guest blog: praying for, and engaging with, our media

Our friend Peter Crumpler has been working between the church and the media for almost 40 years. From writing about his West London church as a sixth former to spending seven years as Communications Director at the Church of England’s national offices until he left to begin training for ordination. During this time he’s also set up a charitable trust to encourage churches to work with the media, published a guide to help them communicate, spoken at conferences such as New Wine, and is even squeezing in some freelance communications work whilst training to be a Vicar!

Peter’s experience and career demonstrate his passion for seeing the church play its part in “ensuring we have a thriving media which is committed to truth”.  In this guest blog he calls us to pray for the industry and its professionals (particularly on, but also beyond, 20 May 2012), and challenges us to take action to build better relationships and communications with our media.

Peter Crumpler

I was on the telephone to my local BBC radio station, where a young journalist was asking me some background questions ahead of my being interviewed on the station’s evening drive-time programme.

“Let me understand this,” he said. “You’re asking people to pray for the media?” I said, yes I was. There was a pause. “Are you serious?” came the incredulous voice down the line.

And yes, I am.

I’m encouraging churches across the UK to pray for the media, particularly on Sunday 20 May, which has been designated as a special day of prayer for the media by the Church and Media Network

You can find out more about them, the day of prayer, and the resources available on their website, and I’d also encourage you to look at this resource I’ve produced for the Sanctuary which includes some of the same material, and will be available as a permanent resource on their prayer resources page.

But why?

The British media is under the spotlight as never before. Illegal practices by some journalists have combined with tough economic times and pressures from new technology to make these challenging times for everyone working in the media. As the young local radio reporter illustrated, they feel pretty unloved just now.

Yet, as a Christian, I want to affirm the media’s vital role in our society – giving a voice for the voiceless, keeping the powerful to account, highlighting unjust practices, calling for justice, and keeping people informed. They bring us strong opinions to challenge our own, and stories to entertain us.

I want to support the highest standards in the media, and back the vast majority of people working in the media as they try to keep integrity and truth in focus.

Working in the media is an honourable profession, and one to which I’d love many more Christians to consider their calling.
And I also want to affirm those who work with the media in our denominations and churches, to help journalists and commentators interpret the Church’s role in our society.

I want to see a thriving media – from national newspapers to community radio, from websites with massive global reach to specialist publications, from TV networks to local blogs and engaging Twitter streams – plus much besides.

How local churches could use the 20th May or other prayer events to engage with their local media

• Let the local newspapers, radio and other media (e.g. news blogsites) know that you will praying for them on the day. Consider sending them a news release telling them what you’re doing – they may tell their readers, listeners etc.

• Ask them what they would like you to pray for them – and be ready to use those topics on the day.

• Invite a local newspaper editor or station manager to come and speak at your church on that day or at a midweek event near to it. Or arrange a special Churches Together or ministers’ event with the local media invited to talk about their role in the community.

• Ask people who work in the media in your congregation to take part in a service, to speak about how their faith impacts their work and the challenges they face.

• Get young people in the church involved, talking about how they engage with the media, and how they see the media as a potential career.

More than prayer – it’s about getting involved

One of the best ways to affirm the importance of the media in your community is to engage with them regularly. Keep them informed of what your church is doing locally, and how you are serving your area. (There are courses and books available to help you do this well, and most denominations have experienced people who can help.)

Give someone in your church the role of liaising with the local media, and getting to know them – as an active voluntary community group, you have lots to offer. Be inventive – the church person that took cream cakes into the local newsroom made a lasting impact!

Make sure the media know who to contact in your church when they need a view on a local issue. Be proactive in offering news and views.

Consider supporting campaigns launched by the media, and helping to raise funds for charities they are backing.

Do give the media, local and national, feedback – positive or negative – about what they broadcast, print or publish online. Make use of email, text, Twitter. All would be grateful to get your ideas about how they are doing, and to hear from readers, listeners and viewers.

All types of media…

Churches are parts of international and national networks – so a thriving global and national media matters to us. We want to know about our world, its celebrations, its problems and its joys, and we need a thriving media of all types to help us engage with it.

Churches are communities of believers rooted in local areas. So the local and regional media matter to us – they are vital parts of our communities, and help to hold those communities together.

In difficult economic and social times, we need a strong and courageous international, national and local media, working to the highest ethical standards.

We need to play our part in ensuring that we have a thriving media, committed to truth, and in affirming – and challenging – those who work within it.

I believe strongly that the media matter to the Church, and that churches need to engage with their local media and raise their profile in their community. I also believe that journalists need to have a better understanding of the Church – of all denominations – and that people in those churches are best placed to help them.

Some Christians are wary of contacting the media but, particularly at local level, the churches are often the most active community groups and have so much to offer their local newspapers and radio with news and features material. But the reporters are busy people and staffing levels are small these days, so be prepared to write the story for them in a style they can easily edit for publication and take photographs that can be reproduced in print.

Good advice on working with the media is available from the Church of England here, and from the Church and Media Network here. And information about excellent training courses is also available from the CofE here.

Social media versus traditional media

Now everyone’s a publisher – you can write a blog and publish it to the web. Or use Twitter to reach thousands of people. Or set up a Facebook page for your church and invite people to drop by to see what’s happening.

As well as praying for the media of all types, and getting involved with them, look at the ways that you can get involved with social media. Visit the Twurch of England on Twitter to see the wide range of ways Christians and churches are engaging with this powerful social media.

Whatever you do on social media, look at ways it can work alongside the traditional media and support your efforts to raise your profile.

A final word

The media are the 21st century marketplace for news, ideas and debate. It’s vital that Christians are praying for the media and playing our part. From joining Twitter to getting to know your local newspaper, there’s lots that churches and individuals can do to make a difference.

The challenge is to make that first move…

We hope you are as inspired and challenged as we are by Peter’s heart for the media, and the practical ways he has given for us to bless and engage with our media.

Check out his resource on the Sanctuary’s website
, Written prayer and Prayer Pointers for our media and visit The Church and Media network to find out more about getting involved with the 20 May and beyond.

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