on netflix or not. It was a couple years back. Um I don't think that was the name of it. Okay, because the Dirty Money netflix series is a series of documentaries that highlights different stories and one of the documentaries in that series sounds familiar to what you're talking about.

So I was just wondering, it was part of it. I don't I don't really know. So, I'm thinking that Once you are able to share your stories, for example, my 2nd Africa documentary project, I didn't know what to do with it.

It's like all right. I knew I wanted to get my Masters degree, so yes. Okay. Tick that box. It worked for that after making my first episode and then it's like, well how can I make this something that can be really useful for lots of different people? So, just in the last couple of months, um I was able to uh to get it onto a streaming platform for libraries and universities, um alexander Street films.

So then now that that's kind of a box that I wanted to take off, how can I then get this useful for like missionaries or people that are like maybe NGO workers or um Peace Corps Volunteers to get them to recognize that, you know, what you think about, health is not likely going to be anything like what the people are going to think about, that wherever you're going to some other part of the world, even here in the in our country, you know, we've got all kinds of of immigrants and refugees that have completely different viewpoints on health.

And so if you're a doctor in California, you know, it might be really a challenge to understand why they won't take the medicine or who is this person that's telling you, that they won't let the sick person do what you're telling them to do.

Like you have to understand and navigate all these cross cultural things. So, so I'm trying to then develop a curriculum that people can take so that they can understand the right questions to ask. So even if they're not in a context like I was in at least it opens and expands their mind to recognizing, oh, there's there's a lot to this, and I'm not asking the right questions.

That's really cool. So I think specifically you if you have these little short stories, you can kind of use them in so many different ways and you can use them on social media as a one minute, you know, quick clip, um to kind of just say, hey, here's who we are and here's what we do and here's a story of something that just happened and we're really on us, we're really excited that this happened without congratulating yourselves, but you do need to tell those stories.

So this documentary style and structure, I think just needs to be, yeah, beat to death because it's so awesome. Yeah, and I think there's a, I think there's a tendency in the ministry space to want to maybe ah that's kind of been done, we don't want to do that again, we want to be super creative and and try something new and tell some new type of creative way of communicating what we do or how we do it and and not just tell another transformational story again or a beneficiary story again, but I have yet to see this model where you just tell the stories of how God's transforming lives.

These documentary type, single individual single beneficiary stories at, I mean, at the regularity, that needs to be that they need to be told for his glory, for the edification of the church, and for people the church to get engaged with and mobilise around these causes.

I have yet to see a ministry or a church or an organization, nonprofit, whatever, do it, to the extent that they need to be doing it, or should be doing it to be effective. Like I hear quite often we've done that type of story before and it didn't work well, did you tell these stories at, with regularity, consistency at scale for a three year period and get people really bought into wow goodness.

This ministry is doing some really incredible work. God is really working through this organization because we see it at repeat over and over and over again of different ways that he's working through different individual lives.

Um, I've yet to see it, you know, you see hints at it and a little bit uh coming from a couple organizations, but um I have not seen it in the ministry space executed to the, to the extent that I think it can, could be powerful if it was you crack that nut.

Yeah, and and that's, that's kinda, I think the question you're trying to answer, we're trying to answer, how do we, how do we start telling these stories more often because they need to be told and their powerful and this is how we're going to engage with people, this is how we're going to relate cross culturally.

Like how do you relate to a kid in africa too white donor in the west, that's the cultural differences are so far apart. That the only way to do that is to tell that kids transformational story because I myself have a similar transformational story and I'm going to relate to that kid because we share the same transformation.

If you just tell me the data and the statistics around that kid or the strategies you use to help that kid, I'm not going to relate to that. There's too many cultural differences. The gap is too big for us to relate and so I'm not going to be able to relate with your brand as well.

But if you connect me to that kid's story because his stories transformation is similar to mine, uh, I'm going to relate to your brand, your organization a lot better as well. So that's what we're trying to push.

I think that you guys are trying to encourage and push and move ministries in the church in this direction. So keep up the good work, man, You guys are doing some really cool stuff. I've been thinking about this a lot lately with refugee highway partnership because it's it's like we're a collection of various ministries and churches and individuals that are all trying to serve and love on refugees and forcibly displaced.

But it's really hard to communicate what we do because well, we haven't had any income because we're not really a that kind of an organization. But then now we're kind of stuck in this place where we need to start raising funds because our previous model of doing conferences and then having a love offering, um, well, that goes away when you don't have conferences.

So it's like, all right, we need monthly donors. But how do we share our stories? How do we tell the story of of this coffee chai ministry that's starting up because of the refugee highway partnership where those introductions were made.

