Why The Mainline Can’t Rock And Roll

The mainline is not able to produce media
because it is institutionally and systemically not organized to make creative
media.
(I am posting a series of thoughts on the disengagement of the mainline denominations from mainstream media over the past thirty years that results in the absence of the mainline voice from the public dialogue. This is the ninth installment.)

The article in The Nation by Dan Wakefield notes a lack of consistent, integrated communications planning among mainline groups.

Stewart Hoover writes that denominations are structurally and institutionally bound by constraints that inhibit media production.

1. Production is a creative process, it cannot be done by committee, but this is precisely how denominations make, or defer, decisions.

2.
Production requires money. Denominations have looked at communications as optional. Production expenses often are considered excessive. Hoover says when they do move forward, it’s common for mainline denominations to load expectations “far beyond the wildest fantasies of commercial advertisers and producers,” and experience great disappointment when they are not met. It’s a set-up for demoralization and defeat.

3. He also contends that in the 1980s the mainline denominations lacked a clear purpose for their broadcasting activities. Was it to create awareness? Evangelism? Advocacy?

4. Equally problematic, they lacked clarity about the audience. Should they try to please their current constituency who pay the bills, and those leaders who make the decisions, or attempt to reach those uncommitted and unaffiliated?

Why can’t the mainline rock and roll? We don’t want lead singers in the band. We want everyone to sing backup harmony. When was the last time you bought a music CD to listen to the backup parts?
For these and other reasons, it’s a challenge to get the mainline voice into the public dialogue through media. It’s easier to produce bulletin inserts.

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