Phil Cooke: Maximize Your Influence

Maximize Your Influence: How to Make Digital Media Work for Your Church, Your Ministry, and You
(Cooke Media Group, 2020)

WHO: Phil Cooke, who has produced TV and film programming or lectured in nearly 100 countries.

HE SAYS: “Put more effort into developing your creative team because that is a launching pad for growth.”

THE BIG IDEA: This reference guide helps church leaders understand the importance of digital media in communicating the gospel.

Through 14 chapters, the author explains how churches should navigate different media, from video and livestreaming to writing a book to setting up a website.

“As long as you understand the principles and purpose of sharing your story through the media, you can easily weather changes in the tools and platforms.”

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Does church leadership have to have someone on staff who specializes in digital communication?

While I love missions, education, outreach and all the other aspects of church ministry, at this moment, it’s your communication and media teams that are keeping the church alive. Perhaps the best thing to come out of COVID-19 is that pastors and church leaders are finally realizing just how important the digital world is, and why we need to be more intentional about reaching people online.

Before COVID-19, I actually had pastors tell me that they didn’t mind livestreaming, but it’s not real “ministry.” I hope the church shutdown changed their thinking, because it’s revealed what an amazing impact online ministry can have today.

For the small church on a bare bones budget, what is your advice to getting started in the digital arena?

I’d start with a great website, but remember, a church website isn’t for your church members. After all, your members know where the church is, who the pastor is, what times you meet, and the dates of the Christmas production. I can pretty much guarantee that your church members never visit your website.

However, I can also guarantee that virtually 100% of new visitors will check you out online before they visit, which means that a church website should primarily be designed for visitors. What will be the most compelling things you can have on your site that will inspire them to visit? Focus on that.

The second area is social media. It doesn’t cost anything, and it can be exponential in its reach. But think before you post, and focus on your personal calling and message. And last, I’ve never understood why pastors don’t regularly stand in the pulpit and ask their congregation to share about their experience at church with their friends on social media. That alone could start conversations about the church with people you could never reach in any other way.

How can leaders who are livestreaming make their communications more like interactions instead of lectures?

Most of us grew up in a one-way world. Church, advertising, business, and media—all one-way conversations. We couldn’t interrupt the pastor, or talk back to a TV commercial. But today with digital technology, we live in a two-way world.

With social media, unknown people with no money, resources, or connections can launch a movement that’s felt around the world. As a church leader, begin thinking of ways you can interact with people in your congregation online, because if you don’t, you’ll lose a generation that doesn’t understand the old one-way conversation.

Many pastors are feeling overwhelmed right now. Where should they begin in developing a digital communications plan?

Start with a team. They may be volunteers, paid staff, or consultants, but surround yourself with creative people who understand the digital world. Too many pastors feel like they have to carry everything on their shoulders, which I don’t think God ever intended. When I wrote Maximize Your Influence: How to Make Digital Media Work for Your Church, Your Ministry, and You, I didn’t write about how to build a website or where to find the best camera for livestreaming. I wrote about the bigger picture of why it matters, and how to use it to change the world. You don’t have to be an expert in digital or social media—you just have to find people who are, and unleash them.

It’s important to remember that by population, Facebook is now the largest country on the planet. The question is, who’s planting churches in that country? Who’s sending missionaries to that country? Pastors and church leaders need to stop thinking about missions just in geographic terms and start thinking of missions in digital terms. That’s the mission field of the future.

Phil Cooke
Phil Cooke

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media consultant and founder of Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles, California. His latest book is Ideas on a Deadline: How to Be Creative When the Clock is Ticking. Find out more at