Um, and so I've got this idea of like the storycorps where, You know, probably young creatives who are passionate about this. I think there's got to be a passion to it. How can we get them on board to produce a 3-5 minute piece that takes one of those stories and just tells it well? Um, so that's kind of what I'm trying to build out right now is is a core team of people that can do that well from throughout the US.

And Canada. I don't know if that just means you got to look for a good interns. I don't think so. Maybe interns would have something to do with it because they have hours they have to fulfill. But but I think there's a lot of people that, you know, can you give him a stipend 500 bucks, you know, for a five minute piece.

I don't really know the answer, but we need to figure something out because not telling anything isn't getting us forward a blog best. Another blog post isn't gonna do the trick. There's a, it's a, there's a logjam and, and it's, I think it's a, I think there's an element of a shift in mindset around story and being okay, telling transformational stories over and over and over again on repeat.

And, and let's try it. Let's have them. Like if we can encourage and move it, the ministry space, the church, The nonprofit sector to move in this direction, just like you need, if you're going to do this, we need to give it the next 3-5 years.

Like it's a long term play. But let's give it the next 3-5 years of telling stories at nauseum and then if that doesn't work, then we can reevaluate our plans. But I just have not seen it done yet in large ministry or small.

It doesn't matter outside of and I share this ministry a lot um outside of the ministry called F. AI Frontier Alliance International. It's a a medium sized organization smaller to medium size, I think there, I won't show their budget, but there you can find it online.

Um Not a huge budget is what I'm saying. And the amount of content and storytelling that this ministry is producing now, I think that they could make some adjustments and they could do a better job of telling transformational stories and focus on that.

But the amount of content that they're producing, I mean it's daily content, whether it's podcasts or blog articles or films or um, little videos or user generated content from their missionaries on the ground, the amount of content that are putting out that scale is incredible.

I mean, it's surpassing every large organization that exists. And so for my encouragement for other ministries is to say, go and watch these guys, just replicate what they're doing. Like make the adjustments depending on your context and your region and your ministry because there's going to be some nuances to your organization and the region that you're working in but watch them and start replicating them.

Because if we can start communicating, like they're communicating just across the board, it's going to be more significant. I don't know how it's impacted their bottom line, but When I found out about them, I think they had 10,000 subscribers and in a matter of a year, were.

Oh Gosh, 60 or 70,000 subscribers on, on YouTube. That's just on Youtube as a platform. So it's working and as far as is building an audience and an attention around their brand and around the ministry and around their work.

Um, and so it's significant when you start moving in that direction and start communicating where audiences attention is, it can have a profound impact on your, your ministry, another group that's doing this well in the spaces, preemptive love, you run across them.

But I've, I've loved the podcast that they're producing. They also have gotten a documentary together about the founding and what they do. So I'm sure that there was some significant budget spent on that, but they're just really killing it when it comes to pulling in people to care about what they do.

So that's and there's a number of other groups like that. But yeah, those two are good ones to model yourselves after. That's cool. Well, Tim I know your connector. If a ministry leader wants to connect and learn more about what you do, how can they do? So, yeah, I'm pretty accessible on most platforms.

So whatever you use, I might be there. Um, I would say tim at expat, Mediapro dot com is the best email. That's E X P A T. Mediapro dot com. Uh, An expat is somebody who is from one place and lives outside of their home country.

That's, that's all there is to it. And a lot of americans don't know that term, but if been an expat, you probably already know that term. Um, so that's, that's a good way to get a hold of me. Uh, you can go to expat mediapro dot com or global Creatives Collective dot media.

And we're just super small guys like we are tiny, but we're trying to be powerful by um yeah, pulling in creatives and really getting ministry forward using through string budgets and, and passion. That's cool.

Well tim thank you so much for being on the show. Can I pray for you real quick as we sign off Father, I just lift up tim an expat Mediapro and Global Creatives Collective Father. I just pray that you would be with tim as you got and lead him in this ministry and these organizations, I pray that you would make them successful for your glory, for your kingdom impact Father.

That he would um CQ and pursue you in the directions that you have for him. And the idea is that you want to give him and um pray that his, he would just cast clear vision and direction for his team. I pray that you would give him time balance and energy to execute on the ideas and the dreams and visions you've given him for this for these organizations and companies Father, We thank you so much that we get to be a part of what you're doing.

We love you, jesus and jesus name. Amen Amen tim. Thanks so much for being on the show. I appreciate it. All right, we'll talk to you later man. Bye. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Ministry Growth show.

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